INTERVIEW

We have a working relationship with the Congress

M.K. Stalin/ DMK working president

M.K. Stalin M.K. Stalin

Do you think the opposition parties at the national level, including Congress, will have to come together to take on the BJP and Narendra Modi in the 2019 elections?

Opposition unity is the need of the hour. The Narendra Modi-led BJP, which came to power on the plank of development, has betrayed the mandate given in 2014. The central government has derailed development, shrunk employment opportunities, destroyed the economy and ruptured the secular fabric of our great nation. Communal agenda has been their only focus. PM Modi has failed to stand up to the pressure of hardcore elements within his party and the Sangh. He has silently watched the assault on our Constitution and its values.

Across the country, independent constitutional bodies are under threat. Raj Bhavans have become outposts of the Centre. The principles of federalism are being systematically demolished. However, the greatest threats are to the tenets of democracy and secularism.

It may be true that the BJP had benefitted from a disunited opposition during the previous general elections. Since then, the BJP has been defeated, or struggled to win, everytime it has faced a high index of opposition unity or whenever regional parties have put up a strong front. DMK, therefore, prefers that all those parties who are committed to the values of secularism, federalism and constitutional democracy stand together against the BJP.

Recently several leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Telangana CM K. Chandrasekara Rao, former minister Yashwant Sinha called on you. Did you discuss the current political scenario and alliances with them to fight the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

DMK is a regional party, but we have always had the nation’s interest close to our hearts. Much before other parties, DMK has championed issues of national importance—like linguistic equality and state autonomy—which resonate across various political parties. We were the first to oppose Hindi imposition in the 1950s and 60; recently, we were the first to speak out against the terms of reference of the 15th finance commission. DMK has also been a key ally in determining the shape of coalition politics at the Centre from 1989 onwards. The visits of various political leaders reflect their belief that DMK will play an important role in shaping the next political alignment at the Centre. On such occasions, I have held discussions on pressing issues such as federal structure, economic outlook and secularism. Today, there is a growing consensus that the present Central government has created a constitutional crisis and failed on the economic front as well. It is in the best interests of the nation that all like-minded political parties and outfits work together to put an end to the BJP misrule.

The DMK was a part of larger alliances in Delhi for many years. In fact, DMK was known to be a trusted ally then. Will you take the initiative of bringing together all the regional parties nationally to fight the BJP?

One of the first meetings of various leaders from opposition parties took place in Chennai on June 3, 2017. As a loyal and trusted ally, DMK is seen as an crucial cog in any multi-party alliance.

It is also true that a number of parties have come together to combat the real and present danger facing constitutional values in the country today. The DMK will do all it can to ensure like-minded parties continue to work together.

Will your alliance with the Congress continue? Do you think Congress, with DMK and others, can bring down the BJP in the upcoming 2019 elections?

Congress is a pan-India party and the primary opposition to the BJP in many states. It is equally true that the regional parties are stronger than before and have been able to defeat BJP in their respective states. Therefore, strategic opposition unity will definitely bring down the BJP government.

At the moment, DMK has a working relationship with the Congress and is actively advocating for opposition unity across states. However, our final stand will only be revealed once elections are announced, and after due deliberation within the high-level decision making bodies of the party.

In Tamil Nadu, there is an unpopular government which has been opposed by the people and the political parties. Do you think all other political parties in the state will have to join hands with the DMK to bring down this government? Will the DMK take the initiative to bring all the parties in Tamil Nadu under one umbrella?

DMK is the principal opposition party in our state and most political parties are already working with us, as seen in the Cauvery protests, Tuticorin protests, NEET agitations and many others. It is evident that the AIADMK is just a BJP puppet. The recent actions of the governor have brought disrepute to the state which has pioneered the principle of state autonomy under chief minister Annadurai and chief minister Kalaignar [Karunanidhi].

Last year, the DMK has stepped in to the shoes of the government and organised all-party meetings on the Cauvery issue. We have taken leadership on a number of issues facing the state from Jallikattu, NEET, hydrocarbon, fishermen and so on, while the ADMK government is focusing on commission, corruption and collection. The people of the state are desperate for change of government and we are confident they will repose their faith in the DMK and its coalition partners.