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March 20, 1998


The Rediff Election Interview/Selvaganapathy

'We will give the BJP time'

It is not easy for a journalist to get to speak to All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam factotums. In fact, Shobha Warrier has been trying for months to get a senior party leader to agree to an interview. Forget the all-powerful general secretary and former chief minister J Jayalalitha, who speaks only at her convenience and choosing, even the second-rung leadership shies away from airing views to the media.

Finally, with great difficult, she managed to pin down Selvaganapathy, the AIADMK's organising secretary and housing minister in Jayalalitha's cabinet, for an interview in Madras.

Recently, Rajya Sabha MP R Kumar from your party (who was sworn in as minister of state in the Union council of ministers) told a television interviewer that in your party, there is only one head and when the head talks, the tail should not wag. Do you agree with this observation?

He did not mean it that way. What he was trying to point out was, when Madam had already explained clearly the facts and circumstances responsible for a particular situation, why should I, a subordinate in the party, talk? He meant only that, and I feel we need not read between the lines.

The impression that we got from the statement was, she is the head and all the others are just tails.

She is, of course, the head, and all others are her subordinates. We follow the hierarchy in a disciplined manner, and it should not be taken otherwise.

Why is it that in your party only she talks, and generally nobody else is willing to talk to the press?

Well, I am talking to you now.

I said, generally.

Kumar was willing to come on Doordarshan and also on Star TV. What else do you want?

But that's only now. During election time also, I tried to talk to somebody from your party, but couldn't find anyone. What I was told was that only she will talk to the press.

You admitted it was during election time. Because of elections, all of us were engaged in some work or the other. Many of our office-bearers were contesting in the elections, except one or two. So, you must have missed those one or two persons.

How is the relationship between Jayalalitha and other party members? Are you all scared of her?

I object to your question itself. It is the press, people like you, the media that is responsible for this type of projection. The press has projected us in a very, very crude and unreasonable manner, which they should not have done at all. I will say once again, this is how we are projected.

But there is absolutely no truth in it. We consider her to be our Amma, our mother. Who will be scared of one's own mother? Anyway, this allegation is quite shocking to me.

But she is not old enough to be your mother.

May not be, may not be. I mean the motherly attitude. How she regards her party members. But vested interests in the media have projected us very badly. They dig up holes, they dig up unimportant things and try to magnify. I will say, they are trying to slander us through false propaganda. We consider Madam as our mother, leader, guide.

Is she accessible to party members?

Of course, of course.

Can you meet her any time you want?

The office-bearers can go and meet her anytime. If I want to talk to her now, I can talk to her.

If you disagree with what she says, will you be able to tell her that?

Yes, of course. She allows us to air our opinion. Such type of democracy exists in our party. We cannot exhibit all that on screen. We cannot exhibit what is happening inside. Therefore, you say that there is no democracy in our party.

Another point I want to make is, we have bhakti(devotion) to her as disciples. We are not scared of her. We only have bhaktitowards her.

You mean the AIADMK workers consider themselves her disciples.

It is almost like that. Not exactly disciples. We follow her footsteps and we consider her our friend, philosopher, guide and everything. Without Madam, there is nothing for us.

But nobody from your party tells us all this. She is also not accessible...

She is accessible to us. We follow party democracy and we air our views.

She doesn't get angry if you air an opinion different from hers?

No, not at all. She discusses every matter with us. She gets convinced. If at all we are wrong, she convinces us.

Will she accept somebody else's point of view?

Yes, of course. On so many occasions.

Recently, after coming back from Delhi, she accused Ramakrishna Hegde of contradicting and interrupting her. See, this is what we hear, So, we feel that she does not accept anybody else's views.

She never said she would not accept other's views. She said she did not expect Ramakrishna Hegde to behave in such a manner. She is one among the constituents and it was Vajpayee and Advani who were chairing the session. In such a situation, he (Hegde) contradicted her without any base, he contradicted without any warranting. Has he any warrant to contradict her?

I am expressing my opinion and you may have a different opinion. He too can air his opinion but that does not mean he can undermine other's views and giggle. See, she was snubbed. Madam was snubbed! This was not what we expected from a senior leader like him. Madam has pointed out very clearly that what had happened was not in the interests of our state. You cannot just give cold shoulder.

While campaigning, she said you were going to give unconditional support to the BJP, but immediately after the election she said she would be in the government. Soon after that, she said it was going to be outside support. Don't you feel your party's image got a beating because of all these contradictory statements?

I don't agree with you at all. That is the kind of image the press is projecting.

Among the BJP's allies only the AIADMK acted like this. Only because of you everything got stalled.

It was not like that. Unless your state's interest is not protected, there cannot be a stable government at the Centre. What Madam projected was that there has to be a stable government at the Centre. If you aim for a stable government, each state has to be taken care of, there has to be a balanced growth in every nook and corner of the country. If you ignore a particular state by giving cold shoulder to the demands raised in the meeting, then you cannot expect a stable government. It has to take care of each state. We put forward these demands with this intention only.

