BJP is anti-TN, anti-South India: Kanimozhi

BJP is anti-TN, anti-South India: Kanimozhi

Fighting her first Lok Sabha election, senior DMK leader Kanimozhi Karunanidhi says the party-led alliance will sweep the April 18 Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu.
In an interview to DH’s ETB Sivapriyan in the midst of election campaign in Thoothukudi, Kanimozhi, the daughter of late DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi, talks about the BJP and its “anti-Tamil Nadu and anti-South policies”, besides tearing into the AIADMK Government in the state.
Q: You were in Rajya Sabha for 12 years and this is the time you are contesting Lok Sabha polls. Why did you take the decision of facing the people directly?
A: I had always wanted to work very closely with the people, more so directly. Though I have been working with people as a Rajya Sabha MP as well as through my party, DMK, I feel getting elected to Lok Sabha will help you know about people’s issues first hand. This (contesting direct elections and working in a constituency) is more intense. This is a space where you can help upgrade infrastructure, work for the people and fulfil their expectations. And the 2G case also took most of the time and I could not have done justice if I had contested earlier. Now, I can focus all my energy on my constituency, if elected.
Q: Any specific reason to choose Thoothukudi? When the news of you deciding to contest from Thoothukudi broke, people said you have chosen the place because the segment is dominated by Nadars, a community to which your mother belongs. What actually happened?

A: I don’t believe in caste. Some say I chose this constituency due to caste factor, but the Opposition BJP nominee (Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan) says I don’t belong to the caste (Nadar). I would call myself a Tamil and I am seeking votes on the plank of development, not because I belong to this community or my grandfather belonged to this community. I am telling the people of Thoothukudi that I will work for you and I will be with you. I have worked in this constituency earlier and asking people to give me a chance this time to serve as their MP.
Q: But the BJP candidate seems to be playing the caste card this election – posters are around mentioning her father’s caste. How will you deal with it?

A: I don’t think anyone can go and flaunt their caste card and seek votes. My father has been in politics for more than six decades and he had never used caste to further his electoral prospects. Is my opponent coming to say that she will not work for the people who don’t belong to her caste? We should go above caste and that is what the entire Dravidian politics is all about.
Q: Cash for votes is a harsh reality in educated and developed states like Tamil Nadu. Don’t you think it supresses the democratic process?
A: If money plays a role, lot of candidates won’t be able to contest because they can’t spend. This means good candidates would lose out in a fight and it is nothing but, people’s loss. The phenomenon should go, and it will go. Such practice was prevalent in several countries, but it takes time. I am sure people will realise and ‘cash for votes’ will be history here too.
Q: You have been acquitted by a special court in the 2G scam case. But the opposition parties still rake it up. How do you respond?
A: Though the agencies have gone for an appeal, the petition is yet to be admitted. We expected the appeal to be there and the verdict is very clear, and I am sure the judges will understand when they read it. My opponent comes from a party which today represents Rafale and insurance scam. Does she (Tamilisai) says she has nothing to do with the party. She should not also forget that Godhra riots took place in Gujarat when her leader Narendra Modi was Chief Minister.
Q: DMK is expected to do well in Tamil Nadu and does the party sees a role for itself in case a coalition government by Opposition parties assume office?
A: There is an anti-Modi wave in Tamil Nadu and the large crowds that throng the public meetings addressed by my leader M K Stalin reflects the people’s sentiments. DMK is confident of winning all 40 seats, including Puducherry, at stake. People of Tamil Nadu are fed up with the BJP and we are telling them how we will be different. The AIADMK government at the state has all lost credibility and has surrendered Tamil Nadu’s rights just for the sake of staying in power. BJP has achieved nothing that it can boast of. And, more so, BJP is anti-Tamil Nadu because they don’t respect our culture and our people.  
Q: Why do you say Modi is anti-Tamil Nadu?
A: In fact, the Prime Minister is anti-Tamil Nadu, anti-South India. What has the BJP done to this part of the country? I say that the BJP is anti-South because its concentration is centred around Gujarat. Many southern states were hit by cyclones and flood and the Centre did not allot even one-tenth of the money that the state governments sought for relief and rehabilitation. But the government wants to spend Rs 1.1 lakh crore on a bullet train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. And the BJP is targeting every distinct culture. Why did the Centre stop fund the excavation at Keezhadi? Why are they afraid of releasing details of Tamil civilisation coming out in the public?  Why are they not sending the articles that have been unearthed for carbon-dating? 13 people were killed in police firing in Thoothukudi during anti-Sterlite agitation. Why didn’t Modi send any representative to console the families?
Q: What is DMK’s stand on Sterlite?
A: The Sterlite Copper plant is closed now. If people don’t want it to be opened, the DMK will not let it to be opened. In fact, the DMK wanted the state government to pass a resolution in the Assembly against Sterlite plant. DMK will not act against people’s will.
Q: There is a flip-side to the Sterlite agitation. Several thousand people have lost jobs and how do you find alternate jobs for them?
A: Jobs were lost not just because of closing down of Sterlite Copper plant. Several thousands of people lost their jobs due to economic policies of the Centre like GST and demonetisation. The cottage industries that were functioning in Kovilpatti – peanut bars and other snacks – took a severe beating due to these policies. Why not talk about such job losses? 
Q: Are you coming to say DMK will not allow polluting industries in the state? By that measure, every industry lets out some amount of pollution. Isn’t it?

A: I agree industries let out certain amount of pollution, but we can have industries that are least polluting. We would also bring industries that would help farmers.
Q: What are the major issues this election?
A: Lack of jobs, lack of clean drinking water and imposition of policies like NEET on states. Tamil Nadu once boasted of maximum number of government medical colleges and had excellent infrastructure even at the village level. Today, the Modi government has created a situation where our students can’t even enter medical colleges with imposition of NEET. NEET takes away the confidence of rural students.
Q: Don’t you miss your father this election, particularly when you are making your Lok Sabha debut?
A: I certainly miss him. All of us miss him. My father was a taskmaster. He knew every district, party people and he had huge knowledge about the state. He would have guided us this election if he was alive.

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