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The Rediff Interview / Subramanian Swamy

'National politics has become devalued today because of casteism, communalism and regionalism'

Subramanian Swamy Shobha Warrier had heard a lot about Dr Subramanian Swamy's temper, but confronting a politician who is openly contemptuous about the media was a new experience for the Madras-based journalist.

Dr Swamy, who heads the Janata Party, detests inconvenient questions, she says, and his defence is a harsh tirade. He ended the interview saying, ''Today you can ask me any question and get away with it. If you had asked Jayalalitha these questions, she would have had you in five pieces and sent you out."

You were one of Jayalalitha's bitterest critics when she was in power. Now that she is out of power, you have stopped attacking her. Why?

As far as the opposition to Jayalalitha was concerned, it was that she was misusing authority for personal corruption, denying people their liberties, attacking the Opposition with violence, and there was nobody who could challenge her. Even Karunanidhi had run away to the confines of his residence. She said she had an alliance with Narasimha Rao in Delhi and both Delhi and the state were within her empires, so to speak. So, I had to oppose her.

I filed cases against her. The cases on which she is exposed today are the disproportionate-wealth case, the TANSI case and the import of coal case, for which she went to jail. All these were on the basis of the court orders issued on my private complaint. The state government has done nothing.

I am, after all, an Opposition party. I have done my duty and lived up to my promise, of having exposed Jayalalitha. Now she is out of power, and as an Opposition party, I can't be spending my time on a person who has been unseated by the public. I have to concentrate my attention on those in power.

J Jayalalitha Is that the reason why you are attacking the DMK these days?

That's right. I have to expose them. I can't say I am attacking them. I am exposing both the DMK and TMC. In fact, the DMK and TMC are not only guilty of corruption, they are also engaged in a number of anti-national acts.

Anti-national acts?

For example, Chidambaram has benefitted the narcotics cartel in India by changing the policy in an unprecedented manner by which the narcotics peddlers are able to reap Rs 20 billion worth of extra profits this year, and the Indian Bank where I found a number of accounts were actually on the recommendation of G K Moopanar (the TMC president and his cronies, given to people who are helping the LTTE.

In Chidambaram's case, there are a number of anti-national activities; his giving advice to Enron that they should not use Indian law as a basis for arbitration; he and (Industry Minister) Murasoli Maran together saying that Maruti should be handed over to Suzuki. All these things point to the fact that they don't care for the national interest at all.

G K Moopnar Naturally, my media space is dominated by my exposure of the DMK-TMC, so it is drawn that I am not so much against Jayalalitha. I think the DMK also would like to do this propaganda. They would ideally like me concentrating my energy on Jayalalitha and forgetting them altogether and letting them do all the looting that they want to do.

But people feel you have become soft on Jayalalitha...

She is now out of power. This feeling has been created by DMK propaganda. The main problem was when we put up a candidate against Karunanidhi's son for the mayor of Madras, Jayalalitha unilaterally withdrew her candidate and extended her support to our candidate.

Don't you think it was wrong to accept her support? Didn't it backfire?

I don't know (whether) it backfired or not. If somebody says I am going to support you to defeat your main opponent, how can I say I don't want your support? This is a new kind of untouchability you are propagating. After all, it was not Jayalalitha's support she extended, it was the AIADMK support which, despite all her misdeeds, got 25 per cent of the votes.

If someone gives you support and there are no conditions attached, why shouldn't I accept it?

But the people of Madras did not feel that way. They wondered how, after being one of her strongest critics, could you accept her support!

So what? I am surprised people talk like this. I don't know whether the people of Madras spoke like this. Despite all the fraud and rigging and the refusal to allow our votes to be counted, Chandralekha (the Janata Party candidate) got 35 per cent of the votes, 400, 000 votes.

This is loose talk. I don't take it very seriously. It might be in the cocktail clubs and the press clubs... It is not the general....

No. No. I am talking about ordinary people.

