M.K. Stalin interview: Rein in Governor or face Tamil Nadu’s ire, Chief Minister tells Centre

Charging that the Union government has been targeting Tamil Nadu Ministers because of his attempts to forge a national front, the Chief Minister says BJP leaders too have cases against them and ‘moral ground cannot be a one-way route’; claims ED has been turned into a ‘branch of the BJP’; criticises Governor R.N. Ravi for playing a reckless game with the people of Tamil Nadu and their welfare

Updated - July 03, 2023 01:52 pm IST

Published - July 02, 2023 10:13 pm IST - CHENNAI

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin. Photo: Special Arrangement

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin. Photo: Special Arrangement

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has warned that the Union government would face the ire of the people of the State if it did not rein in Governor R.N. Ravi.

Mr. Stalin reiterated the DMK’s position that the Governor’s post was redundant.

He also accused the BJP of targeting DMK Ministers through Central agencies because he was taking steps to forge a national alliance, inclusive of the Congress, against the BJP.

In an exclusive interview with The Hindu against the backdrop of his face-off with the Governor over the latter unilaterally ‘dismissing’ (since kept in abeyance) V. Senthilbalaji from the Cabinet, Mr. Stalin accused Mr. Ravi of targeting the Minister in the same manner as that of the BJP.

He strongly defended retaining Mr. Senthilbalaji as Minister without portfolio despite his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in an alleged money laundering case. Citing pendency of cases against some Union Ministers, Mr. Stalin said: “Moral ground cannot be a one-way route. I have taken a correct stand after the BJP converted the ED as its branch to settle scores with its political enemies.”

Reiterating the DMK’s position that the Governor’s post was redundant, he charged that Mr. Ravi’s motive was not to allow the smooth functioning of the government. He accused the Governor of playing a reckless game with the people of Tamil Nadu and their welfare.

Mr. Stalin felt the Centre was targeting him since he was attempting to forge a national alliance against the BJP ahead of the parliamentary election. “I have rejected the suggestion that there could be a third front without the Congress... It has angered the BJP,” he said. The DMK was not going to change its stand just because the BJP is targeting its Ministers, he added.


‘DMK will not change its stand on opposing BJP because of ED action’

Tamil Nadu Governor Ravi, recently dismissed from the Council of Ministers V. Senthilbalaji, Minister without portfolio in judicial custody, only to keep it in abeyance within a few hours. What do you think led him to do this?

The Governor’s motive is the DMK government headed by me should not run smoothly and implement welfare schemes for the people. We have achieved the distinction of making Tamil Nadu the second developed State through various schemes. The Governor is unable to stomach it. He does not have an iota of inclination to do good to the people and country. That is why he has indulged in an illogical argument against the government. Let me give an example. When I went to Japan and Singapore to sign memoranda of understanding (MoUs) and invite investors for the Global Investors Meet, he said investment could not be attracted by touring. What does he want to convey? He seeks to create a wrong image about T.N. among investors. He feels T.N. should not get investment and generate employment for the youth. His speeches, aimed at creating confusion on a regular basis, only show he is irritated by the governance in T.N. His baseless and anti-Constitutional speeches create discord in society and destroy social harmony. He knows he does not have any power and was appointed as per the Constitution. Still he is playing a reckless game with the people of Tamil Nadu and their welfare.

Mr. Ravi is accused of functioning according to the BJP-led Union government’s diktats. But he has kept in abeyance his letter ‘dismissing’ Mr. Senthilbalaji on the advice of the Union Home Minister to seek the Attorney General’s opinion.

I do not want to go into whether he is acting according to the Centre’s diktats. Irrespective of that, it is clear the Governor has no power to appoint or remove a Minister. If the Union government does not control him, it will face the anger of T.N. people.

While you criticised Mr. Senthilbalaji’s ‘dismissal’ as “anti-Constitutional”, you had urged the Governor to dismiss then AIADMK Ministers facing corruption charges. Is this not double standard?

Making such a demand was a political measure. But the Governor should not become a politician. He has not acted as per the Constitution. He targets Mr. Senthilbalaji in a manner similar to the BJP. AIADMK Ministers, who faced cases and raids from the Income-Tax (I-T) department and Enforcement Directorate (ED), were not arrested, even after being voted out of power. But the I-T subjected Mr. Senthilbalaji [and his acquaintances] to raids because of political vendetta. ED arrested him in an inhuman manner. What is the need for a sudden arrest on a complaint filed nine years ago and lock him up in a room and torture for 18 hours? He is a Minister and participates in public functions. Why is there a hurry to lock him up and elicit a statement?

Though he had blocks in his heart and required surgery, the ED behaved in a heartless manner and argued it was a drama. It refused to believe doctors’ diagnosis. It objected to shifting him to a private hospital. We oppose the inhuman act, selective arrest and misuse of power of the ED. He is continuing as a Minister without portfolios since he hospitalised. We are not against genuine and proper legal proceedings. We have faced them legally and won.

There is an opinion that you could have removed Mr. Senthilbalaji from the Cabinet on moral grounds.

Many MLAs, MPs and Ministers across India are facing innumerable cases. Jayalalithaa continued as Chief Minister till she was convicted. Election affidavits of some BJP Ministers show they are facing cases. So moral ground cannot be a one-way route. I have taken a correct stand after the BJP converted the ED as its branch to settle scores with political enemies. Remind yourself about how the ED was used against BJP’s political opponents and how cases were put on backburner after those politicians joined the BJP and you will appreciate my stand is correct. The issue is not just about Mr. Senthilbalaji. The issue is connected with the powers and rights vested on the State government by the Constitution. It directly connects with the basic principles of our party such as State autonomy and rights of the States.

Mr. Senthilbalaji’s supporters attacked I-T officials. Did you reprimand him?

It was wrong and I chided him. When it received information about the incident, the police dispersed the crowd and offered adequate protection to I-T officials. The attackers were arrested. But the I-T department, which also functions as a branch of the BJP, suppresses the fact. The media also suppresses it.

Relations between the T.N. government and Raj Bhavan are under strain. Can you still work in tandem with the Governor? Do you endorse demands for Mr. Ravi’s recall?

It is not just the issue of recalling Mr. Ravi from Tamil Nadu. Our stand is there is no need to have a Governor.

Do you think the Centre is targeting you due to your relentless attack on the BJP and attempts to mobilise a national alliance against it?

Yes. It is the truth. National leaders and Chief Ministers are meeting me and I have been persuading them to come together against the BJP. I have rejected the suggestion that there could be a third front without the Congress. A front in which Congress is a partner alone can defeat the BJP. It has angered the BJP and it is scared of our Patna meeting. It could be explained by the manner in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi denigrated the DMK and our leader Kalaignar (M. Karunanidhi) in Madhya Pradesh. We are not going to change our stand because the BJP is targeting DMK Ministers. You could sense we have reinforced our stand after BJP launched its vehement attack. The BJP will go to any extent to destroy Opposition unity. What is happening in Maharashtra is a part of its design. People are silently watching BJP’s anti-democratic activities. History tells us fascists, who construed the silence of people as fear, ultimately fell. People who vote for democracy is its armour and strength. The BJP’s designs to destroy Opposition unity will not succeed.

Modi is the BJP’s face but the Opposition is unable to project a Prime Ministerial candidate. Is it possible to defeat the BJP?

The BJP is not projecting Mr. Modi at the national level. It is your imagination and your question stems from it. We still have many months. Wait and see. What an alliance requires is not a leader, but a goal. The principle that we will defeat the BJP, which is against democracy, secularism, social justice, federalism and the Constitution, guides our alliance.

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