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August 16, 1999


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The Rediff Election Interview/ Subramanian Swamy

'My confabulations with Jayalalitha over the past year upset Sasikala'

A few weeks ago, Janata Party president Dr Subramanian Swamy and All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief J Jayalalitha appeared to be the best of friends even as the duo connived to fell the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in April this year. Now, Dr Swamy and Jayalalitha are on the warpath, just as they were during the earlier (and most) part of this decade.

Busy with his electoral campaign in Madurai, the constituency he represents in the Lok Sabha, Dr Swamy was in Delhi recently for two days to strike some political deals (which he said he would reveal later). Despite his tight schedule, the Janata Party president agreed to meet Amberish K Diwanji.

Your tea party was instrumental in leading to the downfall of the BJP-led alliance government. Everything appeared to be going smoothly. So what went wrong between Jayalalitha and you?

Jayalalitha had approached me three years ago when she was in jail, saying she did not want to fight with me anymore and she would like my help in her fight against (Tamil Nadu chief minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president) M Karunanidhi. I have nothing personal against anybody, but I told her that I would not withdraw the cases that I had filed against her. And I agreed to work with her if she agreed to be a different person.

We worked together but I think a couple of things queered the pitch.

First, Sasikala, who is her constant companion, has some kind of unhealthy hold on her. Now, Sasikala is a very insecure person, who has also turned against her immediate family. I think my confabulations with Jayalalitha over the past year upset Sasikala, who then decided to use her 'Brahmastra' (the ultimate weapon).

Now I don't know what this 'Brahmastra' is (smiles), but there is something sordid and I hope to find out some day. Almost everyone who knows Jayalalitha has told me that the day Sasikala decides to do something, she will do it.

Sasikala is a little annoyed with me because she is in league with the BJP, who is helping her with some cases. Actually speaking, she has done more criminal acts than Jayalalitha, but the BJP was soft-peddling the cases, concentrating on controlling Jayalalitha. Nevertheless, the BJP was dealing with Sasikala, who is very money-minded and hence dealing with whom is easy.

Sasikala had obviously promised the BJP that the government would not be brought down. S Muthaiah of the AIADMK voted for the government, claiming he had made a mistake which, of course, is a total lie. But Saifuddin Soz (of the National Conference) voted against the government. Yet, if Soz had obeyed his leadership and voted for the government, along with Muthiah, it would have been a tie and the Speaker would have voted for the government.

I revealed Muthaiah's conspiracy to Jayalalitha and she in turn told Sasikala about it. After the expose, I think Sasikala began to feel afraid that I would separate her from Jayalalitha.

Second, over the past year, my rallies in Tamil Nadu have been very successful. I had taken up a number of popular causes. One such cause was installing in Parliament House a statue of Muthuramalingam Thevar. This made the entire Thevar community indebted to me. The Thevars form the base of the AIADMK. So I think the AIADMK began to think that I was systematically eroding them.

These misgivings of Sasikala and about you eroding their base, did you never speak to the AIADMK leadership about them?

Why should I? They should raise the issue with me.

Then why did they get the feeling that you were eroding their base?

They got that feeling because I used to hold Janata Party meetings, which were largely attended, even by AIADMK workers. In fact, another factor was that my terms with the AIADMK workers so good that they took orders from me. That might have also scared the AIADMK leadership.

What about Sasikala ? Did you never try to meet her and assuage her fears?

No, I never tried to meet her. She is just an extra-constitutional person.

Maybe, but we live in times of extra-constitutional powers?

I am sorry, but I did not come into politics for that.

So, what happens to the cases against Jayalalitha?

They are going on. Karunanidhi is not very competent but they are very solid cases that are being prosecuted by public prosecutors. In only one case had I contested the case myself. I won the case. She was fined Rs 280 million and a CBI inquiry ordered against her. Jayalalitha has gone in appeal, but she did not get a stay against the fine.

She had earlier spoken about the cases, saying that all the cases in which she is in trouble have been filed by me. She asked me that since now I was her ally, why could I not withdraw the cases.

But I told her that it was our agreement that the cases could not be withdrawn. Moreover, these are public interest litigation. I can't withdraw them now. If I were to withdraw the cases, the court can charge me with contempt of court, saying you filed the cases when you were opposed to her and you withdrew them when you were with her.

I told Jayalalitha that if the cases were going to break our alliance, she should tell me so then and there. Yet, she would reply that she could take care of the cases.

She never gave you any hint of the impending break?

Never! She never gave me a hint, not before, or during, or even now. She still has not spoken to me about the break.

But you did not contact her?

Why should I? She gave me an appointment after she announced the list, and I said that I would not meet her. Alternatively, she must write to me saying that she would give me the Madurai seat, but I would not petition her.