It is not the general public. The public doesn't feel this way, nor is it reflected in the results. The results show that Chandralekha despite all the monumental fraud got 400,000 votes. I think people have understood my explanation.

Do you feel, like Jayalalitha says, that the DMK government is hounding her and there is vindictiveness on its part?

She has no moral authority to speak about that because of what she did to us. She has to live down that for a long time. I certainly think that both the DMK and AIADMK come from the same political culture which is, basically they are anti-democratic. They have no commitment to democracy. Because cinema culture relies largely on playing to the galleries of lumpen elements. What Jayalalitha did, now the DMK is doing. Only I have the moral authority to speak out.

What exactly did she do to you?

She tried to murder me twelve times.

Murder you?

Yes, murder me, basically liquidate me. You must be new to Madras, or you just go through the old paper cuttings. She tried to burn me alive in a car, mobs attacked me, she tried to have me put in jail under TADA and made arrangements for people inside the jail to finish me off inside the jail.

Karunanidhi In fact, the Supreme Court, after seeing all this, gave me an order which in the history of the democratic world, no supreme court has given. They said, any warrant issued by any court in any part of Tamil Nadu can only be served on me in Madras and upon serving, and my handing a personal bond in writing of hundred rupees, I have to be set out on bail. This is an unprecedented order.

Were you scared?

I have never been scared. I am not scared of you journalists. Then, why should I be scared of murder?

Are we that bad?

Yes, you are. The amount of twisting and all that you do.

I am taping your interview. There is no question of twisting anything.

You tape it. But later twist what I say. It happens all the time... It is the freedom of the press, we have to put up with it.

So you are not afraid of death.

I have never been afraid. You are a young kid. So you don't know Indian history. That is the weakness of our education system. I fought the Emergency when it was under the goons of Sanjay Gandhi. There was a severe physical threat, still I fought. I have a history of not being afraid, that is why had I not come, nobody would have been able to unseat her (Jayalalitha).

It was entirely because of my efforts which I brought together to bear the entire mental faculty to use the Constitution to circumscribe her and expose her. That is due to the fact that I don't have fear.

What made you come to Tamil Nadu?

When I read in the papers that an IAS officer, whom I had never heard of before, called Chandralekha had suffered an acid attack.I went to the hospital to see her, and I was shocked to find the condition she was in. And very quickly I discovered that the police was trying to suppress the case. That made me suspicious. The gang which was caught red-handed by Chandralekha's driver had come from Bombay.

Chandralekha In Parliament, I asked for a CBI enquiry because it was an inter-state crime. No sooner did I ask this, Jayalalitha withdrew the consent which was essential for a CBI enquiry. That made me more suspicious. So, I made a public statement saying that if Jayalalitha has nothing to hide, she should allow a CBI enquiry. That led to her attacking me.

She made a statement that she was not Ramakrishna Hegde and Tamil Nadu was not Karnataka. And if I came to Tamil Nadu to oppose her, she would squash me, like a fly or like a mosquito. I thought this woman whom I helped so much to come to power when I was a minister in Delhi not only is she an extremely ungrateful person, but is totally devoid of any human feelings. Then I decided that I would stay here and finish the job.

Suddenly, I found that I had no party here. Fortunately, Chandralekha offered to resign and come into politics and build a party.

These days, you spend more time in this state than at the national level. Why?

National politics has become devalued today because of casteism, communalism and regionalism. A few seats from one state is enough to launch you nationally. Deve Gowda has only 14 MPs from Karnataka.

Is it not because we do not have any leader of national stature at present?

I think it has got nothing to do with not having a leader. It has got to do with the fact that people have got infected first by the BJP on a religious basis, and then V P Singh brought in this caste-basis. So, the polity got fractured. It will take time.

I think a national leader will have to, at the present, go along with this current. When he gets an opportunity, he would have to project the national sentiments once again, and bring the country back to the rails.

Dr Swamy and Chandralekha's photographs by Sanjay Ghosh

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