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The Rediff Interview / V S Chandralekha

'Karunanidhi doesn't have a good track record'

V S Chandralekha On October 12, for the first time in the 308-year history of the Madras corporation, a mayor will be voted to power. The battle between Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's son, M K Stalin, and the former IAS officer turned politician V S Chandralekha promises to be tough. Also in the fray is a comedian from Tamil films, S S Chandran, of the MDMK.

When Dr Subramanian Swamy, president of the Janata party, appealed for support for Chandralekha, who heads the party's Tamil Nadu unit, little did he realise that support would come from an unexpected quarter. Former state chief minister Jayalalitha Jayaram withdrew her AIADMK party's candidate in Chandralekha's favour.

The decision shocked many Madras residents who have not forgotten the persistence of Dr Swamy and Chandralekha in bringing to light several misdeeds of the Jayalalitha regime. Not a day passed without Swamy producing some fresh revelations about Jayalalitha's misdeeds.

And Chandralekha? She is the bureaucrat on whose face acid was flung during Jayalalitha's rule, scarring her countenance forever. Several months in hospital and after numerous operations, Chandralekha resigned her job as an IAS officer to join the Janata party. She has been trying to get justice ever since. The case is now with the Central Bureau of Investigation. Ironically, the DMK used the acid incident to win votes in the assembly election.

How could she accept Jayalalitha's support? Chandralekha clarifies her stand in this interview with Shobha Warrier.

Why did you decide to contest this election? Is it because Karunanidhi's son Stalin is a candidate for the mayor's post?

Initially, I had no intention to contest the election. It was decided at the very last moment. When it became clear that the DMK was going to field Stalin as a candidate. Leaders of the Congress party, our alliance partner, Kumari Anandan, Tindivanam Ramamurthy, Krishnaswamy, Maragatham Chandrashekhar and Vazhappadi Ramamurthy felt this kind of flouting of all democratic norms should be strictly opposed.

It was their decision that I should be fielded as a candidate because they felt I have all the necessary qualifications to be a good mayor.

Is it because you were once an IAS officer?

As an IAS officer, I held various important positions in the government. As of now the corporation's administration needs a lot of improvement, and they felt I would be able to provide a good administration. I was persuaded to be a candidate. It came as a surprise to me.

In Tamil, they call the mayor Nagara Thanthai(father of the city). Whoever called the mayor so expected only a man to be mayor. As a woman, do you think you have an advantage over the others?

I have never felt disadvantaged because I am a woman. In my political life and earlier in my career, I never found that being a woman was a disadvantage. So it is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage.

If you win the election, they will have to change the gender.

(laughs) May be Nagara Annaior something like that. I think I'll get the support from all sections of society. There is a general feeling among women that the DMK is anti-women. The DMK had always been unpopular with women. The image of the party is such that generally women don't feel secure when the DMK is in power. Therefore, women will certainly support my candidature.

In the assembly election, the DMK-TMC alliance swept the poll. Soon we will have corporation elections. How do you assess your chances?

Dr Subramanian Swamy They swept the assembly election, not because of their inherent merit or strength. They actually won because of the campaign done by Dr Swamy and myself. We didn't have an organisation, so we could not reap the benefits. They harvested what we had sown. Because they had an organisation. Like in the zamindari system, what the tenants cultivate the zamindars take away. They won because people felt disgusted with corruption. So it was an anti-corruption vote, not a pro-Karunanidhi or pro- Moopanar vote.

Karunanidhi doesn't have a good track record. In his first term as chief minister he institutionalised corruption. All corrupt officers were given important positions and coterie rule was brought into Tamil Nadu during his time. The various corrupt deals are documented in the Sarkaria Commission report.

He is not a paragon of virtue. So, it is not that people thought he would give an excellent rule and voted him to power. They might have felt a lesser evil should be voted to power.

Now that he is in power, he doesn't show any signs of improving the state or rooting out corruption. Many corrupt officers are back in the saddle. It (the anti-corruption move) is only being used as a political strategy to threaten the AIADMK, break the party so that it will pave the way for his son's rule in the future.

K Karunanidhi The main Opposition party is the AIADMK, so if the AIADMK is weakened he feels it is advantageous not to his party, but to his son whom he wants to succeed him in future. That is what he is doing now. I am not holding a brief for AIADMK, please. All that I am saying is that he is going slow in all the cases. Though he is in power, he is doing nothing about it.

Take my own case. Four months have passed. The confessional statement of Surla (the man who is alleged to have thrown acid at her)was in the hands of the police. There was no stay from the Supreme Court as far as the trial was concerned but the government did not move one foot in the case. All they want to know was the advantage they can get from all the cases.

In your manifesto, you have promised to check corruption. As a mayor, how much can you do?

Corruption is built into the system, so you have to attack the system if you really want to root out corruption. There is so much of corruption everywhere because there is too much of government control. Now you take the case of the corporation, you have building rules and various other rules which are so complex that the official who is implementing them can manipulate them the way he wants. The moment you get a chance to manipulate, corruption is going to creep in. So, what you have to do is, simplify the rules so that the common man will understand them. That is one way, may be the only way, you can root out corruption.

Also involve neighborhood groups in the activities of the corporation so that people's participation is there. They can take up issues when something wrong happens. When the official knows that people are watching his moves, it will definitely check him from being corrupt.

Chandralekha's Photographs: R Kannan


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