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Interview/Cho Ramaswamy

Last updated on: March 7, 2011 12:14 IST

'Karunanidhi looked after family at cost of state'

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Shobha Warrier in Chennai
Cho Ramaswamy, Editor, Tuglaq , is a perceptive political analyst of Tamil Nadu politics.

In the wake of the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham putting an end to the seven-year-old alliance with the Congress party, Cho spoke to Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier in Chennai on what the future holds for both the Congress and the DMK in his inimitable style.

Was it the Congress's strategy of pushing the DMK to such a position that they had no choice but put an end to the alliance so that they could go alone in the coming assembly election like Rahul Gandhi wants?

I don't know whether it is Rahul Gandhi's strategy or somebody else's. The Congress for some time has been reluctant to continue with the relationship with the DMK.

The prime minister's open statement in the interview with television editors that Raja was an imposition from the DMK was a significant remark to make.

Think of a prime minister to go to the extent of saying that his Cabinet formation was dictated to by others, that too particularly a tainted person. This itself showed he was speaking in disgust. That was one indication.

Another is, the DMK had been pressuring the Congress for more and more.

Rahul Gandhi has given enough hint that he has no great liking for the DMK by not visiting the chief minister whenever he made a visit to Chennai.

That apart, the spectrum case is damaging the credibility of the Congress in a very big way. The general question is -- if the Congress has no share in the loot, how could the alliance continue?

People felt they (Congress) are continuing the alliance only because they are afraid that Raja or somebody else may spill the beans. If they had no connection, by now, they would have gone out of the alliance.

But they were not comfortable with the idea of going with Jayalalithaa because when she made the open offer, they didn't take it up. Now they have to make the move.

If they had done that then, they would have gained a lot of credibility. They have missed the bus.

As far as Karunanidhi is concerned, he saw the Congress had very limited options because Vijayakanth has settled in the AIADMK front and the PMK is with the DMK front.

So, if the Congress wants to float a third front, they have no partners.


Image: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, president, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Photographs: Babu/ Reuters
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'It is like, if you're going to come to Kanimozhi, there's no alliance'

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Do you feel it was because the Congress was asking for power sharing that Karunanidhi cut the alliance off?

I don't think Karunanidhi's problem was with power sharing. The CBI was closing in on the family. It was reported that the CBI was about to grill Kanimozhi. I don't know whether the CBI will stop there or go further.

He must have asked the Congress to see to it that the family was not touched. The Congress might have said they were not able to do it as the Supreme Court was monitoring the whole case.

It is like, if you are going to come to Kanimozhi, then there is no alliance.

Will it not be disadvantageous for the DMK to be away from the ruling party if the CBI is closing in on them?

What is the use of being with them if the CBI is acting like this?

At least now, if the CBI goes near Kanimozhi, he can say that because I broke the alliance, they are taking vengeance with the family.

If they are in the alliance and this happens, he cannot move out saying that we are moving out because Kanimozhi is grilled.

But we get the impression that the Congress was trying its best to push the DMK to such a level that they had to break the alliance...

The DMK only wanted protection from the law. They know the Congress will not bring victory to them.

The only available protector is the Congress and that is the only reason the DMK continued with the alliance. They were prepared to accept any conditions.

The DMK can contest only in 122 seats and that meant it would have to go for a coalition government. He was prepared to accept anything and that was because he wanted protection to the family. That would be provided only by the Centre.

He would have continued with the alliance if the CBI was not closing in on them.

The DMK says it will give issue-based support from outside. Is it to keep the Congress on tenterhooks that they are doing this?

Issue-based support is a very nebulous thing; nobody keeps that promise. I feel the Congress will not be on tenterhooks. It can manage alternative support if they really want.

They can get Mulayam Singh, or even Jayalalithaa. Mulayam Singh has no reason to refuse support


Image: Kanimozhi, Karunanidhi's daughter, a Rajya MP

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'If Congress assures only formal questioning of Kanimozhi, he may reconsider'

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You said if the Congress had continued with the DMK, it would give the impression that they also got a part of the loot. That is the impression many in India have.

If they had continued with the DMK, it would have given the impression that they were partners in the deal. Now that they are out of it, a large section of the people may feel there may not be any sharing of the loot, otherwise, how can the Congress cut off the alliance?

Will the Congress go the Bihar way if the party goes alone in Tamil Nadu?

If they had gone with the PMK or Vijayakanth, they would have won a few seats. If they go alone, they will not be able to win any seat.

