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'I did a revolution, got branded as a criminal'

April 22, 2014 11:12 IST

Image: A Raja speaks to DMK volunteers before heading out for another campaign rally.
Photographs: Saisuresh Sivaswamy/ Saisuresh Sivaswamy/

'Did you see my pamphlet?' Andimuthu Raja, the 2G scam-tainted DMK MP from Nilgiri, asks's Saisuresh Sivaswamy.

'Two things are very clear. One, that I did not have any disproportionate wealth, as per the CBI's contention before the court. And there has been no loss to the exchequer, which has been admitted by the joint secretary.'

'Under the Prevention of Corruption Act these two things are very important, and that has been ruled out.'

Former telecom minister Andimuthu Raja, who is seeking re-election from the Nilgiris (reserved) constituency in Tamil Nadu, is not what you expect him to be, nor is his campaign what you expect it to be.

In the run-up to the 2011 assembly election, his party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, was routed thanks to the 2G spectrum scam, in which case he is accused number one. Ahead of the elections there was a pall of gloom over the DMK cadres and their supporters then as they read clearly the writing on the wall.

Three years later, things seem to have changed and how. The legal case is still underway, in the court of special CBI Judge O P Saini. Raja's allotment of the spectrum was castigated by the Supreme Court, which termed it 'unconstitutional and arbitrary' and even cancelled it, calling for fresh auction of what it called an 'important natural resource'.

Relations between the DMK and its ally, the Congress, too soured over the scandal as Raja was portrayed as the face of corruption, before ending bitterly.

A Congressman from the neighbouring Coimbatore constituency sums up the divorce with DMK thus: "Karai vilagiyadhu (the stain has gone)."

One would think given all this, Raja would be on the back foot in his election campaign, and that the people of the constituency would be angry. The picture one finds in Nilgiris, however, is markedly different.

Neither is Raja defensive about what the spectrum allotment on his watch, nor is the electorate asking any questions about the alleged scam.

The former minister's account is that he did whatever he did in order to expand the cell phone user base, and credits his action for "putting the cell phone in the hands of poor people like you". This, he tells his voters repeatedly, did not go down well with the rich, whose prerogative the instrument had hitherto been, and so he was singled out.

The court case is underway, and while he has full faith in the judiciary, what matters to is the people's court, he tells the electorate, and they agree.

Luckily for Raja, there are more important issues facing the Tamil Nadu voter than a scam about something as arcane as spectrum. Like the crippling power cut across the state, which many say have brought industry to its knees, apart from putting consumers at great difficulty.

This time round, Chief Minister Jayalalitha's sins of omission more than commission may well cost her dear, and work to the DMK's advantage in the state.

After a hectic road show in his constituency on Saturday, a tired and reluctant A Raja took a brief while off to answer questions posed by's Saisuresh Sivaswamy.

Also read: Superman in a veshti: 12 hours with A Raja

What does the election result in Tamil Nadu, and India as well, seem like to you?

I think as far as India is concerned, the federal polity, a reflection of federal polity, will be there this time.

What we call the collection of regional parties will be reflected in the central politics.

Without the regional parties, even the national parties cannot form the government.

So this will be a real federal nature government that will be formed in this election.

What do you think will be the role of the Congress party in that federal government?

Maybe all secular forces, they have to support. They will maintain secularism, so whoever is secular, they will have to support the secular forces, no?

Please ...

'National parties cannot form a government without regional parties'

Image: A Raja being offered aarti at a halt during his campaign.
Photographs: Saisuresh Sivaswamy/ Saisuresh Sivaswamy/

I am asking specifically about the Congress's role because your party the DMK and the Congress fell out. Given that, what will be its role assuming that your party will be a part of the federal government?

We have to wait for the numerical strength, no? So we wanted to form a secular government, and our party's stand is that we want to form a secular government.

When we are uniting the secular forces, other issues may go into the backseat. So let us wait for the numerical strength of each and every party, then we have to decide.

But our only aim is a secular government.

I spent a day with you at your road show, saw the public's enthusiastic reaction to you. What is the message from the public to you? What do you read from them?

During our regime, during the regime of Dr Kalaignar (M Karunanidhi), when I came here and contested the election from here for the first time, I did a lot of things through the government.

Whatever be the need of the people, I just made a demand to my leader, and as chief minister he gave a very special package to this constituency.

Moreover, when there was a very big natural calamity in 2009, there was no electricity, there was no road connectivity, there was no diesel, petrol, milk supply, water supply, everything was tackled. We did all that within a month with the support of the state government. So we gave a very special package when the people of Nilgiris were facing a crisis.

Now people are recalling that memory, that Raja did something for us, they have faith in me. That trust is always on the people, we are working together, so we will come. That is the message.

Please ...

