April 10, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/Dr M Tamizhkudimagan

'The DMK has sidelined people like me' When Dr M Tamizhkudimagan, Minister for Tamil Culture and Development decided to leave the DMK and join the AIADMK front, it was a political move which created ripples in Tamil Nadu. He, after all, had been with the DMK for 47 years.

Tamizhkudimagan's anger is directed at Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, who had refused him the Elayangudi constituency. He is angrier still because the DMK had decided to allot the seat to a new entrant to the front, the Makkal Tamil Desam floated by a former AIADMK leader, S Kannappan.

As speaker of the state assembly in 1989, Tamizhkudimagan had released the letter from Jayalalitha to the governor of Tamil Nadu expressing her decision to resign as MLA. Later, the issue created a furor in the house.

His stint as minister for Tamil culture and development has been controversial. His decision to introduce Tamil as a compulsory language in schools was not well received. So was his decision to introduce archanas (prayers) in Tamil in temples.

Shobha Warrier met him at his official residence, which is yet to be vacated.

The DMK government of which you were minister denied you a ticket to contest from your constituency, Elayangudi. Is that the only reason why you decided to leave the party and join the AIADMK?

It is not that the DMK did not give me any (particular) constituency; the party allotted another seat to me. I have been working sincerely for Elayangudi constituency for several years. I know all the people there. I have spent around Rs100 crore there. I used to go there at least thrice a month. I don't think anybody has done that before. When I have done so much for my constituency, why did the DMK give my constituency to S Kannappan, and give me a different seat? That is my question?

Even now, Kannappan says, 'I (Kannappan) have given the list of 18 seats and it was the DMK that gave me Elayangudi'. I don't think Thalaivar (Karunanidhi) would do such a mean thing. This man (Kannappan) must have bargained for this particular seat. It seems he said, unless he was given the Elayangudi seat, he would not join the front. Why did he have to ask for the seat where Tamizhkudimagan was supposed to stand?

But you had been with the DMK for such a long time. You were a minister too. Why did he (Karunanidhi) give your seat to a party that has just joined the front?

That is my question too. Is there no difference between a person who has been in the party for a long time, and a man who perpetuates caste? I have been in the party for the last 47 years, and I was asked to stand from a different constituency to accommodate a new entrant to the front. It is like an insult to me.

You felt insulted?

Of course, I did. That is why I said, this decision of the party has affected my self-respect. Hope you know that the Dravidian movement was a movement for self-respect. So, when my self-respect is questioned, there is no question of me continuing in the party.

Why do you think the party gave your seat to Kannappan?

I don't think the decision was taken by the chief minister. I think all this was done by Stalin (Karunanidhi's son). He is doing what will be beneficial to him in future. All decisions are taken with that mindset. I will not say that Thalaivar has taken such a decision and pushed me out. Who takes the decisions for the party now? Stalin. Who is everything for the party now? We have reached a situation where Stalin is doing everything for the party; he talks to the alliance partners, he allots seats to people -- and people like me are sidelined.

Is the DMK not perpetuating dynastic rule, then?

Dr M Tamizhkudimagan Of course, it is. Okay, we can say that he (Stalin) is young, he has the experience as the mayor, let him grow as a politician. There is nothing wrong in that. You can take consolation in the fact that we see dynastic rule in the Nehru-Gandhi family. But what he does is he keeps all those who are with him and avoids all those whom he thinks won't go along with him. When he started doing that, when he started appeasing the coterie, things began going wrong.

So he thinks you will not stand by him?

Yes, that is what he thinks. I was not against him at all. It could be because of those who are with him, the coterie that he has.

Was it a painful decision to leave the party you have been associated with for the last nearly five decades?

You can imagine how unhappy I felt. You can imagine for how many days I might have deliberated on the decision. I wondered why they were doing this to me. Yes, it was a very painful decision.

But why did you decide to join the rival party, and not stand as an independent candidate from the same constituency?