Earlier you promised unconditional support, Later on what you put forward are all conditions.

Agreed, earlier it was unconditional support, with the aim to have a stable government at the Centre. How do you ensure that? Each party has to be taken care of and their interests have to be safeguarded. If you disregard all that, how can there be a stable government?

But the central government has to look after the interests of all the states. It cannot be partial to any particular state.

Yes, I agree. You look after my demand, you look after the demands of Karnataka, you look after the demands of...

The Centre has to look after the interests of not only the allies but all the states of India.

Yes. They are bound to do that. That is their primary duty.

So, when you put forward such conditions, how will the government run?

Are these conditions unreasonable? No. These are conditions which have been in existence for several years. If you don't fulfil and protect these rights, you can never rule.

But all your demands are inter-state problems. To solve the Cauvery water problem, there has to be a dialogue between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. In the case of Periyar, Kerala will have some problems.

That is why we said, you include these in the national agenda. The very discussion itself was stalled by somebody there. Such type of cold feet was never expected from the BJP. I would say that this is a lesson for them that in order to ensure a stable government, they have to ensure our rights too, our people's rights, our state's rights.

But won't you agree that the image of your party got tainted because of all this? The whole country saw what was happening.

Absolutely not. This is false propaganda spread by the media. Nothing was stalled. We were giving them time to respond.

You also demanded ministerial berths for Dr Swamy and Vazhappadi Ramamurthy.

It is not a crime to ask for ministerial berths for your allies. It was our inner-party decision that we did not want to participate in the ministry but it is not a crime to ask for a particular portfolio for one our allies.

Yes, you can ask, But you refused to send the letter of support and everything came to a standstill.

It (demanding ministerial berths) was not only that reason. It was projected that way by the media. A process was going on to arrive at a solution. So, you cannot say the process was to stall everything. It is in the interests of the nation that now we have decided to be a part of the government. It is essential now.

During the crisis, some BJP leaders said on television that they were asking all the allies to be a part of the government so that they could look after the interests of their states. Then, why did you choose to remain outside and put forward only the demands?

Why? It was because all these demands were given a cold shoulder. Now that they have decided to include all that in the national agenda, we have decided to join the government. So, we consider it our success. We have done all this in the interests of the nation.

But all the other allies co-operated with the BJP. The ADMK was the only party...

Our is not the only party, we have four more allies and we have altogether 30 members. Thirty members is not a microscopic minority but a sizeable number.

Is it because you have 30 members that you are asking for many things?

I will differ with you on that point also. It is not because of that. It is primarily because a stable government has to be ensured. How can it be done? By safeguarding the rights of all individuals.

Will your party or Jayalalitha try to stall the governance if these demands are not met?

That is not our intention at all. We want to see that the country is run in a smooth way.

You will allow Vajpayee to do that?

We will give them time.

How much?

It is not a question of any time framework. It is our success that they agreed in principle. Now we have to watch.

You succeeded in including all that in the national agenda but they did not accept Subramanian Swamy as finance minister...

That itself shows how much we are interested in building the entire nation. It was said in the media that we want this portfolio, that portfolio etc. All that has collapsed. Now you know it was all the work of the media.

But there was a drama.

It was not a drama. It was a process to set right things.

Everybody saw on television that Vajpayee went with letters of support from only 240 members to Rashtrapati Bhavan.

It was not any numbers game. It was our principle of ensuring a stable government, we were also ensuring that our rights are regarded properly.

Will you ask for the dismissal of the DMK government?

Why should we ask for the dismissal of the government? It is the duty and the primary responsibility of the government that comes at the Centre to safeguard the national interest, integrity of the nation, internal security of the state, etc. They have to set the law in motion. So, it is not the question of any demand. Why should there be a demand? They have to look into the affairs of every state and find out whether the state is functioning within the framework of the Constitution.

At present, is the DMK government functioning within the framework of the Constitution?

Absolutely not. We are seeing everything. They themselves have admitted that the ISI played a major role in all those blasts. So, there is no law in this state. Total lawlessness.

Does that mean you will ask for the government's dismissal?

That was what I was saying. The Centre's primary duty is to see how, why, etc.

What does it mean?

It means the Centre has to show that it means business. If they find that the state is not functioning within the framework of the Constitution, they have to act.

Is it like, if there is one more bomb blast or some law and order problem, you will ask for the DMK government's dismissal?

It is a question of finding out things. In our opinion, they have failed in all aspects. You cannot expect any proper governance from this government.

If after every Lok Sabha election, you are going to ask for the dismissal of state governments, are you not setting a bad precedent?

It is in the interests of the people of the state of Tamil Nadu. How long can you allow a government to run like this?

But they have won both the assembly seats where elections were held now.

