Interview | M.K. Stalin Tamil Nadu

‘People’s anger against the AIADMK government is palpable’

DMK president M.K. Stalin, who is leading his party in an Assembly election for the first time, is confident of a sweep and forming the next government in Tamil Nadu this summer. In an interview, he accuses the AIADMK government of doing little during the COVID-19 pandemic, while he takes credit for the positive developments in Tamil Nadu. Edited excerpts:

You have asserted that the DMK alliance would win in 200 seats, and the AIADMK would not qualify to become the Opposition party. What is the basis for your confidence?

First I said we would win 200 seats. Now the prospects have increased for us in all the 234 constituencies. I am able to predict it from the active and voluntary participation of men and women at the Makkal Gram Sabhas organised by DMK front-line leaders and the manifestation of anger and hatred against the AIADMK government.

Tamil Nadu is lagging behind in development on all fronts. The State could not attract any new investment after Edappadi K. Palaniswami became the Chief Minister. No new jobs have been created. Fiscal management has encountered an unprecedented setback, and the State is wobbling under the weight of the ₹5-lakh-crore debt. The administration is rampant with the corruption by Ministers. They have continuously borrowed and swindled the amount. Even the Chief Minister was subjected to a CBI inquiry. He is continuing in the post because of the Supreme Court’s stay [on the inquiry] and not on moral grounds.

It is a government that has signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) only on paper. It has not done anything to attract investment to boost the State’s financial health. In the last 10 years, it has not been able to launch a power project and it is going to demit office without increasing electricity production by a single unit. Since survival is a day-to-day battle for the government, the Chief Minister is not able to guide the administration. He is not able to protect the rights of the State and challenge the threat to Tamil culture. Economic development has become a mirage. Farmers, workers, government employees, traders, students and all sections have been affected because the Chief Minister lacks administrative capabilities. People are ready to give a send-off to the AIADMK government and I could see it at the Makkal Gram Sabhas.

The DMK, which is steeped in democratic values, does not want an Assembly without opposition. But the people’s anger convinced me to say that the AIADMK cannot secure the status of Opposition party. People have realised that Tamil Nadu is in the hands of a man who does not deserve the position. The anger will rout not only the government but also the AIADMK. People see the AIADMK as a ship without a captain and the Ministers as pirates.

This election is considered very important for the DMK since it is out of power for 10 years. What is your strategy?

Whether in power or not, the DMK has always treated people as the leader, and the party is an integral part of people’s lives. It has secured a place in people’s hearts by highlighting their problems, offering solutions and speaking up for the State’s rights. As the Leader of the Opposition, I have fought in the Assembly and public forums. The DMK’s continuous actions have resulted in the creation of the Cauvery Management Board, the Cauvery Draft Scheme and 7.5% horizontal reservation in medical admission for NEET-qualified government school students. It has fought against the Salem-Chennai Expressway and hydrocarbon projects and denial of the Tamil option in the Postal Department examinations. The fight against COVID-19 succeeded in the State because of the DMK’s Ontrinaivom Vaa programme, which reached crores of people. People think if Tamil Nadu’s rights are safeguarded to an extent, it is because of the DMK. People’s support is the principal strategy. You will see other strategies once elections are announced.

What have been the expectations of the people attending the Makkal Gram Sabhas?

The problems raised by the people are the proof that the AIADMK government is non-functional in the last 10 years. People say with anger that the government has failed to fulfil its promises and solve even basic problems. The Chief Minister and the Ministers have not used the government to serve the people. They are self-serving, promoting the development of ‘benamis’ and relatives and have turned the clock back by 50 years in the State. The Makkal Gram Sabhas echo the people’s hope that only the DMK can offer a non-corrupt, transparent and democratic government. The Chief Minister has not resolved the problems of his constituency and fulfilled his promises. The Ministers, too, have kept their constituencies in a similar manner. If it happens to these constituencies, one can understand the condition of the other constituencies.

In 2011, the AIADMK was voted to power because of its electoral performance in the western region. The Chief Minister is from the region. Would the DMK make inroads in the west?

The western districts have borne the brunt of the AIADMK rule. Thousands of medium and small industries have been severely affected. Coimbatore, the Manchester of Tamil Nadu, is lagging in all fields. While the Chief Minister and the Ministers from the region have benefited, people have been left in the lurch. Municipal Administration Minister S.P. Velumani has swindled the Coimbatore Municipal Corporation. The Ministers have not brought in any constructive scheme. There is no specific plan to develop the economy. People have not forgotten the sexual assault on young women in Pollachi and the government’s attempt to save the culprits since they belonged to the ruling party. The argument that the AIADMK is strong in the west was disproved in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. It lost every seat by lakhs of votes. People in the region will vote taking into consideration the welfare of Tamil Nadu.

When the DMK was in power it had worked for the development of Tamil Nadu and paved the way for the growth of big, medium and small industries in the western region. That was why the people there handed the DMK a landslide victory in the Lok Sabha election. The trend will continue in the Assembly election too.

You laid down conditions for a debate on corruption with the Chief Minister. But he says you are finding excuses to avoid it...

We have submitted to the Governor a memorandum of corruption charges, with evidence, against the Chief Minister and other Ministers. The Ministers have not denied it. The Chief Minister and the Ministers, who file defamation suits against me over every issue, have not done that this time. World Bank rules have been violated in the tenders awarded to the in-laws of the Chief Minister’s [son]. The High Court ordered a CBI inquiry into it. The Chief Minister, who obtained a stay on the order, alone can withdraw it. He alone can grant sanction for cases against Ministers and recommend action to the Governor. That is why I said I would be ready for a debate if the Chief Minister does that and recommends to the Governor for action in the disproportionate wealth case against him. But he does not have the courage to get the stay vacated. He is afraid that the debate would expose his corrupt practices. That is why he is finding excuses. I am ready to debate.

There is an opinion that the AIADMK government does not face any strong anti-establishment wave even if there is no surge in its favour. It has succeeded in containing the COVID-19 spread. Your view?

This is a false narrative constructed by reactionary and anti-DMK forces that cannot stomach the growing support for us. The State is gripped by a tsunami-like wave against the AIADMK, ten-fold higher than what swept the State in 1991-96. That is why I say the AIADMK cannot even qualify for the status of being an Opposition party. This is echoed by the cry, “When will the government come to an end.” Who is saying Mr. Palaniswami has controlled COVID-19? He said in the Assembly that even one person would not be allowed to die because of the virus. But so far 13,000 people have died and eight lakh have been infected. In the first three months, he had no understanding of the virus. He appropriated money citing the cases. People know all those shameful activities. The irregularities in the purchase of equipment for testing became a laughing stock at the Delhi High Court. [It had capped the price of a testing kit at ₹400.] There was a delay in announcing the lockdown. When the DMK MLAs demanded it, they were ridiculed. The scam in the purchase of life-saving medicines also became a laughing matter. No Chief Minister in the country committed errors like him when it came to the closure of the Koyambedu [wholesale vegetable] market and TASMAC liquor shops and schools, and the award of marks for students who had arrears. The DMK launched a campaign to feed one crore people and offer medical facilities. COVID-19 exposed Mr. Palaniswami as a hopeless Chief Minister, who has no concern for the people. The election results will reflect this.

(Concluding part of the interview on the DMK’s alliance strategy will be published on Wednesday.)

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2021 1:01:34 AM |

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