September 25, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/Dr Subramanian Swamy

'Jayalalithaa will not be able to contest elections for 25 years'

There was one unmistakable smiling figure when the Supreme Court unseated Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa -- Dr Subramanian Swamy. The exultant president of the Janata Party told Ramesh Menon that Tamil Nadu would see instability in politics as long as the new chief minister remained a puppet.

How do you feel after the judgment that unseats Jayalalithaa?

I feel vindicated.

Jayalalithaa was disqualified from contesting elections because of the Tansi case. I was the complainant. The public prosecutor conducted the case but I provided all the documents and evidence. She was convicted. She could not contest elections as her nomination papers were rejected.

The Supreme Court judgment is a great boost to democracy. The judgment is a wake up call for the Tamil people that they are not above the Constitution. They should know that in the passion to vote out somebody, you do not vote in somebody else who is not permitted under the law.

How must Jayalalithaa be taking it?

It is also a rude shock treatment for Jayalalithaa to improve herself. If she gets rid of Sasikala and what is known as the Mannargudi mafia around her, there is hope.

Why do you refer to them as the mafia?

They are the mafia. They believe in intimidation and are violent to the core. They are crude spenders. They are the nouveau rich.

Sounds like defamation.

Well, the truth is truth. I have never made a charge in my political career of 30 years where I have been disapproved. No defamation case has succeeded against me. What do you mean by defamation? It is only defamation if it is untrue.

There is an overpowering feeling now that she will rule by proxy.

Well, she was a proxy herself for Sasikala. Where is the question of her ruling by proxy? This is one of the myths being spread. Sasikala, who calls the shots, is ruling her. Jayalalithaa is just a performing monkey for Sasikala.

Why does Sasikala have such a hold on Jayalalithaa?

It is sordid. I do not want to talk about it.

There are numerous cases against Jayalalithaa. Which would you term as the most serious ones?

The Tansi case is enough. But there are others like the disappropriate assets case, the Chandrakala acid case, the SPIC disinvestments case and so on…

After the judgments come out, Jayalalithaa will not be able to contest elections for 25 years.

Do you think this is going to be happen?

Who can say what can happen? But if you look at the present constellation of forces supporting Jayalalithaa and the type of people she is surrounded with -- I can give a guarantee that she cannot hold public service for another 25 years.

If she undergoes a change, which she did under my company from 1996 to 1999, it is possible to recreate public support for her.

What was she like in the early days?

Jayalalithaa was brutalised from the age of 16 in the cinema world. She therefore bears a psychotic pleasure in humiliating people, as she was humiliated. She was deadened to normal human emotions. People around her prey on that background.

When I brought her to Delhi, I found she was intelligent, she could grasp complex details in documents and was patriotic. But that is not enough.

As she was brutalised, she was incapable of thinking of democratic ways. She thinks everybody can be purchased. She has some mad moments when she thinks she is invincible.

How will the Supreme Court judgment impact her?

I hope it sobers her.

And her political career?

As far as her political career is concerned, if she continues with the Mannargudi mafia, that is the end of her political career.

How do you see Jayalalithaa's legitimacy as a leader?

She is the most well known face they have in the AIADMK. Losing her means the party will crack up. The party has a real problem there. There is no hope for the party. It may split.

Why do you think she rode into power when she has so many cases against her?

I am not so sure she has such a following.

She won the election…

Well, she won. She has lost an election too. She herself once lost and that too to a tea stall owner. You do not remember that!

Things change. You must understand the circumstances. People did not like Karunanidhi's son Stalin.

Why were they against Stalin?

The women were particularly nervous. They did not feel safe. Stalin was projected as Karunanidhi's successor and they thought it would be better to have Jayalalithaa.

It was Stalin's projection as the future chief minister that united women in deciding that the DMK should not come back. And, in five years, the DMK did not perform. Over and above this was the fact that the DMK had the BJP with them, which is seen as a pathetic, wobbly government, which had raised false impressions of a victory in Kargil. So, Karunanidhi had the albatross of the BJP around his neck apart from (the reputation of) his son. So, he sank.

People decided to shift. Politically sensitive elements decided to shift from one side to another. She was defeated by four or five per cent in 1996 and she won by the same percentage this time.

Is there a need to make amendments in the Constitution to ensure that those who had criminal charges against them do not take over power the way Jayalalithaa did?

There is no need. It is clearly understood in the Constitution. After this judgment, no one is going to fool around.

The matter of the will of the people has been loosely talked about. In 1973, the Keshavanand Bharati case had very clearly laid down that the amending power of Parliament and legislatures is subject to a basic structure of the Constitution. Which means that no will of the people can amend the pillars of the Constitution out of shape like parliamentary democracy, secularism, independence of the judiciary and the executive.

We got a very clear restatement from the judges of the Supreme Court that the will of the people has to be within the framework of the Constitution.

What will the fallout be on Tamil Nadu politics?

As both the Dravidian parties have failed, there is space in Tamil Nadu politics for a nationally minded, economically oriented alternative.

Alternative like what?

An alternative that comprises a part of the Tamila Maanila Congress, the patriotic section of the Congress and not the pro-LTTE ones who are led by Sonia Gandhi herself, so we should have the non-Sonia followers with us. Then, there are the old Janata Party activists in the villages who now need to be revived and those who participated in the anti-Emergency struggle. Then there is the middle class.

I do see instability in the near future in Tamil Nadu.

You were talking of a large middle class…

They are looking for change. The Tamil people also realise they could not make the extent of economic progress made by Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra because all the time they were inward looking.

Will you make up with Jayalalithaa now?

If she comes and expresses regret for the wrong she has done to the people of Tamil Nadu and gives me some kind of credible assurance that she will not ditch me again which she did twice, I have no problem. I do not have anything personally against her. But she has to break away from Sasikala and the Mannargudi mafia.

To make up with me she has to get rid of Sasikala. Last time it was Sasikala who forced her to part company with me as she suspected I was exercising too much influence on her. The choice is either Sasikala or me.

What are the problems the new chief minister will face?

He will be without a personality and will be a fish out of water. He will feel that the rug can be pulled from under his feet any day. If he remains like a puppet, he will become a joke. If he tries to be independent, he will be thrown out. So, it will be a pathetic situation.

As she did not get someone to succeed her from Sasikala's family, they will not let the government function. And if they get someone from the Mannargudi mafia to replace her, the AIADMK cadres will not tolerate it, as they know that all the ills of the party are due to Sasikala. It will then split the AIADMK.

You said Sasikala remote controls her. Does Jayalalithaa have no mind of her own?

She has a mind. But she is unable to break out of it. Sasikala is blackmailing her. They are really a ruthless bunch. They are only interested in money.

Being a captive of Sasikala she was incapable of delivering the goods at all. It is the last chance for Jayalalithaa to break free. Otherwise, the forces ranged against her are such that she will not be able to enter public life.

What is the role you see for yourself in Tamil Nadu now?

I am not interested in state politics. I just want to develop a new alternative. I nearly did in the last election, but at the last minute, (Tamil Maanila leader G K) Moopanar developed cold feet. He, of course, regretted not listening to me before his death. I certainly will now be active to form a new group.

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