September 23,


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The Rediff Interview/EVKS Elangovan

'Sonia's foreign origin issue is over'

From Narendra Modi in Gujarat to J Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu, Congress president Sonia Gandhi's foreign origins continues to be the pet peeve of several politicians. While the Gujarat chief minister in his Gaurav yatra accuses 'Italy's daughter' of insulting Gujaratis, the Tamil Nadu chief minister described Gandhi as 'Antonia Maino' at a recent press conference.

As Congress leaders scramble in defence of their party president, E V K S Elangovan, president of the Tamil Nadu Congress, has been one of Sonia Gandhi's more vocal defenders.

In an interview to Shobha Warrier, he said the war of words will continue for some more time.

You have said there is an 'ulterior motive' behind Jayalalithaa’s tirade against Sonia Gandhi. What is the ulterior motive?

L K Advani, Dr Subramanian Swamy and Jayalalithaa have joined hands together. They want to make Advani prime minister of India.

You mean Dr Swamy is joining hands with the BJP?

Not with the party. This is the coming together of three individuals. If they cannot make Advani the prime minister, they want to make Jayalalithaa prime minister! This is the hidden agenda behind all that has happened in the last few days.

But Ms Jayalalithaa is only the leader of a regional party. How can she be an alternative to Advani?

She is only a regional party leader but that is now. They want to do something like this in the next parliamentary election. This move is fully backed by the RSS. That is why she has started abusing Sonia Gandhi. Otherwise, there is no reason for Jayalalithaa to rake up the citizenship issue now.

Are you saying a party like the BJP and a man of Advani’s stature will make Jayalalithaa prime minister of India?

No, Advani will not allow Jayalalithaa to become prime minister but Jayalalithaa has promised Advani that she will somehow support him to become the prime minister. Her hidden agenda is to be prime minister of the country!

She had met Advani just before she first attacked Sonia Gandhi. Here in Madras also, before going to the press about Sonia Gandhi, she had met Subramanian Swamy. He has been mouthing all the allegations that Jayalalithaa has made against Sonia Gandhi.

There are other reasons also. The state is facing a lot of problems. All sections of people are agitating. So, to divert people’s attention, she has started all this. But she cannot do this for long.

She got alarmed when the Congress and the TMC (Tamil Maanila Congress) came together. After seeing the mammoth crowd that had gathered to see Sonia Gandhi at the merger meeting, she has become scared. She also knows it is possible for the Congress to come to power in Tamil Nadu.

Jayalalithaa said she would try and bring all Opposition parties together to form a third front…

That’s her dream, wishful thinking. She thinks an alternate front will make her prime minister. It will never come true.

Is there not some truth in what she said? Why is it that your party, a party with such a long history cannot find an Indian as its leader?

She (Sonia Gandhi) is already an Indian. Who said she is not an Indian?

Honestly speaking, is she an Indian like you or me?

You cannot be such a petty minded person. Then, I can say, a lady from Karnataka cannot rule Tamil Nadu. What do you say?

But Jayalalithaa is an Indian. She is a Tamilian too.

She says she is a Tamilian but in her school certificate, it is clearly written that she is a Kannadiga, and her mother tongue is Kannada. She also said she belonged to the family of the maharaja of Mysore. When the DMK raided her house and unearthed saris, slippers, jewellery, etc, she gave a statement she had all that because she belonged to the Mysore maharaja family. The maharaja of Mysore was not a Tamilian.

Is it because you cannot find another Indian leader that all the Congressmen are going after Mrs Sonia Gandhi?

It is not because we cannot find another leader. We want Sonia Gandhi very much in the Congress. She did not voluntarily come and become the party president. Because of the pressure we put on her, she came into politics. She was not at all interested in politics. In fact, she had requested Rajiv Gandhi also not to become prime minister of the country. But in order to save this country, we need the Congress, and the Congress needs very good leadership, and that we see only in Sonia Gandhi.

Jayalalithaa described this as the 'moral bankruptcy of a party that fought for the independence of India.'

She can play with words. That doesn’t make any difference.

The foreign origin issue is over. It was debated in the last election, that was the main theme. Sonia Gandhi contested from both the south and the north, and people elected her with a big mandate.

But the Congress under Sonia Gandhi was not elected to rule India.

When she became the Congress president, the Congress was ruling in only two states, and now we have 14 states.

Jayalalithaa’s reply to this argument was that in all these states, people did not elect Sonia Gandhi to rule them but elected Indian leaders to rule them, and the mandate was for them.

I don’t think that argument is valid.

Congress leaders from all states came to Sonia Gandhi's defence but she did not react at all. Why?

You can’t expect Sonia Gandhi to reply to people like Jayalalithaa. Sonia Gandhi is our leader, and when she is attacked by somebody, how can you expect us to spare that person?

You also said that Jayalalithaa wrote a letter to Rajiv Gandhi about MGR (former Tamil Nadu chief minister, M G Ramachandran)….

Yes, she did write a letter to Rajiv Gandhi stating that MGR was handicapped; he couldn’t work efficiently. So, she requested Rajiv Gandhi to maker her chief minister instead of MGR.

Suppose she denies this.

Let her deny. See, MGR had told his confidants that they should not have any truck with this woman because of this letter. (AIADMK leader and former speaker of the TN assembly) P H Pandian is aware of it. (Former health minister in the MGR cabinet and transport minister in Jayalalithaa's cabinet) S Muthuswamy is aware of it. G V Swaminathan (former minister in MGR's cabinet and MP) is aware.

Will you produce the letter if necessary?

How can I produce the letter? MGR instructed his close associates not to have any truck with her.

Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj

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