'Nobody is telling you not to speak or learn your mother tongue. But making other languages an emotional issue is wrong.'
R Nataraj, Tamil Nadu's former director general of police and the legislator from Mylapore in Chennai, is accessible to his constituents as can be seen from the crowds waiting outside his office with their grievances.
"Most are here for school admissions and some for school fees, as it is the beginning of the academic year so the crowds," the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MLA, below, tells Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar.
What is your take on the three-language formula?
The government appointed the Kasturirangan committee to draft a national policy for education. They deliberated for a long time and came out with some excellent suggestions. Nobody talked about the good suggestions, they latched onto one suggestion and created a hullaballoo.
It has been clarified that there is no compulsion for Hindi, it is only an option.
Do you have a personal opinion on the matter?
Now let me tell you what my personal opinion about the three language formula. I don't support imposition of any language on anybody, but people should have the option and opportunity to study many languages. It is part of skill development.
The DMK, which came to power with the anti-Hindi agitation in the 1960s, was the first to make a noise. Let me tell you that all their top leader's children run schools where Hindi is taught.
M Karunanidhi himself once said, 'I have sent Murasoli Maran to be my representative in Delhi because he speaks fluent Hindi', that includes his grand nephew.
In the Bay Area and New York City in the US, you will find a lot of Indians who are very successful because they speak multiple languages.
When I was part of the dacoit Veerappan's hunt I have crossed the border and visited Karnataka. I have seen a Navodaya school there which has excellent infrastructure and great teachers. It is funded entirely by the central government.
These schools are not in Tamil Nadu because they also teach Hindi. Who is the loser?
Firstly, they have systematically killed Sanskrit and now they are trying it with Hindi.
Hindi is part of the CBSE, ISC, ICSE curriculum, so why not in the state board too?
When you are under 15 years old it is easier to learn a new language.
When my son was very young I was posted in Kathmandu. He speaks fluent English, Hindi and Nepali.
Tamilians are there in every state in the country and they speak the language of the state they reside in.
Everybody speaks three languages. One is the mother tongue, the language you are taught in school and the language of the place you settle to work in.
So is it about politics?
Tamil leaders have misled people that a third language is bad for them. They don't want the people to cross the borders of the state. They want them here so that they can continue to rule and make themselves wealthy.
They like to isolate one section of people against another. Hitler was a master at this. He taught people to hate a particular community and ruled over them.
We are Tamil speaking people, and those who don't speak Tamil are the others is the propaganda of language chauvinists, who make a living out of it.
Nobody is telling you not to speak or learn your mother tongue. But making other languages an emotional issue is wrong and is being used to mislead people.
The more languages you speak, the more employable you are.
Why did your party lose so badly in the Lok Sabha election?
An anti-Centre attitude has always been in Tamil Nadu since the 1960s. Moreover, the people were misled with false promises. They were told that their jewel loans will be written off, agriculture loans will be written off and everyone will get 3 cents land.
They also told the minorities that they are not safe from the majority, this was done with the scheduled castes too. Then there was the T T V Dhinakaran factor.
Were you complacent that once Edappadi K Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam came together there would be no other opposition?
We never said that, but it would have helped if TTV was also with us.
How much did Dhinakaran play spoilsport?
After the votes were counted, you can see that he did not get very many votes, but during the campaign the media had blown him out of proportion. He was hogging 20% of the media attention.
Moreover, while all parties had their own TV channels, we had none. Our channel when Madam (the late AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa) was there, that is Jaya TV, is now in his (Dhinakaran's) hands. So the Opposition had all the channels which also went against us as our good work did not receive enough publicity.
Was it a bad idea to align with the Bharatiya Janata Party?
No! It was a good idea. You must be aware that the BJP did play a part in getting OPS and EPS together. The BJP has always been supportive of the Tamil Nadu government.
People believe the AIADMK was arm-twisted into an alliance with the BJP because of pending cases against your top leadership?
Again, this is false propaganda. There are cases against many top leaders of the DMK too. Why are they not being questioned? Why are those cases not being pursued?
Money plays a very important part in Tamil Nadu politics, and the ruling party usually finds it very easy to distribute money. What happened this time?
You know standing for elections is very expensive. For the entire duration of the canvassing period you have to look after the cadres. Then there are other expenses like mikes, vehicles, pandals, and so many other incidentals.
Then there was bad blood among the cadres. I will give you an example.
In my constituency two block level leaders went to the TTV group. So the trust factor among the cadre became less. So work suffered and everything else with it.
As for money distribution it is very bad for a democracy. We have corrupted the public and we need to stop it before it gets worse.
People claim your candidates did not spend money because they knew they were losing.
That is not true. I will admit that our people were not aggressive enough in promoting the welfare measures of the state government. In some places they were actually defensive, which is not good for garnering votes.
How did the AIADMK win nine assembly bypolls out of 22, in spite of a rout in the Lok Sabha polls?
The people voted for us in the assembly bypolls because they wanted the state government to continue. They have seen the good work that we have done and they have faith in us.
Prime Minister Modi has also done good for Tamil Nadu. You know in the defence corridor under the Make in India scheme there are only two states, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. He also promised and delivered an AIIMS for Tamil Nadu.
Do you think your alliance with the BJP has become weak because of the loss of seats in Tamil Nadu?
No, we did win the assembly by-elections.
Will the BJP be supportive of Tamil Nadu or will it be vindictive because of the 39 DMK MPs in Parliament?
They will be totally supportive. Central schemes are for all states, there can be no schemes only for BJP-ruled states, you know that.
What is the way forward for your party?
We have to build on our strengths.
We have to identify our weak areas and address them.
We have to work in every assembly seat.
We have to stand united.
We have to improve our publicity department so that people are aware of our good work.
Despite the electoral defeat, did you expect ministerial berths for your party at the Centre?
We never expect anything, but if given an opportunity we will serve the people.
Will Dhinakaran's defeat in the elections lead to a unification process?
TTV himself had announced two years ago that he would be very happy to see OPS and EPS together.
Once that happened, we expected him to join us, but he has not done that.
Now after seeing the number of votes he got, we hope he will come back to the party.
How do you see Kamal Haasan's party's good showing in the elections? Do you think they will do better in the assembly elections?
What good showing are you talking about? Lots of people have come into politics after Amma's demise. Everyone will not be able to sustain themselves in the long run. Does anyone know Kamal Haasan's agenda?
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com