In the run up to the elections, there was speculation that the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) would desert the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-led Democratic Progressive Alliance and go with the ruling All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu. But that did not happen. PMK founder-leader S. Ramadoss discusses his poll plank with T. Ramakrishnan.
What is your main election plank?That this [the AIADMK] Government was an oppressive regime for nearly four and a half years. The Government has neglected industrial development and implementation of welfare schemes. On the education front, there is confusion all over. The Common Entrance Test issue is one example. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa does not consult experts or talented officers. She does not have well-informed Ministers too.
No efforts have been taken by the Government to eradicate poverty. Instead of going down, the number of families living below the poverty line has gone up. Employment creation is one way of eradicating poverty. Immediately after her Government took office, a ban on recruitment to government jobs was imposed, and this was lifted only at the fag end of her regime.
If she wanted, she could have got many things done on infrastructure development, using the presence of 12-13 Ministers [from Tamil Nadu] in the Union Cabinet. But she politicised everything and blamed the Union Government. Take the desalination plant project she should have taken Rs. 1,000 crore; if she found it inadequate, she could have sought Rs. 500 crore more. Similarly, the State Government could have implemented 80 projects of road over-bridges and road under-bridges with the Railways Ministry. There was no response to the letters of the Union Minister of State for Railways, R. Velu.
What is the strength of the DPA?Arithmetic strength. There are three national parties in our front. The PMK is there as an important constituent. As everyone knows, the DMK has always been a stronger force than the AIADMK. Ms. Jayalalithaa does not have anyone to canvass for her except a few actors.
What about the perception that Ms. Jayalalithaa has re-gained lost ground after 2004?It is a myth. Such a perception has been created. Some journals have been intimidated to create such a perception. People know that whatever measures have been rolled back will be reversed if she comes to power again.
What is the PMK's plan to secure Dalit votes in the northern districts? It does not have the support of the Dalit Panthers of India or the AIADMK, which backed you in the 2001 Assembly election?The Dalits know that we [the PMK] were not responsible for his [the Dalit Panthers leader, Thol Thirumavalan's] decision [to go to the AIADMK-led front]. The AIADMK had the support of the Dalits in the past but there has been a steep erosion.
The Dalits were sore over the Government's decision to stop giving free dhotis and sarees [a move restored by the Government subsequently].
The DMK has done a lot of work to gain the confidence of the Dalits. And we have increased our base among the Dalits.
What is the PMK's plan to expand its reach?We moved out of the "petty circle" as early as in 1998. We have units in all districts. While we have been given a good number of seats in the eastern and northern districts and one seat in the west [under the seat-sharing arrangement of the DPA], it is a matter of regret that we have not got any representation in the southern belt.