Being in the public eye is not new to Oommen Chandy, 77. Barely a week from when Kerala goes to polls, we met the former chief minister at his residence in Thiruvananthapuram. Journalists had lined up for interviews since early morning and his secretaries were speaking with them and planning his day, while the Congress grandee himself was attending incessant phone calls and greeting the visitors.
Early this year, Chandy was for completing 50 years as a legislator. Irrespective of the party in power, he has never lost his Puthuppally seat since 1970. He has also served as the chief minister twice, from 2004 to 2006 and again from 2011 to 2016. So he is, by any estimation, a major figure in Kerala’s politics.
He is confident of winning Puthuppally for another term, even though the Congress-led UDP last year lost local body elections in the area for the first time in 30 years. Has this caused him any worry? “In Kerala local body elections, assembly elections and Lok Sabha elections are all very different," he replied. "The results of the local body elections do not indicate anything about our chances this time. Puthupally is ours."
When it was our turn to interview him, Chandy asked if we could do it in his car as he had to attend a dozen election events that day.
In the interview with Nidhi Suresh and Aditya Varier, Chandy spoke about why the Congress has fielded so few women in this election, the party's position on women entering the Sabarimala temple, the disillusionment with Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad, and what the UDF will prioritise if they do come back to power.