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'BJP will have no effect. Not even an iota'

April 18, 2024 16:23 IST
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'The people of Tamil Nadu, in particular Chennai, know about the double standards of the BJP. Nothing will work for them here.'

IMAGE: Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP Thamizhachi Thangapandian campaigns in T Nagar, part of her Chennai South parliamentary constituency. Photograph: Kind courtesy Thamizhachi Thangapandian/Instagram

Dr Thamizhachi Thangapandian aka Sumathy, 61, is a poet, author, lyricist, orator and politician.

She is the current MP from Chennai South and has been renominated from Tamil Nadu's most high profile constituency.

Of the four main candidates in this constituency three have 'Tamil' in their name.

There is Tamizhachi, there is Tamilisai and there is Tamil Selvi.

You can hear the drums far away but approaching rapidly.

Very soon an open goods van appears with a band loaded on it. They play loud music, emphasis on the loud and not on the music.

This van is followed by an open jeep where photographers and videographers jostle for space, in spite of the shaky journey they keep their cameras focused on the candidate Thamizhachi who travels on top of a vehicle flanked by a Tamil Nadu minister and other important people from this constituency.

She greets people with folded hands, occasionally waving out to supporters who she recognises. The streets are dressed up in DMK's red and black, with flags, flowers and balloons.

One of her team members is live streaming her campaign trail on Facebook so you don't have to be waiting in the hot sun to see her.

She is a well-informed orator, her speeches are well researched and she speaks fluently and with self-confidence. After all she was a professor at Queen Mary's College before her foray into politics.

She wants to see the questions before the interview, and when she answers it is in a calm, measured tone.

She looks fresh and not tired at all, one would not believe that she had been in the sun campaigning for the past three hours, just before the interview.

"The people of Tamil Nadu are very rational people. They have their own way of voting for the assembly and parliamentary elections," Dr Thangapandian tells Senior Contributor A Ganesh Nadar.


IMAGE: Dr Thangapandian with Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President M K Stalin at the Annal Ambedkar Memorial Hall in Chennai, April 14, 2024. Photograph: Kind courtesy Thamizhachi Thangapandian/Instagram

Teacher, writer, politician, which role do you enjoy the most?

Always a teacher, once a teacher always a teacher, but writing is the crux with which my life moves on.

Politics is something different, it gives you a chance to serve the public.

Being in the place where policy is made and decisions are made to serve the public is very good.

I enjoy all three, but teaching is my passion.

When did you enter politics and did you add Thamizhachi to your original name Sumathy when you entered politics?

I was born in a political family and I have been a DMK member all my life.

I entered active politics in 2007 when in our party state conference I was given the honour of hoisting the flag by Doctor Kalaignar (M Karunanidhi) and our present chief minister (M K Stalin).

After that I resigned my job as professor at Queen Mary's College and became a full-time politician.

I write under the name Thamizhachi and my first book came out with that name.

Kalaignar endorsed this name when he introduced me as Thamizhachi at that state conference I mentioned earlier. Since then, I have been known as Thamizhachi.

What have you done in your constituency in the last five years?

Most of my major promises I was able to deliver. When I became the MP of this constituency the major problem was the Perungudi dump yard.

My repeated pleas in Parliament did not work, but when the DMK came to power in 2021 the work was cleared and 99% of the work is done.

The rejuvenation of the Pallikaranai marsh has been taken up by our honourable chief minister who is reclaiming wet land in 100 marshes and Pallikaranai is a priority in that list.

Through NABARD a proposal was sent to the Green Environment Network in Geneva and Rs 200 crores has been earmarked for the project.

Rejuvenating the Velachery lake was also one of my major projects.

There was no funding from the Union government or from the (earlier) AIADMK government here.

Only after the DMK came to power in the latest budget Rs 20 crores (Rs 200 million) has been earmarked for this.

IMAGE: Dr Thangapandian with Tamil Nadu Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin. Photograph: Kind courtesy Thamizhachi Thangapandian/Instagram

What have you done in Parliament in the past five years? I have heard your speeches on the finance bill, women's reservation bill. You also asked more than 200 questions. Have you ever interacted directly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

I have asked 282 questions. We get a chance during Parliament intervention to ask questions, both starred and unstarred.

Starred you get a chance to speak in Parliament and unstarred you get a written reply.

I have asked numerous questions to both the home minister and prime minister on various occasions, but the problem is you can ask only if your questions are chosen.

You are on the parliamentary board of NIFT and the ministry of cultural tourism. What work does this entail?

This membership comes in turn in Parliament.

There are meetings that we attend and we offer suggestions there.

I was also a member in the committees for social justice, and women's empowerment.

I am a member of the standing committee for information and technology for five years.

Did you feel helpless in Parliament as the government has a brute majority?

