Watch | AIADMK leader Edappadi K. Palaniswami: Quit NDA to address needs of T.N. people

Watch | AIADMK leader Edappadi K. Palaniswami: Quit NDA to address needs of T.N. people
| Video Credit: S. Shiva Raj, Thamodharan B.

In an exclusive interview with The Hindu, the AIADMK general secretary talked about a range of issues such as the reasons behind his party’s break with the BJP, the decision to contest without the support of any national party, and more

March 30, 2024 06:21 pm | Updated April 03, 2024 01:28 pm IST

AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K. Palaniswami during an interview with The Hindu in Chennai on March 29, 2024

AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K. Palaniswami during an interview with The Hindu in Chennai on March 29, 2024 | Photo Credit: Akhila Easwaran

You have been campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections for over a week addressing public meetings. What has been the reception from the people like and what is your assessment?

We had started off with a public meeting in Tiruchi where we introduced the candidates of our AIADMK-led alliance for the Lok Sabha polls. The enthusiastic reception and the uprising of the people gave us the confidence that our victory is assured. Since then I have addressed campaigns in six parliamentary constituencies. Everywhere watching the people’s uprising show our victory prospects are bright. I have seen several elections, and myself have contested in 10 elections including parliamentary polls. At this stage, from the reaction on the faces of the people I can conclude that they want to ensure the victory of the candidates of the AIADMK and its allies.

On September 25, 2023 at your party meeting you had decided to exit the NDA. But just two months before that you had seconded a resolution at a NDA meeting to face the Lok Sabha polls together. Within these two months what changed? Besides, you had cited the reason that the BJP State leadership’s critical views on your party’s former leaders C N Annadurai and Jayalalithaa? But couldn’t this issue have been resolved by talking to the BJP national leadership?

This was not the only reason. Today you have two national parties Congress and BJP which are ruling at the Centre by rotation. If you ally with any national party, after winning when it comes to decision making at the national level, even when at the State level we are affected, we are unable to get this addressed by them. Even in parliament we are unable to place our views due to coalition dharma. We are unable to act independently. Take the Cauvery issue for instance, the Centre is only keen on being neutral. We are unable to retrieve our rights. Our farmers get affected. AIADMK is a regional party, though we have our units in other states, our primary functioning is in Tamil Nadu. Cauvery is the lifeline. When the issue of water sharing crops up, they are sidestepping it. Even to implement Supreme Court ruling on Cuavery, they delayed it despite being in alliance. What do people think? Only people of Tamil Nadu have elected us. This is a Tamil Nadu issue. So when the people are affected, we are unable to raise our voices. Even when we were in alliance and to implement the Cauvery order, our 37 MPs for the sake of our farmers and people, for 22 days they put pressure in the parliament. Only after that the Centre notified the Cauvery Water Authority. If this it the case while being in alliance with the national party, we are unable to act independently on state-related issues. Hence we decided to exit the NDA. Our primary task is to address the needs of the people of Tamil Nadu who have voted for us.

The other point, as you cited, the State BJP leader mocked at our leaders Jayalalithaa and Annadurai. We want to be free and act independently for the interest of the State, we have formed our own alliance and facing the elections.

You exited the NDA in September last, but BJP national leaders were indicating even till the election notification that they were open to an alliance with the AIADMK. Home Minister Amit Shat said the doors of alliance were open. Did you decide not to realign with them because you considered the BJP an electoral liability?

I have answered very clearly. If we align with national parties, the benefits due to the State are not realised and protect the rights of the State. When they take a national decision, the state is affected. People naturally ask why when we have voted for the AIADMK, they are functioning effectively. So we decided that to ensure we act according to the will of the people, this is the right decision.

Facing a parliamentary election without a Prime Ministerial candidate is not easy. Do you think this is a liability for you?

This is the situation in many States, not just Tamil Nadu. It is so in West Bengal. In Odisha Naveen Patnaik is like that. In 2014 under Jayalalithaa we had contested alone. There is no necessity to place a Prime Ministerial candidate before the people and seek votes. The issue is who does good for the people. Who safeguards the rights of Tamil Nadu. What are the schemes the Centre would give for Tamil Nadu. People see only these.

When you exited the NDA, your leaders said a mega alliance will be formed under the AIADMK’s leadership. Did you anticipate that the DMK’s allies such as Congress, VCK or CPI, others would join you since you had severed ties with the BJP?

We did not think so but we expected that they may come as they were not being given their due in the DMK. Yet, our alliance is strong. In 2011, AIADMK and DMDK had allied and AIADMK came to power and DMDK became the opposition party. On that basis, we have come together again along with SDPI and Puthiya Tamilagam. We too have alliance strength and people’s support. We were in power for 10 years. So among people there is a view that our rule was good. Support has grown. So our candidates will definitely win.

In this election, you have made it clear the fight is only between you and the DMK. This has been welcomed by the DMK president and Chief Minister M K Stalin. Why is it that you are highly critical of the DMK but are not intensely opposing the BJP or Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

You see, their party (BJP) was with us as a junior ally with five Lok Sabha seats (in 2019). In Tamil Nadu, if you ask anyone you will know there are only two principal parties – the AIADMK and DMK. Only these parties come to power again and again. Only their candidates get elected to Lok Sabha in large numbers in turns. So, DMK is our enemy. That is how we see it.

Reporting: D Suresh Kumar, T Ramakrishnan

Video: S Shiva Raj, Thamodharan B.

Production: S Shiva Raj, Thamodharan B.

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