'I pre-empted the entire situation so far as 2G is concerned'

Image: A Raja interacts with DMK workers at his party office in Ooty. The portraits of Dr B R Ambedkar and Karl Marx can be seen in the background.
Photographs: Saisuresh Sivaswamy/ Saisuresh Sivaswamy/

You must have addressed at least 50 meetings during your road show today. You told them what you had done for them, but what struck me was that throughout, you never told them what you will do for them in the future.

I have never done so in my entire political career. I contested elections for the first time in 1996. I will not give any tall promise. But I wanted to fulfil all the requirements of the people on the basis of their need and necessity. Need and necessity will have a role.

Giving tall or false promises will not be good for you and the people also. It is my style in politics, don't make any promise, but prove when you are in power that you are giving more and more achievements to the people.

Do you think the 2G scam will have any impact on the elections this time, especially yours?

No. Before my arrest, after my arrest, I always maintained pre-emption. I pre-empted the entire situation so far as 2G is concerned, that I did a revolution, it is not unknown in history that a person who did a revolution is always called a criminal.

So right from the beginning I maintained what happened.

Luckily this time the entire prosecution evidence is over. Did you see my pamphlet?

In it I made it very clear, that this evidence came day by day, day by day, where two things are very clear.

One, that I did not have any DW, disproportionate wealth, as per the CBI's contention before the court. And there has been no loss to the exchequer, which has been admitted by the joint secretary.

Under the Prevention of Corruption Act these two things are very important, and that has been ruled out.

The third thing is, whether the telecom companies got any undue advantage or not, that is being tried (in court).

That, too, between the law minister and the CBI there is a fight.

Please ...

Tags: CBI

'Supreme Court interpretation in 2G case to some extent is completely wrong'

Image: The Supreme Court of India.
Saisuresh Sivaswamy/

You have been saying throughout that the people's court matters more than the judicial one. Doesn't the actual court of law have any meaning?

Yeah, I made it clear in my pamphlet, too, na, that you are the judge.

As far the court of law is concerned, it is something different. It is based on the trial, formalities, evidence act, this and that.

But I am thinking that the people's court is more a court of justice, so give your verdict. Then we will go to the court of law.

Are you confident that the actual court of law will also...

(interrupts) No, no, that is... I am very confident, that's why I am giving statement, na. I am very confident means I have faith upon the judiciary. Very specifically, I have more faith in the trial court.

Of course, the interpretation given by the Supreme Court (cancelling the allotment of 2G spectrum licences) is completely out of its reach, and completely not within the policy framework of the government. That, I am not telling.

That has been highlighted by the Presidential reference. The interpretation of the Supreme Court in the 2G case to some extent is completely wrong; this is the contention of the President of India, not A Raja.

What happens if in case the court verdict goes against you?

This is all speculation, na. Why are you speculating? Why don't you wait for it?

It is completely unfortunate on your part to ask me such a question. So I am asking you in turn, if I am acquitted in the case, what will you do?

If you are acquitted, you will become a hero, naturally.

Then? Wait for the hero!

Please ...

'Party is an institution; it cannot be questioned'

Image: In happier times: DMK chief M Karunanidhi, flanked by his sons, M K Stalin, right, and M K Azhagiri.
Photographs: PTI Photo Saisuresh Sivaswamy/

You served as minister for three-and-a-half years under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. There is lot of talk about him being a weak prime minister. Do you, based on your experience, think he is a weak PM? You rejected his letter to you on the 2G allotment, after all.

It is not for me to comment if he is a weak prime minister or a strong one. As far as my case is concerned, it is very clear that I said in my reply sent to the Joint Parliamentary Committee (inquiring into the 2G scam) that the government did not act properly in the 2G case.

Had it been defended properly with policies and frameworks, this case is completely honest.

Lots of opinion polls indicate that the National Democratic Alliance may form the next government. Do you agree with such an assessment?

That we cannot say, na. I am campaigning, na. I have not been able to reach the other states and reach the other people. Let us see, what the people decide. Whatever the mandate, we have to accept it.

Your party recently went through a lot of upheavals with M K Azhagiri being expelled. What impact will it have on your party's electoral fortunes?

See, institution is more important than the individual. The DMK is an institution, where the leader became part and parcel of the institution, the two cannot be separated. So the leader and tradition is on one side.

I do not want to comment upon any individual, including Mr Azhagiri. But the DMK is always an institution-based party. It is not depending upon individuals.

So leader is leader, party is, as I said, institution -- it cannot be questioned.

So you are saying that Azhagiri's departure won't have any impact on the party?

No, no, don't interpret what I said in such a manner, I am not telling that. See, even if one member is going you can say na, that somebody is going out.

What I am telling you is, institution is institution, aberrations may come, aberrations may go, but institution is institution na, it cannot be stopped or pulled down.