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The Rediff Election Interview/Cho Ramaswamy

April 28, 2004

Cho Ramaswamy, editor of the Tamil weekly Thuglaq, is said to be a good friend of Tamil superstar Rajnikanth. It is widely believed he was responsible for Rajnikanth leaning towards the Bharatiya Janata Party, but Cho denies it.

According to him, Rajnikanth's decision to vote for the BJP will not have an impact on the people of Tamil Nadu. Thuglaq  reporters, after having travelled all over Tamil Nadu, have returned with the feedback that the Democratic Progressive Alliance headed by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam will sweep the Lok Sabha election.

Special Contributing Correspondent Shobha Warrier caught up with the maverick editor.

Rajnikanth said he would personally vote for the BJP but would not extend his support to any front. What kind of impact will it have on the Lok Sabha election in Tamil Nadu?

His message to his fans is clear. When he says he is going to vote for this front, the BJP-AIADMK (Bharatiya Janata Party-All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), naturally his fans also will do the same. He must have come to the decision after some serious thinking. But to influence the people at large, he may have to go a step further and say that he extends his support, which he has not done.

You have been described as his advisor, philosopher and guide.

I have been described by many in so many ways. I am even called names.

But are you not his friend, philosopher, adviser and guide?

Why should I advise anybody? I am his friend. We meet very often. Just because we meet doesn't mean that he is craving for my advice, and I advise him on all matters. He can make his own decisions.

Do you two not discuss politics?

We discuss so many things, politics, films, society -- you know I am always free with my opinions. Because I am not responsible to anybody, I can be expressive. That I do with everybody. Does it mean that I am advising everybody? I am free with you also. I tell you my opinions. Am I advising you on anything?

But you two are friends.

Are you not my friend?

This is different. We meet only when I have to interview you.

I am a friend of yours also. We have been good friends for such a long time. You have been tolerating me! Does that mean I am advising you?

It is rumoured that you are responsible for Rajnikanth moving towards the BJP and its ideology.

I am not responsible for anything. I am the most irresponsible fellow you can find! How can I be made responsible for anything?

Did he at any point of time seek your opinion, not advice, on political parties?

I have been expressing my opinion on various parties. I discuss them with him. He discusses them with me. That doesn't mean there's a discussion about a particular programme.

As a political analyst what do you think attracted Rajnikanth to the BJP? Is it his spiritual inclination?

He is spiritually minded. He is a firm believer in Hindutva. I don't think that should have worked in his mind to come to a decision about voting in an election.

He has made it clear that he believes the BJP is going to launch the interlinking of rivers project very shortly after they come to power.

He, in fact, went on a fast on this issue. He is very well informed about the water problem. The BJP is the only party that has talked about interlinking of rivers. Cho Ramaswami

His press statement seems to have confused his fans.

What confusion? He has clearly said that his vote is for the alliance (AIADMK-BJP). I don't think he has confused his fans. His intentions are very clear.

As a political analyst how do you assess the chances of the DPA (Democratic Progressive Alliance comprising the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Pattali, Makkal Katchi, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Congress, the Communist parties and the Indian Union Muslim League) and the AIADMK-BJP alliance?

The DPA is very strong, formidable. Unless the message is delivered to the people and they are convinced that Vajpayee should become the prime minister and the NDA should come back to power, the DPA will remain strong.

If the thinking penetrates deep into the minds of the people, the numbers on the DPA side may lose their value. It remains to be seen whether it happens.

Does that mean the Rajni factor will have no impact?

It will have an impact but what kind of an impact, how deep it is going to be, how widespread it is going to be, I can't say now.

Will the PMK be affected by Rajni's decision?

I can't say anything now on even the PMK constituencies.

So you don't see the kind of impact Rajnikanth had in 1996.

I wouldn't say so because then Rajnikanth had played a direct role. Now it is not like that.

That is why people say there is confusion in his statement.

There is no confusion. There's a clear difference between the two. In 1996, he had appealed to the voters to take a particular decision. Now he has not done it.

Do you feel, like many others, in 1996 he should have made use of the influence he had and plunged into politics?

He said he was not ready for it. Even now he is not ready for it. How can I say he should have done it in 1996?

Is there an anti-incumbency wave against (Tamil Nadu Chief Minister) J Jayalalithaa?

I don't think there's a wave against Jayalalithaa, or anybody else for that matter.

Like the BJP says, is India shining?

There are problems even in the most advanced countries. Various welfare measures have to be effected and often it doesn't reach the people. Healthcare schemes also fail in certain areas. There are accidents. That doesn't mean they are not advanced countries.

In spite of the problems it is a fact that we are going very fast towards economic success. That is why they are saying India is shining.

How many seats will you give the NDA?

Even after going through all the opinion polls and exit polls, I still believe the NDA will come back to power, and that too, without any post-poll alliance.

Image: Rahil Shaikh

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India Votes 2004 | The Rediff Interviews

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