The DMDK-PWA-TMC alliance is a non-starter. They are absolutely no competitor for us. In a sense, they are parties that have been discarded by others. They don’t have the confidence of the people—Anbumani Ramadoss
For the first time after 1998, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) has decided to go it alone in the upcoming assembly election in Tamil Nadu. PMK’s chief ministerial candidate and Dharmapuri Lok Sabha MP Anbumani Ramadoss, who will contest from Pennagaram constituency, opens up about his party's prospects and explains why it did not go for an alliance.
Excerpts from an interview:
What is the one USP of PMK this elections?
The mindset of the people this elections is that they want a change. They want a change after 50 years of AIADMK and DMK rule. They are looking for an alternative. A credible alternative. This is where we fit the bill. We are the only party that has been engaging with people in their midst for the last one year, convincing them of what we will do and what we will not. We were the first to release a draft manifesto eight months ago. We said we will do away with alcohol and freebies. We will provide free education, free healthcare, better agricultural means and more jobs. Industrial growth will be our focus.
How do you look at the third front, the DMDK-PWA-TMC alliance?
The alliance is a non-starter. They are absolutely no competitor for us. In a sense, they are parties that have been discarded by others. They don’t have self-confidence. They don’t have the confidence of the people. They are bereft of ideas and ideologies. They don’t have a common agenda. Each party in that alliance has its own agenda. So, it is only chaos and confusion. They don’t have strength to win even one assembly seat, whereas PMK is a 26-year old party and for the last 25 years we have been electing MLAs and MPs. Today, after the AIADMK, PMK is the only party that has an MP from the state. Even DMK doesn’t have an MP. They have a CM candidate who talk nonsense. He has not met the press. He doesn’t say what he is going to do for the people.
What do you think are your advantages?
Of all the four CM candidates, three are from the movie industry. They are physically incapacitated and am not saying it in a wrong sense. But this is the truth. I am the only candidate who belong to this generation. All the others are from the last generation. Youngsters look at me as the promising candidate. This is my advantage. I am the only graduate, leave alone having a professional qualification. They have not even crossed over class 10.
Our campaigns are positive campaigns. We don’t blame others like the DMK or the AIADMK, we don’t take pot shots at any other leader. We tell people what we are going to do. For every problem, we have solutions. We do decent and positive politics. That way, we are different from others.
PMK is contesting this elections alone. Is PMK isolated?
No. This is not the first time. In 1989, the year our party was formed, we contested the parliament elections alone. In 1991, we contested the assembly elections alone and won one seat. DMK won two seats then. In 1996, we went alone and won four seats, whereas AIADMK won only two. We went after alliances only after 1998. Now, we are coming back. We went off track for 13 years and that was our biggest mistake. Today, we have come back on track. On the other hand, the DMK has been isolated. It has been begging for an alliance. We are not.
It is a mullti-cornered fight. Isn't it tough to go it alone?
This is our advantage. If you get about 30 per cent votes in each constituency, you can win. In some constituencies, 20 per cent is enough to ensure victory. See, when Arvind Kejriwal came to politics in Delhi, he did not have a vote bank. It was the mind set of the people that brought the Aam Aadmi Party to power in Delhi.
Delhi electorate can't be compared with that of Tamil Nadu...
See, you are failing to understand. Tamil Nadu is the most urbanised state in the country. Forty-nine per cent of it is urbanised. And here, we have the same kind of political awareness that is there in Delhi.
Today, youngsters are the decisive factor in elections. Of the total 5.17 crore voters, 60 per cent are neutral. Two third of this 60 per cent or close to 2.5 crore are youngsters. That is my advantage. When youngsters are asked for who do they want to vote, they say Anbumani. There is not caste or community consideration. They say I talk sense. Everyday, this is where Jayalalithaa’s graph comes down. She has taken the state to huge debts.
You say youngsters look at you as the CM candidate. But don’t you think your party declaring you as the CM candidate has had an impact on various other parties coming along with you?
I will rephrase your question into two and answer them separately. First, has announcing the CM candidate of PMK had an impact on the other parties—definitely yes. Other parties are following us now. The 66-year-old DMK is copying us, copying everything we do. When we say “Maatram, Munnetram, Anbumani”, DMK say “Mudiyattum, Vidiyattum”.
Everyone is copying even from our manifesto. DMK has copied 60 per cent of our manifesto. When we took alcohol prohibition 20 years ago, everybody was skeptical. Today, everyone talks about prohibition. This is our success. Success of hard work. Like this, every party wants to emulate or follow PMK.
As for the second part of your question: has the CM candidate's announcement stopped other parties from joining our side, we didn't want anybody to align with us. We were clear about our stand. If we had wanted anyone, we would have gone and approached them. We don’t want to come to power with other parties. We have our own strength. We have our own ideas and ideologies.
You say you are self-confident, but PMK is strong only in certain pockets of the state: north and west. Do you think you can still come to power?
If Kejriwal could come to power without any vote bank, why can’t Anbumani come to power. We have a solid vote bank and more than vote bank, the mindset of the people favours us coming to power. People want change.
You say PMK is here and there. That is a misconception. We are everywhere, all over Tamil Nadu. Last year, we have held huge conferences though out Tamil Nadu. Eight conferences. I have held 22 district-level protests for alcohol prohibition. Thousands of women joined me from all over the state, right from the west to the south to the north. So it is not like we are here and there. Our party is 26 years old. We have come a long way.
But PMK is still looked at as a caste-based party...
This is something being planted by our enemies like the DMK and the AIADMK. See, when we were with them, we were not a caste-based party. Five years ago, we said no to DMK and AIADMK. Since then, we are being branded as a caste-based party. This is not true. My party has members from all communities cutting across caste, creed, religion and language. Dalits are part of my party and we have office-bearers everywhere. Our programmes have priorities for all sections of the people.