Is that any yardstick? Is that the yardstick to judge a government which is lawless?

People voted for that government.

No, they lost the mandate of the people in that case. If they claim that they got two assembly seats, we won all the Lok Sabha seats. They lost the mandate throughout the state.

But we have seen that people look at Lok Sabha and assembly elections differently. So, is it right to ask for the dismissal of a state assembly? In that case, most of the state assemblies have to be dismissed.

It is your opinion that people saw both the elections in two different perspectives. It is not so actually. I humbly differ with you. They have lost the mandate of the people throughout the state. It is a blow to the party which was also running the Centre. A fitting reply was given to their commissions and omissions.

But you can wait for their term to complete and then tell people all this.

See, they are free to rule. They are free to govern. But they are not governing. They must quit. Govern or quit. There is absolute lawlessness everywhere. Daylight robbery and murder, communal clashes. Has Tamil Nadu ever witnessed such a situation? Who is responsible for all this?

How do you describe your five-year rule?

It was so peaceful then. It was the golden era of Tamil Nadu, the five-year period when Madam ruled the state. There was absolutely no untoward incidents anywhere. You magnified just one incident at Kodiyamkulam. Now you have thousand Kodiyamkulams.

You said it was the golden era, so why did the people reject you? You were routed.

I would say it was due to the false propaganda unleashed by the media. Our cadres were totally demoralised. How they (the media) planted stories like pre-poll, post-poll, surveys and what not!

Had it been the golden era, like you described, people would not have believed all those poll surveys?

They have understood now. They have compared our government with the present government, now they understood that Madam alone is the person who can rule this country.

Country or state?

I mean, state. Now they have compared. Now there are bomb blasts and riots everywhere. When you had problems everywhere else in the country after the Ayodhya incident, Tamil Nadu was the only place where there were no problems. In fact, we sent our police force to aid the Karnataka government. Now people have understood all this. You saw the results too.

We were told that your cadres got demoralised because of the intervention of Sasikala and her family.

That is absolute nonsense.

Did she interfere in party affairs?

She never interfered. We have not even seen her. We don't see her except in papers and outside.

But after your party's defeat in the assembly elections, Jayalalitha herself said Sasikala would not interfere hereafter.

We should not poke into the friendly relationship of our leader. I don't think she had ever said anything of that sort. We are not concerned about it. It is none of our botheration at all.

Do you feel Sasikala's interference, their acquisition of property and house and the extravagant marriage are the reasons behind your massive defeat?

It was all false propaganda. The entire family of the present chief minister has accumulated wealth throughout Gopalapuram. Do they not have property? Have they not amassed wealth? The Sarkaria commission has found everything to be true. We have been accused but we have not been convicted.

Was not that marriage the turning point?

I don't think so.

Do you feel it should have been avoided?

No, no. Why? It was all false propaganda on Sun TV. They said the horses came from Arab countries. It was all nonsense. Even in my town Salem also, the town will be decorated with light etc during a wedding. And people enjoy.

But here you forcibly took over a public area.

No, not took over. It was a massive procession in which all our party cadres participated. When a party procession takes place, will you say that they have taken over the area?

You also know this was different.

No, no. A leader was participating in the process ion and there were lakhs and lakhs of party workers there. It is but natural that other vehicles could not go.

Honestly, don't you feel it was an extravagant procession?

With absolute honesty, I am saying there was no extravaganza in it. It was no different from any other big marriage. But it was projected in a very bad way. Like I said, they said the entire horse driven carriage was gold-plated, etc etc. That was all nonsense.

What about the corruption charges? Will she be able to...

What is the question 'of able to'? They are all false and fabricated cases which are politically motivated. I don't think there is any evidence to show that there was corruption during our time. Just because I signed a file, I was accused of corrupt practices. They tried to demoralise the entire party and the leader. They had a one point agenda, that was to destroy Madam and the party. Every minister in our government was charged in one case or the other. That shows how vengeful they are. Even the speaker was not spared. It was all vindictive.

Do you know why he booked me in so many cases? He wants to suppress whoever is active. I was kept inside for five months before a trial in solitary confinement. The cell was meant for terrorists and persons who are sentenced to death. I fought bravely and said, I will teach you a lesson. We have taught them a lesson. What harm have I done? What harm had Madam done? Do you think you are perfect? What sort of a person are you? You also have been accused of so much and all your charges are proved by a Supreme Court judge. Still can you claim to be perfect?

Shall we go back to the present BJP government? How long will it last?

It will complete five years.

You will not pull it down in between?

Why should we? We have given a package for Tamil Nadu. They have included all that in the national agenda.

They won't be able to implement all that immediately because all are matters concerning different states.

How can you say they won't be able to? They have to find a way.

If they find it difficult to implement, will you pull out of the government?

We have a statesman as prime minister. Vajpayee will definitely find a solution to all these problems.

The Rediff Election Interviews

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