The BJP wants to uproot social justice from Tamil Nadu and the party is hell-bent on targeting Tamil language, its rich heritage and culture, said Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M K Stalin. In an interview with DH’s ETB Sivapriyan, Stalin spoke on the AIADMK government’s performance, BJP, and his reading of people’s mood in the state. Excerpts:
You have been among the people for the past few months. What do you think is people's mindset now?
People are very eager for a regime change in Tamil Nadu and that is the sense I get after looking at the huge crowds that come to my meetings. People who come to my road shows look at me as a caring leader who has come to solve their problems. The reason for this is the careless attitude of (Chief Minister Edappadi K) Palaniswami who ran his government for four years without solving people's problems. People of Tamil Nadu not just hate the AIADMK Government but are also very angry with it and that is the reason they flock to my meetings. This is the mood of the people.
What do you think is the biggest issue this election?
Corruption from top to bottom, unemployment, price rise, set back in industrial growth, complete collapse of Tamil Nadu's economy, unprecedented debt, and gifting of jobs to people from other states. These are the problems that Tamil Nadu faces today, and by failing to address them properly, the inefficient AIADMK government has taken the state 50 years backwards. The biggest issue this election is to reclaim Tamil Nadu and its people from the AIADMK that has mortgaged the sovereignty of the Assembly and state's rights with the BJP.
What is your assessment of people's mind during your election campaign? Your campaign is drawing huge crowds and does it say anything specific?
People are very firm and decisive on removing the AIADMK government from power. People hate this government for refusing to provide livelihood assistance to poor and the middle class during Covid-19 outbreak. People firmly believe Palaniswami's administration denigrates the pride of Tamil Nadu. So, people want the DMK to come to power. The biggest message they send by attending my rallies in unprecedented numbers is that the DMK has to come to power to save Tamil Nadu.
What is your opinion on Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami. How has he performed in the past four years?
He is an accidental Chief Minister. He came to occupy the post only because (V K) Sasikala went to prison following J Jayalalithaa's death. He did not make use of the opportunity to serve the people. Rather, he belittled the sanctity attached with the post of Chief Minister by misusing his official position to award tenders to his close relatives. Likewise, he also gave a free hand to his cabinet colleagues to collect commission as they wish. Everyone knows the walkie-talkie scam that happened in the Home Department held by the Chief Minister himself. Palaniswami surrendered the rights of the state to the BJP Government by being its slave and nodding his head to every diktat that came from (Delhi). He did so only to escape action on corruption charges against him. Despite being in an alliance with the BJP for the past four years, Palaniswami has not been able to bring one mega project to Tamil Nadu. All that he did was to indulge in corruption. This is Palaniswami's functioning in the past four years.
Which according to you is the biggest mistake of the EPS Government?
Whatever Palaniswami did in the past four years is wrong. If you ask me to list some of the biggest mistakes, I would like to point a few. Police firing in the 100-day long peaceful protests (against the expansion of Sterlite Copper in Thoothukudi) that killed 13 innocent civilians, supporting GST and demonetisation, failing to protect the interests of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the state during Covid-19, and chasing away investors who came to Tamil Nadu to other states by demanding commission from them. And the list does not end here, I can point out 100 such mistakes.
The alliance led by DMK says every vote that is cast for AIADMK goes to BJP. Is the DMK under compulsion to take the anti-BJP position even in assembly elections?
AIADMK and BJP are conjoined twins who have destroyed Tamil Nadu in more ways than one. They cannot be looked at in isolation. BJP, particularly the Central government, knows every detail about the corruption that took place under the AIADMK Government. By showing the files and documents relating to corrupt deals, the BJP has blackmailed the AIADMK into turning a blind eye to its divisive politics in Tamil Nadu which is known for communal harmony. For the past four years, the ruling party wholeheartedly supported BJP's divisive politics. Palaniswami says he is being friendly with the BJP only in the interests of the state. What are the projects that he brought to Tamil Nadu in the last four years? Nothing at all. Only one AIIMS hospital and that too was announced by Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi when Jayalalithaa was Chief Minister. The Chief Minister has not been able to get funds allocated for construction of the institute. The tax revenues from Tamil Nadu are being spent on northern states, but the development and growth of the state are being overlooked and ignored. It is only because of the unstinting support that they received from BJP, the Chief Minister and his ministers indulged in Himalayan corruption. Hence both parties do not have any interest in the welfare of Tamil Nadu. What is wrong in opposing both?