By continuing with the DMK, the Congress workers are disillusioned with the leadership. Even if the Congress-DMK alliance continued, many Congress workers and supporters would not have voted for the DMK candidates.

On the other hand, if the Congress had an alliance with the AIADMK, the Congress votes would have gone to the AIADMK front. That is because the Congress workers are so disillusioned with the leadership, for not cutting the alliance with the DMK.

Will it be the end of the Congress in Tamil Nadu?

No. Why should it be the end of the Congress?

There is a lot of infighting among the leaders and the workers are disillusioned...

The leaders are not that big. If they are stalwarts, it would have mattered. None of them are stalwarts.

It is a fight between pygmies. So, it doesn't matter much.

Rahul Gandhi wants the Congress to go alone everywhere. But wherever the party has gone alone, it has failed miserably. Do you feel it will help in the long run?

Yes, going alone will not bring in immediate results. You have to be persistent about it.

Do you feel it is a good idea that he is pursuing?

As a long term strategy, it is a good idea. If he expects immediate results, he will be disappointed. But they have an option now. They can approach the AIADMK.

Do you think the Congress will join that front?

I don't rule it out. Why not?

Also, if the Congress were to give an assurance that there would only be a formal questioning and not even grilling of Kanimozhi, then he may reconsider. Because for him, that is the issue.

It is not about 60 or 63 seats. The three seats need not break the alliance.


Image: Karunanidhi with Congress President Sonia Gandhi at an election rally in Chennai, 2009
Photographs: Babu/Reuters
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'Government in Tamil Nadu is a family business'

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If you look at the arithmetic, Vijayakanth joining the AIADMK front makes it formidable. Is it really formidable?

It is formidable. That is because of the mood of the people. They want a change.

Do you think the 10 per cent votes polled by Vijaykanth makes it formidable?

There will not be any splitting of Opposition or anti-DMK votes. Last time both he and Jayalalithaa got the anti-DMK votes. He got only a smaller chunk of it, still it mattered in many constituencies.

Now that they are together, it will not be a problem.

Which will be the major issue this election: The spectrum scandal or price rise?

Spectrum, price rise and the fattening of the family at the cost of the state would be the major issues.

Also the family rule, swallowing the film industry, invasion of the real estate business, high-handedness of the family and also even the lowest DMK functionary is suddenly becoming rich. All these are major issues.

Do you think people in the rural areas are bothered about the spectrum case?

They may not understand what spectrum is. For educated people like you and I also, it is too technical. So, let us not underestimate the rural voters by saying they don't understand it. It is not as if we have understood the technicalities.

But the villager knows there has been a big fraud and there has been a big loot. They know that it is something connected with cell phone authorisation.

In your memory, which is the most corrupt regime in Tamil Nadu?

Karunanidhi this time has beaten his own records.

You said in an earlier interview to me, that Jayalalithaa institutionalised corruption....

No, no. I have never said that. I said Karunanidhi institutionalised corruption. I was only quoting the Sarkaria Commission.

You had spoken about Jayalalithaa's corruption earlier. Now, you are supporting Jayalalithaa...

There is no other alternative. Who else is there?

Is the choice between the devil and the deep sea?

There need not be a deep sea. In 2001-2006, was there any charge against the Jayalalithaa government? She provided very good government. It was only because the Congress allied with the DMK that the DMK won.

It was not that the Jayalalithaa government had incurred the displeasure of the people. There was not a single charge against her.

Do you see Vijayakanth coming as a formidable leader of a front?

It will be very difficult for him to be a leader of a front. He can be a good contributor to an alliance.

e elections, will the appointment of PJ Thomas as the CVC affect the credibility of the Congress and the prime minister?

It has definitely affected the credibility of the party and the prime minister. I don't think the Congress government has much credibility to get affected also. It has gone beyond all that. People now see the government as not only inefficient but corrupt too, at least compromising with corruption.

In the CVC appointment, they have no excuse at all. But I don't think it will have an impact in the elections, even in Kerala also.

Will the Tamil fishermen being caught by the Sri Lankan navy have an impact in these elections?

I don't think it is going to affect the people's vote despite the opposition having made lots of noise.

How do you describe UPA-2?

As Advani said, it is led by a very weak prime minister dictated to by everybody and perhaps the most corrupt regime in the history of India.

How do you describe the DMK's governance?

Karunanidhi has been looking after the interests of the family at the cost of the state. The government in Tamil Nadu is a family business.

What is your prediction for the TN assembly election?

If the polling booths are not captured, the DMK will lose very badly.

Image: Karunanidhi with members of his family and party in Delhi, 2009
Photographs: Reuters
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