At a press conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on Tuesday said it would not be appropriate for her to meet Congress chief Sonia Gandhi because the Congress and the DMK are still allies and they continue to share power at the Centre.
“If anyone wants my support, they have to ask me. You cannot ask on their behalf,” Ms. Jayalalithaa said, answering a question by a reporter whether she was hesitant to tie up with Congress because it was “weak”.
Ms. Jayalalithaa, whom Sonia Gandhi called up after the elections to congratulate her on her victory last month triggering political speculation, was asked a number of questions on the possibility of Congress and AIADMK coming together.
She was also reminded about her declaration of open support to the Congress-led government at the Centre in November last and was asked whether it was still valid.
“The offer was made seven months ago. The situation was entirely different. After that much water has flown down the bridge. The Congress has made it clear that its alliance continues with DMK.
“Both are still partners in the UPA coalition government. So, the question of my offering support simply does not arise,” she said.
Initially when a reporter asked whether there was a possibility of a re-alignment between Congress and AIADMK to which Ms. Jayalalithaa replied: “It is premature to comment on such questions. No one from the UPA have asked me this.”
To another question whether she was open to the idea of aligning with Congress, she said she cannot answer to such “hypothetical” questions.
But, the Chief Minister was forthcoming later when she said “As of today, the Congress still has an alliance with DMK. Congress and DMK today continue to be partners in the coalition government.
“In such a situation, it would not be appropriate for me to call on Mrs. Sonia Gandhi who is also the Congress president.”
Turning to DMK, she said the DMK supremo M Karunanidhi, his family and leading lights of the party are feeling the heat now because of the corruption in the previous regime and said a few DMK leaders were already in jail and “many more are likely to go to jail.”
“All the cases against DMK and its members have been initiated by the Centre of which DMK is a partner. None of the case were filed either by me or by party members,” she said.
On Mr. Karunanidhi’s charge that she was vindictive, the Chief Minister rejected it and said “we are not looking for any opportunity and we are more interested in the development of the State.”
She demanded the resignation of Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran, who is facing allegations of a quid quo pro in allocation of spectrum to Aircel, and said if he does not step down on his own, “the Prime Minister should drop him.”
Ms. Jayalalithaa said besides the extravagant style of functioning, “all pervasive corruption, nepotism, lack of governance and dominance of one family in every business” are the reasons for the fall of the DMK government.
She said people felt they were living during the regime of Hitler or Uganada’s Idi Amin and were “waiting for the right opportunity to punish them and did it through a silent revolution when they got the opportunity. This is why all your exit polls went wrong“.
To a question on her government’s promise to nationalise cable TV operations in the State which is aimed at targeting Maran brothers, she said “we will be doing it very soon.”
Accusing Home Minister P Chidambaram of getting himself elected to Parliament through “fraudulent” means, Ms. Jayalalithaa said his continuance in the Union Council of Ministers was untenable and sought his resignation.
“Our party has always maintained that Mr Chidambaram’s victory was through fraudulent means...his continuance in the Union Council of Ministers is untenable. Mr Chidambaram was never elected to the Parliament in 2009. He has played a fraud on the nation,” she said.
When pressed whether she demands Mr. Chidambaram’s resignation, Ms. Jayalalithaa said, “He should definitely resign. We have given all evidence that fraud was committed and his victory was through fraudulent means. There is no question of softening our stand on this issue.”
On whether Mr. Chidambaram should resign as minister or as Member of Parliament, she said, “I am saying that in the first place he was not elected to the Parliament.”
Ms. Jayalalithaa said the alleged attack on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy figured to a “great extent” during her talks with the Prime Minister.
“There is a lot of discrepancies in the figure given by the Sri Lankan Government and the private agencies on the number of Sri Lankan Tamils still in the camps. So I requested the Prime Minister to verify and get the correct figure,” she said.
The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister said she requested the Prime Minister to consider sending a delegation of MLAs from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka to see for themselves the living conditions of the Tamils displaced due to the decades-old civil war.
“We would want the Tamils in Sri Lanka to lead a life of dignity that is on par with their Sinhala counterparts,” she said.
She parried a question on whether she thought Tamils in Sri Lanka should have a separate state.
Referring to ceding of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka by India in 1974, she accused Mr. Karunanidhi of not approaching the Supreme Court seeking a stay for implementation of the agreement.
“Despite a precedent of the Supreme Court declaring null and void the ceding of Berubari to the then East Pakistan, Mr Karunanidhi did not approach the Supreme Court,” she said.
Demanding the revoking of the 1974 agreement on the grounds that it was never approved by both houses of the Parliament, Ms. Jayalalithaa said Katchatheevu should be taken back so that Indian fishermen can have a decent catch when they venture into the sea.
On the fishermen issue, Ms. Jayalalithaa said the Prime Minister told her the Indian Government has impressed upon the Sri Lankan Government that such attacks should stop and fishermen should be allowed to catch fish.
She said National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, who met the top Sri Lankan leadership over the weekend, was also present.
Mr. Menon had met Ms. Jayalalithaa before his visit to Sri Lanka.
On the Mullaperiyar dam issue on which Tamil Nadu and Kerala are at loggerheads, she cited a Supreme Court order which said the level of the dam can be increased and there was no threat to it.
The Kerala Government trying to build a new dam is illegal and is aimed at depriving the people of Tamil Nadu of their “rightful share” of waters. “We will fight it legally,” she said.
On frequent power cuts in Tamil Nadu, a key election issue, she said the power deficit in the State was due to corruption, bad administration and misgovernance in the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board during the DMK regime.
The Chief Minister said she has sought 1,000 MW power on a temporary allocation from June to May, 2012 from the Centre to tide over the crisis. “The Prime Minister promised me to give his kind consideration,” she said.
On the controversial Sethusamudaram project, Ms. Jayalalithaa said her party had never supported the project and would not want the project to be completed.
On her decision to function from Fort St. George instead of the new Secretariat built by her predecessor Mr. Karunanidhi, she said the project cost went up from Rs 200 crore to Rs 1,200 crore.
“Despite this, the building has still not been completed. Only the Chief Minister’s office and seven departments will be housed at the new building. Other departments would continue to function from the old one.
“No sensible and responsible government would think of constructing only for the CM’s office and some departments.
Can a responsible, efficient government can function in this way? So, I have ordered all the departments to be shifted to the old building,” she said.
“It is just been three weeks since I took over as the Chief Minister for the third time. I am just flattered by your question,” she said in reply to a question whether she planned to take a plunge in national politics in the next Lok Sabha elections.
Ms. Jayalalithaa said she does not want any confrontation with the Centre.
To a question on the Centre seeking comments from States and political parties on the Lokpal bill, she said there is nothing wrong in it.