See, it is like this. I can survive in this political scene only if I am with a prominent party. Is it not so? There are so many parties in Tamil Nadu now, and I could have joined any of those parties. What I want is, I want to defeat Kannappan in that constituency. He was with the AIADMK earlier before he started his own party. I can redeem my self-respect in Tamil Nadu politics only if I do that. Is it not so? So, the only party that can help me is the AIADMK. That is the only reason why I joined the party. There are no other reasons for my decision.

See... if you look at history, both the DMK and the AIADMK are Dravidian parties and what is the difference between the two parties, you just tell me.

Will Jayalalitha give you the same constituency?

I have told her everything. I hope she will give that seat to me.

If she did not oblige you, your decision to join the AIADMK would be of no use.

Such a thing will not happen (her not giving the constituency to him). I have asked for the seat and I hope she will give me the constituency.

Suppose she doesn't give you the seat, what will you do?

In my life, there is no such word as 'suppose'. One should not answer hypothetical questions.

Do you feel Stalin will take over the party after Karunanidhi?

Such a situation has already reached and everybody knows it too. The whole world knows about it now. That is the direction in which things are moving.

You have left your party and joined the AIADMK. Now, how will you assess the chances of the two parties?

Don't think I am speaking in favour of the AIADMK because I have joined the party. If you look at all the Tamil papers, you will understand which way the wind is blowing. I don't say all that the newspapers write is correct. The other day, Nakkheeran wrote that the AIADMK front has the support of 44 per cent and the DMK front has the support of only 35.56 per cent. After this, MDMK, which has 2-2-and-a-half per cent of the vote bank left the front. So, 35 per cent was reduced to 33 per cent. As the MDMK is going alone, the other front will remain the same. When all of us campaign against the DMK front, the percentage will go down further. So, the inclusion of Kannappan will have no effect on the DMK front.

Had you been given the Elayangudi seat, you would have remained with the DMK. So, you admit that the DMK front would have been at a disadvantage even then.

Even then, I would have said the same thing. I would have accepted whatever the people of Tamil Nadu decide. We have to accept defeat also. But you cannot forget the fact that the DMK has been weakened now.

Can we attribute the reason for the weakening of the DMK front and the strengthening of the AIADMK front to the PMK joining the latter and the MDMK leaving the former?

See, the AIADMK has the PMK, the Congress, the TMC and also the communist parties but what does the DMK front have? Only the BJP. The other parties are all very small. And, the BJP is not a strong party in Tamil Nadu.

What could be the reason, according to you, for allowing a cadre based party like the MDMK to leave the front?

I feel they were asked to leave due to some unknown reason. If they wanted, they would have negotiated and settled the matter amicably. It was only a matter of three seats. So....yes, Stalin could be one of the reasons... Even the MDMK says so. Everybody says (this).

Is it because Vaiko is a strong leader and if they have continued in the front...

Yes, you can have problems in the future...

You have so many caste-based parties in Tamil Nadu. The Dravidian movement was for uniting all the Dravidians.

It is not good to have caste-based parties. It is a drawback. The society has changed such that every community feels that their interests can be taken care of only by caste organizations. I will consider this as a shortcoming for the whole of Tamil Nadu.

If it is not good for society, why is it that both the Dravidian parties are wooing caste-based parties?

The AIADMK has not taken caste based parties in its front.

What about the PMK?

It has been quite some time since the PMK became a political party. Okay, they started off as a Vanniyar party but later on, it became a political party and they have been contesting elections also.

You were with the DMK till a few days ago. Do you know why the chief minister had been magnanimously giving seats to the newly formed caste based parties and at the same time ignoring old allies like the MDMK, TRC etc?

It was not a good decision at all. You cannot ask all those parties who have been with us for a long time, to leave. Definitely, it was a flaw on the part of the DMK front.

Why did he go wrong in his judgement?

If he (the chief minister) had made the judgement, it would have gone right but...

Even after you left, Karunanidhi did not make any disparaging remarks about you.

I also did not say anything bad about him. I know that he talked only lovingly about me.

How did you get in touch with Jayalalitha when you decided to join the AIADMK front?

That is a process, which I cannot and will not divulge.

How did she receive you?

She gave me a very warm welcome. She was respectful and we had a very friendly talk.

Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj; Design: Dominic Xavier

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