INTERVIEW | UDHAYANIDHI STALIN Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu Assembly Elections | I was an accidental actor, but always involved in party work, says Udhayanidhi Stalin

Rising star: Udhayanidhi Stalin says he was always involved in party work and cinema is only an added advantage for him.   | Photo Credit: KARTHIKEYAN G

DMK president M.K. Stalin’s son and party youth wing leader Udhayanidhi Stalin is testing electoral waters in Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni, a constituency represented by his late grandfather and former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi. In the past, he had claimed he had no plans for electoral politics. In an interview with The Hindu, he says he was always involved in party work and his thatha (grandfather) is his role model. Edited excerpts:

How does it feel shifting from cinema to full-time politics? You once said you were not keen on contesting?

Even before coming to the film industry, I was very active in politics. I have campaigned for my grandfather and my father even in my school and college days. I grew up in Gopalapuram and have travelled extensively across Tamil Nadu for party work along with my father. Along with Kalaignar’s (Karunanidhi) personal assistant Shanmuganathan I used to proofread his letters published in party organ Murasoli. Cinema was only an accident. I was forced to do a movie and then some offers came...many of my family members are associated with the film industry. Getting into acting as a hero was a mere accident and I never thought that my first movie would become a huge hit. But I have always been involved in party work. Cinema is an added advantage. Only 10% of the people who come to my public meetings look for the celebrity in me...a majority of others see me as Kalaignar’s grandson.

How has the response to your campaign been?

I am seeing the same public response that I saw in 2019. There is a clear anti-Modi wave in Tamil Nadu along with the anti-incumbency factors against the AIADMK. People don’t differentiate between the BJP and the AIADMK...for them, both are one and the same. The wave against Prime Minister Modi has only intensified in the State due to various factors, particularly CAA, NEET and so on. The BJP is trying to use religion to gain votes but people of Tamil Nadu have always rejected such communal politics.

You have been touring extensively. How confident are you about winning in your seat?

Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni is DMK’s fort. Kalaignar won thrice here. J. Anbalagan as MLA got infected by Coronavirus while distributing welfare measures to the people and died. I am very confident of winning. It’s not that I am not visiting. I have covered almost the entire constituency and people are saying I should focus on other constituencies. My team is also working round-the-clock.

The influence of social media in this election is like never before. How active are your party functionaries in the social media platforms?

There is no doubt that social media has an influence in the elections. During the pandemic, we were regularly in touch with youth wing cadres via zoom meetings. Social influencers were nominated in all constituencies. In addition, our IT Wing is also actively involved in promoting party content in social media. We have to keep ourselves abreast with the latest advancements in communication technologies. We have a strong presence in social media.

DMK leaders were known for their aggressive election strategies. But now the DMK has engaged an agency to chalk out your party strategies. Does that indicate dearth in in-house think-tank?

Not at all. We have engaged IPAC to implement our agenda. We are giving them a task to do. They give some ideas but our leader (Mr. Stalin) takes a decision. AIADMK has engaged a person who was once working for us. Even the BJP has hired the services of some agency for election work. IPAC will leave after the election, they are just one agency we are using to make use of the available resources. They are here only to deliver our ideology to the people.

Who is your political inspiration?

My father is my inspiration and my grandfather is my role model. I am only trying to learn some lessons from their political career. Thatha was an all-rounder. You cannot compare him with anybody.

What issues have you identified in your constituency?

There are many narrow lanes. Bad roads and drainage facilities are poor. People are complaining about power cuts. Beach shopkeepers were removed and AIADMK functionaries issued tokens for new shops after taking bribes. There is no parking space for vehicles in the constituency. If elected as an MLA, I have promised to solve these issues and also develop it as a model constituency.

COVID-19 infections are on the rise again. Your views on lockdown and corona management…

Lockdown to control the spread of the virus was done by many countries. Here, it could have been done in a planned manner. They clamped lockdown without any notice and people were not prepared. While closing all shops, this government kept TASMAC open. That was a blunder. There was corruption in all purchases during the pandemic management. There were allegations of huge corruption in purchase of PPE kits, bleaching powder and so on. The deaths of 43 doctors was suppressed from the people. This government handled the pandemic very badly. If we come to power, we are sure of handling this in a much better way.

How do you propose to deliver clean and good governance, if elected?

We have proposed to open grievances cell in all districts. Our leader has rolled out a clear cut road map for establishing good quality infrastructure. Young and competent leaders will be made Ministers to execute the development programmes. My father has proved his mettle as Mayor, Minister and Deputy Chief Minister. There is not a single allegation against him...Ours will be a very clean government, safe for people, particularly women. Wherever I go, students and young first time voters are seeking an assurance on abolition of NEET. We have promised to pass a suitable law to withdraw NEET in Tamil Nadu.


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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 12:24:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/tamil-nadu-assembly/tn-assembly-polls-interview-with-dmk-leader-udhayanidhi-stalin/article34178548.ece

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