The Rediff Interview/E V K Elangovan
'After Dr Rajakumar's release, the truth
about many things will come out'
E V K Elangovan's takeover as president of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee would have been smooth if it were not for resistance by outgoing president Thindivanam Ramamurthy. Ramamurthy refused to vacate his office and Elangovan had to be satisfied with a new office.
Unlike previous presidents, Elangovan started off aggressively, taking on the powerful ally of the Congress, the AIADMK. When Jayalalitha sought the resignations of S M Krishna and M Karunanidhi for failing to capture forest brigand Veerappan, Elangovan described her demands as 'childish and immature'. In retaliation, Jayalalitha decided to use his mother, E V K Sulocahna Sampath who, as secretary of the AIADMK's women's wing, attacked her son. Sampath called him "infantile" and a "half-boiled politician." The war of words continued for some time.
In this interview, Elangovan tells Shobha Warrier that the truth about Veerappan and his connections will prevail once Kannada film icon Dr Rajakumar is released.
Recently, when Jayalalitha demanded the resignation of Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna for bowing to pressure from Veerappan, you called her demands "childish" and "immature" and it triggered off a war of words between your parties. Now, the Supreme Court has reprimanded Krishna for not safeguarding the people's interests and has asked him to quit if he cannot do his duty. So, Jayalalitha has been vindicated.
I don't want to comment on what the SC has said. That will not be proper. I reacted to her demand because we have more than 50 lakh Tamil-speaking people in Karnataka. If anything goes wrong in rescuing Rajakumar, the lives of Tamils in Karnataka will be affected. I was worried about such an eventuality. That is why I said that anyone commenting on the Veerappan issue had to be very careful. I have nothing personal against Jayalalitha.
But you were very aggressive and used very strong words.
I didn't call Jayalalitha childish and immature. I said her statements were childish and immature. In fact, I was only repeating what she had said about some people, when they asked for her resignation as chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
Many parties have shared an alliance with the AIADMK, but when she abused them, none reacted strongly against her. You are the first to do so.
I don't know why others didn't react. It is not a question of me reacting very strongly. Being a Congressman, I have to defend our party and party leader. If somebody says anything against me, I will tolerate it, but an attack on my party will not be tolerated.
Has this not strained the relationship between the Congress and AIADMK?
I don't think so.
Is that your honest opinion?
I don't think it has strained our relationship.
When your father's speeches were released in a book, you were not invited by your mother. Moopanar was there but not his son, and your party is an ally of the AIADMK.
I was not invited. I don't know why. But I was least bothered because the Congress is mass-based and petty things won't affect its image. Just because I was not called for such a small function, you cannot say that the party's image has gone down.
I didn't say its image has gone down. What I said was that the way you were sidelined, it was quite evident that the relationship between the two parties was strained.
I don't think the relationship will be affected because of such small things. We differed only on the Veerappan issue. We agree on issues like secularism and atrocities on minorities. Maybe the Veerappan issue is so serious and sensitive that we had to indulge in a war of words. Yes, I differ on that issue.
But the response from AICC members in New Delhi showed that they were more interested in continuing the alliance with the AIADMK, rather than supporting you.
No, Margaret Alva condemned Jayalalitha's statement. She said Jayalalitha had no right to ask for Krishna's resignation. And Alva is from the AICC.
Your mother called you "infantile" and a "half-boiled politician." Do you think she herself wrote that statement?
I do not know who wrote it. My mother can't even write two lines in Tamil! I replied, "like mother, like son!" I am least bothered about what she calls me.
Did you meet her after this?
Is the mother-son relationship also strained because of the Veerappan issue?
It is not because of Veerappan. We have different political leanings. She has been living all by herself for many years and I live with my family.
My father was a founder of the DMK but in the later part of life, he became a Congressman. He was vice president of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee. My mother too was in the Congress but after my father passed away, she joined the AIADMK. I think MGR asked her to join the party. After my father passed away, I went to Erode to look after my business, but my mother remained in Chennai.
So having different political ideologies affected your relationship?
Yes, to some extent it did affect our relationship.
Madhavrao Scindia and his mother follow different political ideologies. But they have never abused each other publicly.
Yes, even I was taken aback by my mother's aggressive reaction. Anyway, it is all in the game.
After all this mud-slinging, will the alliance with the AIADMK continue for the assembly elections?
I think it will. But a final decision will be taken by the high command when elections are announced.