Are you contesting from Madurai? And what are your chances?

Yes. And the way I analyse it is that in 1996, when there was a strong anti-Jayalalitha wave, it was the DMK-Tamil Maanila Congress combine that won. Still, I was able to win over 150,000 votes to come second in the constituency, while the AIADMK-Congress alliance came third.

Now, the DMK has lost the Muslim and Christian votes, they have the lost the pro-TMC vote, and you can add some piffling amount for the BJP. Thus, the DMK and even the TMC are effectively out of the race. The battle is between the AIADMK front and myself. I have just got information from men in Madurai that even the AIADMK is demoralised about Madurai. In fact, they have given the seat to the Communist Party of India-Marxist candidate, who got only 70,000 votes ( laughs).

So it appears to me that Jayalalitha has recognised that putting up an AIADMK candidate who might lose can prove very shameful, and hence she has given the seat to the CPI-M.

Do you see yourself re-aligning with Jayalalitha again?

No. I aligned with her in1991, when she became the chief minister. Then she made some intemperate statements that her victory was because of her popularity and not because of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, which I thought was a very cheap remark. Then there was the case of the acid attack on Chandralekha, who is now my party chief in Tamil Nadu. I tried to correct her, but she took it ill and began to engage in violent acts against me. She filed fraudulent cases against me, all of which I won.

She turned against me when she was the chief minister. When she was in jail, I supported her, gave her moral support. Yet, she has again betrayed me. She has done it twice.

Now, Prithviraj Chauhan may have forgiven Mohammad Ghori fifteen times, but I am not going to be so foolish. I will never align with Jayalalitha again. Never!

Many new formations and fronts are coming up. Do you see a role for the Janata Party in any of them?

Madurai is a city with a long political history. It was at the centre of the anti-Brahmin movement, the anti-Hindi movement, the Dravidian movement, and was a pro-LTTE city. Yet, this city has elected me, the very antithesis of all these movements. So I feel that the people of Tamil Nadu are crying out for a change from the present DMK or AIADMK brand of politics.

Then, Kargil has created an upsurge of pro-national feeling across the villages of Tamil Nadu. I therefore think it is better in Tamil Nadu, I should contest on my own, without any alliance. Also, all the other parties are corrupt. Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi is known throughout the state as being corrupt while the Tamil Maanila Congress is tainted by the Indian Bank scam.

If I am able to get elected on my own this time, it will create a very big boost for the emergence of a third front in the state. The Janata Party will contest in the next Tamil Nadu assembly elections, due in two years time.

What about alliances with formations outside the state?

I have the honour of representing the party that brought back democracy to this country, and I have the privilege that when everyone else was deserting this party, I did not. Despite nasty remarks of having a one-man show, I will not leave this party.

Some talks are going on and I am about to sign some deals with some other parties. However, I cannot reveal the details at this stage. But I have no objection to some formations being made after the elections.

Do you in hindsight regret aligning with Jayalalitha?

Not at all! When I led the campaign against her, the principle beneficiary of it was Karunanidhi. And Karunanidhi suffers from the same insecurities, hence he too tried to push me out. So I wanted to show him -- in politics, such symbolism is important -- that if I could bring down Jayalalitha, I could also resurrect her.

Yet, everytime you lead a battle charge, someone else reaps the benefits?

No, no. Look at this way. When I went to Tamil Nadu, I had nothing, not even five workers. Today, I have a party. It depends how you look at it. It doesn't matter. I joined Jayalalitha and got the pleasure of my life in bringing down the BJP government. In the national interest, I don't think the BJP should be there.

What do you see happening in the forthcoming election?

I think it will be a hung Parliament. No one can predict what will happen. The BJP says Vajpayee will be the next prime minister, the Congress says it will be Sonia Gandhi. But when the results come, only then will we know.

You had a tea party but after that, everything seems to have collapsed. What went wrong?

I was given the specific brief of bringing down the BJP government, and I managed to do that, even if by just one vote. After that, Jayalalitha told me that she and Sonia would decide on forming the next government and I had nothing to do with it. But they failed. My job was to bring down the government, and I did that.

How many seats do you think the various parties will win?

The Congress will cross its present strength of 140 by about 20 or so, while the BJP will come down from its strength of 181 by about 10. Some other smaller parties too will get squeezed. Probably Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Do you see the Kargil war as being an issue in the elections?

The Kargil war will be an issue that will hurt the BJP. As the campaign builds up, people are going to ask questions about how the intruders came in, what about Brigadier Surinder Singh's six letters, what happened to the torturers and murderers of Lieutenant Kalia and his men, and Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja. I don't think Kargil will help the BJP.

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