'The BJP wants an AIADMK government so that they can implement their policies.'
'All the policies implemented in UP are being implemented in Tamil Nadu.'
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, passed through some turbulent times over the question of who will lead it into next year's assembly election, but the issue has settled down for now after the announcement of Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami as the party's CM candidate.
The rival DMK and the ruling AIADMK have ruled Tamil Nadu for more than 50 years now, and what happens in one party is closely watched by the other.
In the 2016 assembly election, the two parties were neck and neck like never before. While the AIADMK had 41% of the vote, the DMK bagged 40% of the vote.
Next year's election will be crucial for both parties as it will be the first major clash between them in the absence of AIADMK stalwart J Jayalalithaa and DMK veteran M Karunanidhi.
While the AIADMK leadership tussle must have come as sweet music to the DMK's ears, the tame end, with Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam himself declaring EPS as the CM candidate, must have put paid to any hopes of exploiting the fissures in the party at election time.
A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com spoke to Saravanan Annadurai, the DMK spokesperson, to find out how the party plans to fight the assembly election.
The AIADMK announcing its CM candidate without any hitches. Certainly the DMK must be disappointed.
No! There is nothing to be disappointed. The people of Tamil Nadu have decided to throw out the AIADMK government irrespective of who leads them or is their CM candidate.
Do you think the rumblings in the AIADMK are over for good, or do you expect more drama before the election?
The entire clan of the AIADMK is together only because they are in power and also the invisible hand of the Bharatiya Janata Party keeps them together. It is only because of the BJP's efforts that they are together.
The general consensus seems to be that EPS has done a good job, which means, it is hard for the DMK to paint a picture of misgovernance, isn't it?
There is total misgovernance.
If you look at the pandemic, the number of coronavirus cases, Tamil Nadu is in the 2nd or 3rd position in the country. The government has washed off its hands. There is no focus on controlling Covid.
They are busy fighting each other and finding candidates while Tamil Nadu is in the midst of a pandemic.
How will you take on a resurgent AIADMK under EPS?
The AIADMK is a spent force. There is no support from the people of Tamil Nadu for the party. The humongous corruption by the government has disillusioned the people of Tamil Nadu.
There is no resurgence.
Both EPS and the DMK's M K Stalin will be making their debut as full-fledged captains of their teams in next year's election. The hot money says the government will be returned to power, what do you have to say?
There is a difference between our leader M K Stalin and Edappadi Palaniswami. M K Stalin has been chosen as the leader of the party by our party members. The same cannot be said about EPS.
They are scared of having a leader. They only have a steering committee.
Through all the rumblings in the AIADMK -- when OPS revolted, when T T V Dhinakaran seemed like breaking up the party and so on -- the DMK did not attempt to bring down the government by engineering defections. Why?
Our leader M K Stalin has said that we will not assume power through backdoor methods. It is needless to say that the BJP wants an AIADMK government so that they can implement their policies through them.
All the policies implemented in Uttar Pradesh are being implemented in Tamil Nadu.
Will you be going into the elections with the same allies, the Congress and Communists, or will you be making any changes?
Absolutely! Our party is known for preserving its allies.
Last time around there was a perception that you gave too many seats to the Congress and their strike rate was poor. Will you be giving them fewer seats this time?
That will be decided by the party. You cannot speculate.
Though you won the 2019 parliamentary election comprehensively, in the subsequent bye-elections and local body elections both the AIADMK and DMK were more or less equal on an equal footing. How did that happen?
We swept the parliamentary election. It was a huge victory. In the local body elections we won more than half the seats, the DMK had more members.
As they were in power, they could capture leadership posts. So it looked like they won more.
Though there are many cases against the AIADMK ministers, none has come to a conclusion. So your allegations of scams will not stand during the elections, right?
The allegations are based on solid allegations, eg, the Rs 1,950 crore (19.50 billion) BharatNet tender for Internet connections to all villages. That was questioned by us and subsequently it was cancelled because of allegations of corruption.
All the cases are being investigated by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption, which is under the control of the CM. So we cannot expect them to conduct the investigation in a fair manner.
Some of the cases are being investigated by the CBI and the central government is protecting them. People of Tamil Nadu are aware of all this.
Do you think a BJP-AIADMK alliance works to your benefit?
Absolutely! People of Tamil Nadu are not in favour of the ideology and the policies of the BJP and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). Principal among them is imposition of Hindi.
So the AIADMK, which is supporting the same policies of the BJP and RSS tacitly, has also earned the wrath of the people of Tamil Nadu.
How much weightage do you think your anti-Hindi stand will have in the elections?
It is not anti-Hindi, it is anti-Hindi imposition. People are understanding how the BJP government is imposing Hindi, both directly and indirectly.
Will NEET be an issue? What exactly will you campaign for?
NEET will be one of the central issues in the elections. We will be campaigning to abolish it. Our leader M K Stalin has already said that when we come to power we will abolish it.
In Tamil Nadu nobody seems to be bothered about the recent farm laws passed by the central government even though your party opposed it. Do you think it will make a difference in the assembly elections?
Certainly! The laws are anti-farmer. We have opposed it and the AIADMK government has supported it. He is the only chief minister who has praised it.
What role do you see Udayanidhi Stalin playing in the assembly election and in your party?
In 2019 he was one of the star campaigners. He has the ability to attract crowds. The way he has been rejuvenating the youngsters in the party has been outstanding.
His commitment to the Dravidian ideology and his efforts to propagate them among the youth will ensure that the youngsters understand the importance of our ideology which has been instrumental in the growth of Tamil Nadu on all indices -- social and economic.