For the past five years, the DMK has emerged as a party that is vehemently opposed to BJP. Will this stand continue, or will the DMK ally with the BJP or work with the saffron party in the future?
The BJP has been in power at the Centre for the past seven years. Has it given any special projects to Tamil Nadu? The answer is nothing. On the contrary, the BJP is working with a clear plan to uproot social justice from Tamil Nadu. Social justice is a matter of great pride for Tamil Nadu and that is the reason DMK is opposing the BJP's policies that target Tamil Nadu, Tamil language and its rich culture and heritage. The DMK will firmly oppose the BJP which is acting against the principles of social justice and the Constitution.
BJP also finds prominence along with AIADMK in statements issued by the DMK and in your capacity as President of the party. Has the DMK begun to consider BJP as a strong party in Tamil Nadu?
Tamil Nadu is Periyar's land. It is Anna's land. The land of Periyar and Anna has been refined by Kalaignar (M Karunanidhi). The BJP is not a strong force in Tamil Nadu and there is no second opinion on this. But how can we stay silent when the BJP ignores Tamil Nadu, snatches the state's rights, and forcibly takes away the jobs that are meant for the youth of Tamil Nadu? That is why we oppose the BJP which is ruling at the Centre. That's all.
Who is the No.1 political enemy for DMK? BJP or AIADMK?
AIADMK which spoiled Tamil Nadu's progress is our first enemy. The BJP is also DMK's enemy because it joined hands with the first enemy (AIADMK) in cheating Tamil Nadu and its people.
DMK manifesto says 75 per cent of jobs will be reserved for Tamils. Is it necessary in a state that takes pride in welcoming people from other parts of the country?
Youth in Tamil Nadu are losing jobs that are meant for them. The AIADMK has provided official sanction for this by recruiting youngsters from North Indian states to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB). Youth from Tamil Nadu are being ignored in jobs in Central government offices, public sector undertakings (PSUs), banks, and Railways, as people from north India are preferred for these positions. The BJP has been accommodating north Indian youngsters in jobs in Tamil Nadu only to impose Hindi on the state. Tamil youngsters do not get jobs that are due to them. This promise (75 per cent reservation) has been given keeping in mind the interests of Tamil youth and to keep unemployment under check. Is it not the duty of an elected government to save youngsters who are cheated in many ways?
Is it possible to implement all promises made in the DMK manifesto in five years? Will the government have enough money to fund these projects or schemes?
DMK is a party that fulfils promises it makes. That is the reason why the DMK's manifesto has been portrayed as a 'hero' of every election. Same is the case this time as well. We have made promises only on the basis of available financial resources. Rightful pay of Rs 1,000 to women heads of families, Corona livelihood assistance of Rs 4,000, waiving off educational loans, loans availed by self-help groups, and farmers, reducing the price of milk, petrol, and diesel and a subsidy of Rs 100 for LPG cylinders. These promises will be implemented gradually.
The DMK manifesto does not have many free schemes, unlike the past. Is there a special reason for it?
Tamil Nadu's growth has witnessed a slump under the AIADMK regime. The economy has collapsed, while financial management has become a butt of ridicule. There were no infrastructure projects, new industries, or generation of jobs during the AIADMK regime. The DMK government which is to be elected has a huge responsibility of reclaiming Tamil Nadu. That is why we have given promises that will rejuvenate the lives of every single person in the state.
The AIADMK has promised free washing machines and free solar gas stove. Will this affect your party's prospects?
Chief Minister Palaniswami never mustered the courage to condemn the hike in the price of LPG cylinders. He never bothered to reduce the price of cylinders or provide subsidy. Only after the DMK announced a subsidy of Rs 100 for a cylinder, he came up with this “free cylinder” promise. Not just the “free cylinder” promise, people are not ready to believe any of the promises made in the AIADMK manifesto. It is the DMK's manifesto which is the talk of the town.