Helpless is not the word I would say, but sometimes it is very frustrating.

Draconian laws were brought in through ordinances, were brought in without discussion.

It was frustrating because this is not democracy.

For the first time in the history of Parliament there was no deputy speaker.

140 parliamentarians were dismissed, it has never happened at any time in our country, even members who were not present in the House were dismissed.

Parliament was a big farce.

I am the top performing MP from Tamil Nadu by the fact that I introduced eight private member bills.

You are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. How much time do you spend on social media?

It is either in the afternoon or late night. Evenings I like to spend with my family.

One of the ways I keep in touch with my constituency is through social media.

They message me through my inbox. I have to respond as that is the way you can keep in touch with them.

I spend four to five hours daily on social media.

IMAGE: Thamizhachi Thangapandian campaigns in the Chennai South parliamentary constituency. Photograph: Kind courtesy Thamizhachi Thangapandian/Instagram

Are you always available to your constituents? How many of them do you know personally? Does everyone have your number? Do you answer all calls?

I keep in touch with my constituency at all times.

People can come and meet me at home or my office in Adyar at any time.

Even if I am not there, I have two interns in my office and home at all time except Sunday.

They take down the complaint and phone number of whoever comes to meet me and I call them later.

I sent the complaints to the relevant department like the municipal corporation or the electricity department.

For my social media interactions I have a separate Excel chart to show the complaints and I deal with them as needed.

Even today after I ended the campaign a lady Kangavalli came and met me. She thanked me for the thousand rupees she receives from the state government every month.

What sort of complaints come to you from your voters?

Generally it is about infrastructure, Storm water drains are being constructed and roads are dug up.

After the construction is over and there is delay in relaying the road they tell me.

Sometimes it is about transformers, other times about pattas (land deeds).

I refer the problem to our MLAs, councillors or relevant government departments.

Has anyone from your constituency called you for a police case?

Yes! They do call me as my husband Chandrasekhar is a retired IPS officer.

If it is within my purview and it is within the rules, then I will help them. If not, no!

Does it give you confidence that all the MLAs in Chennai city are from the DMK and one is from your ally, the Congress, or do you feel that people vote differently in Parliament elections?

The people of Tamil Nadu are very rational.

They have their own way of voting for the assembly and parliamentary elections. But this time we are confident as the chief minister's Dravidian model of governance is based on social justice.

The free bus travel for women, the Rs 1,000 grant to women heads of families.

The Puthumai Penn Thittam is a success. When a student does well in the 12th standard exams, to help them with higher studies the government deposits one thousand rupees in their account every month. This will help them to study further.

IMAGE: Dr Thamizhachi Thangapandian speaks in the Lok Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament. Photograph: Sansad TV/ANI Photo

Who do you think will come second in your constituency?

I am not looking at that. I am concentrating on my victory margin.

The pre-poll surveys say that it will be the AIADMK.

Will the Bharatiya Janata Party blitz with Narendra Modi visiting Tamil Nadu 13 times have any effect?

It will have no effect. Not even an iota! When South Tamil Nadu and Chennai were reeling in floods he did not bother to visit. But when a cyclone struck Gujarat he immediately took a tour of the cyclone struck areas in a helicopter and sanctioned a thousand crores on the spot.

Chief Minister M K Stalin had asked for Rs 38,000 crores (Rs 380 billion). A delegation of MPs led by our floor leader T R Baalu met them and asked for flood relief, but it fell on deaf ears.

The people of Tamil Nadu, in particular Chennai, know about this. They know about the double standards of the BJP. Nothing will work for them here.

For language development see the amount given for Sanskrit and the paltry amount given for Tamil.

What are your future plans for your constituency?

People when I meet them have told me that they need foot over bridges with escalators and sidewalks on OMR and ECR.

There is also a request for a railway line to Cuddalore from Perungudi through the East Coast Road.

People want to remove toll gates that are existing for more than 10 years.

For most of these I have already raised my voice through parliamentary interventions. But nothing has been done.

But this time with a change in government I think all our pleas will be listened to and our dreams will be fulfilled.

You have your own MPLAD fund of Rs 25 crores over five years?

Every year we get Rs 5 crores. This is a very important point.

I became a member of Parliament on June 19, 2019, and on March 20, 2020, Covid lockdown began.

The second half after June 19, 2019, 2020-2021, 2021-2022 all the funds were taken for the PM Cares fund for which there is no audit. Rs 12 crores (Rs 120 million) were initially taken for the PM Cares fund.

After our repeated pleas and request they gave us Rs 7 crores (Rs 70 million).

We lost two years there, but we did get funds for the next three years. I have totally spent my Rs 22 crores (Rs 220 million) in my constituency for anganwadis, indoor stadiums, schools, smart classrooms, and community halls.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/

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