Does that mean that feelings of local units will have no place in such decisions?
The high command will take into consideration views of all workers and leaders before taking a decision.
What is the view of workers? Do they want to go with the AIADMK?
I will discuss their feelings with the high command.
Jayalalitha recently said that there would not be any coalition government in Tamil Nadu. Moopanar said thereafter that only a coalition could work in TN. You too have spoken in favour of a coalition.
No, I didn't say that. What I said was that the Congress workers wanted Congress rule back. That is their wish. If that is not possible, we have to go by whatever is possible. Only coalitions will work in Tamil Nadu. It has been proved. Power-sharing should be there.
Whenever a new TNCC-I president is appointed, the old president sulks and refuses to vacate office. There are so many disgruntled former TNCC-I presidents in Tamil Nadu. Is this because the high command is thrusting presidents on the state?
No. This is the first time a president has refused to hand over office. When Thindivanam Ramamurthy took over from Thangabalu, he handed over everything except a few articles. Yes, there were some problems. I did not expect Ramamuthy to behave in such a manner. It was quite unfortunate. But in a way I am happy and thankful to him. Because of his actions, I became popular! This confusion went on for 10-15 days and there were big news reports. If the handover had been smooth, they would have written about it in one single column that Elangovan took charge!
All former presidents are co-operative. Vazhappady Ramamurthy was president for more than six years. Moopanar also worked as president for many years. It all depends on individuals. Sonia Gandhi felt I was capable of doing something, so she gave me the job. If one day she finds that I am not up to her expectations and if she says so, I will quit.
But shouldn't workers be electing the president?
That should be the proper way but... we have assembly elections in four to five months. So, if we have party elections now to elect a president, it will create problems.
But you are going to have party elections. You wanted party elections to be postponed, but the high command is going ahead.
Now they have announced that we are going to have elections. Mirdha and Sankara Narayanan met the workers. Nearly 99 per cent felt that elections should be postponed. They want it only after assembly elections. Still, the high command has decided to go ahead. I think we are going to have elections.
This was what I was asking you earlier. How can the high command take a decision without taking into consideration the feelings of local party workers?
In the case of national parties, you will have such problems. You can't help it. In Bihar, the local unit was against ties with Laloo Prasad Yadav, but the high command decided otherwise. Now, all 21 legislators have become ministers.
Don't you feel that this is the reason for the rise of regional parties? The TMC was also born in protest against the high command. Now you see regional parties rising in almost all states.
It is one reason., but not the main one. Regional parties came into existence when people felt that they were greater than the party.
I have been travelling throughout the country and I have found that the people of Tamil Nadu now want the Congress back in power.
But you have been losing deposits in almost all seats.
That was in 1998, when we contested on our own, with very poor financial assistance and because most candidates were not name- worthy. Yes, we lost deposits but even then in each assembly constituency, Congress candidates got votes ranging from 5,000-10,000! This was when we had a poor leadership at the Centre. We didn't have Sonia Gandhi as leader then.
What about the last election? Sonia was leader then.
We fared better. Last year, our alliance party (AIADMK) did not project Sonia as the prime ministerial candidate. In most constituencies, we lost because of lack of co-operation from AIADMK party members.
When will the Congress start thinking beyond the Nehru-Gandhi family and have a proper leader?
You can't put it that way. That family has sacrificed so much for the country. You should realise that. When Nehru became prime minister, what was the condition of India? We became a leading country because of him.
That was half a century ago. Do you think today's generation is interested in listening to the past? To a youngster, Nehru belongs to the distant past, which is irrelevant now.
Now we are talking about Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi. Elections are like a cycle. In one election, a party may go down, but it will come up in the next. Nobody forces people to vote for Sonia. They have voted for her of their own free will.
But the number of seats won by the Congress is dwindling in every election.
It will come up. Sonia brought power back in Karnataka. We returned in Madhya Pradesh and in New Delhi... There have been victories too.
In Karnataka, the previous government was really bad and in MP, it was only because of Digvijay Singh that the Congress won.
But it happened when Sonia was leader.
Do you agree with the way the governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are bending backwards to please a criminal?
Right now, we should concentrate on getting Dr Rajakumar released. After that, the truth about many things will come out.
I will tell you that after Rajakumar's release.
You mean, the involvement of politicians?
I don't want to be specific. A lot of issues are involved.
So you will come out with the truth.
No, the truth will come out...
Do you know the truth?
Most people know it. Wait for some more time.
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