What do you have to say about the judgement in the Madras High Court dismissing the DMK’s plea seeking the court to direct the speaker to disqualify the 11 MLAs in the OPS camp who voted against the EPS government?
The petition was filed 10 months before. The arguments in the case were over four months ago. The court has pronounced its order only now. In a similar petition against the nominations of three Puducherry MLAs, the court gave a diametrically opposite ruling, upholding their nominations by the Lt governor. In Tamil Nadu, in the case of the 11 MLAs, the same Madras High Court has said, it cannot interfere in the powers of the speaker. We expected the court will uphold the Constitution. But it disappointed. We will go to the Supreme Court with an appeal in the case of the 11 MLAs.
In the Gutka case, the DMK won in the Madras High Court, when it sought a CBI inquiry into the whole Gutka scam. Do you think the DMK as an opposition has to approach the court for every other people’s issue to get justice?
Yes, of course. As you know, judiciary is the highest authority of the land where we can get justice and people have faith in its independence. In the Gutka case, after the scam was reported in the media, I took it up personally on the floor of the Assembly. We fought it in the court and brought it to a logical conclusion by ensuring legally that the Gutka scam inquiry is transferred to the CBI. Now, we have demanded the resignation of Health Minister Dr C. Vijayabhaskar and DGP T.K. Rajendran, as they cannot continue to hold their positions in a moral sense when they are being investigated by the country’s main investigating agency for a scam.
In one case, the DMK was able to win. In the other, it was the opposite decision the next day itself. Do you think people are losing confidence in the judiciary, of late?
Given the nature of judgements and the cases, I am only afraid that the people of the country are losing confidence in the judiciary. In the case of 11 MLAs, the delay in judgement has raised many doubts.
In the Jayalalithaa portrait case, we went to the court saying, the portrait of an accused person convicted as 'A1' by the Supreme Court itself can’t be there in the Assembly. But the court has dismissed the petition.
The court has failed to notice that the action of the speaker cannot be against the provisions of Constitution under which the rules of the Assembly have been framed. Now the government will have a free hand to spend money for setting up a memorial for a corrupt leader, which will be against the anti-corruption measures the judiciary itself advocates through various judgements.
How would you rate the performance of the state government under Edappadi K. Palanisamy?
The state government under EPS is the puppet of the BJP in the Centre. Not just the puppet, but it is a non-performing corrupt government, a benami government! This government has completely pledged and mortgaged the state’s rights and it is like a slave government headed by EPS, but protected by the Centre.
Of late, the DMK’s campaign against Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit has stepped up. Why? D you think the governor is going out of his way to support the government?
The governor has breached his duties and responsibilities under the Constitution to save this ever-corrupt government. He has gone to the extent of openly declaring that there is no concrete corruption under the present AIADMK government. The governor has been continuously defending this corrupt government to save it. As a policy, we don’t accept a governor for a state. It has been DMK’s policy, right from the age of our founder C.N. Annadurai. But as long as the governor's post is there, we would extend the respect to it the constitutional post deserves.
For us, a governor is a constitutional authority who has to stay away from interfering in the day-to-day administration of an elected government. As a representative of the Centre, he has to be an intermediary. But, the governor here is administering the state directly as if his government is in place. He goes for field visits and reviews and has usurped the rights of an elected government, which is unknown to the democracy and our Constitution. This is why our black flag protests against the governor continue till date. But what disappoints me is that no minister or any state government authority has had the spine to oppose this unconstitutional interference of the governor.
You say black flag protests against the governor. Do you think the recent protests spearheaded by DMK for Cauvery and other issues have taken the party forward?
Protests are not for strengthening just the party—it is for the people we are on the field. Even whether in power or not in power, the DMK has always stood by the people of the state. People's welfare has been our rhetoric always. Be it NEET issue, hydrocarbon, Kathiramangalam or Cauvery, we are always on the ground to tell the Centre and the state governments about the people's problems and function as a constructive opposition party.
Do you think these protests will have to continue to make DMK stay in the limelight? How do you plan to take the protests forward?
As I said, DMK is for the people and the protests were for the people of the state. More than the protests, the DMK and I are always for finding out solutions for the people's issues rather than sustaining the protests.
What do you have to say about the BJP government in the Centre? How do you look at Modi’s performance in these four years?
When BJP won a massive mandate with a single party majority in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was looked at as a man who would deliver tall promises. But all his promises have become hollow and have not been kept as he said. People have lost confidence in him. Not just that, he lost the competence of being a prime minister. He only acts and functions like the Gujarat chief minister even now.
The faith the people had on him has started evaporating. This is particularly after he made people become paupers on a single day through demonetisation and the failure of the Jan Dhan account scheme for which he said Rs.15 lakh will be deposited in peoples' accounts. Modi also said Acche Din, which is yet to arrive. And more than these, he had betrayed the rights of Tamil Nadu on Cauvery for the sake of Karnataka elections.
You say the Centre had betrayed the state's rights. It is only in the Cauvery issue as you said earlier. With this, how can you substantiate that the state's rights are constantly betrayed by the BJP?
The DMK’s rhetoric has always been state autonomy. Our leader Karunanidhi appointed the Rajamannar committee, passed a resolution in the Assembly on state autonomy and organised a state conference on safeguarding autonomy of the states. Our leader fought and got the right to hoist the national flag at the state headquarters on Independence Day.
But the BJP-led Central government is functioning against cooperative federalism. Now, under the BJP in the Centre and the EPS government in the state, we are losing the state’s rights. In fact, the letter I wrote to all the chief ministers on state's rights and the Terms of Reference of 15th Finance Commission had set the tone. The letter was the stepping stone for the Kerala chief minister to organise a conclave of the finance ministers of the southern states. Even in this, Tamil Nadu’s Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam did not participate.
Along these lines, the DMK is planning to organise a state autonomy conference, bringing in all the like-minded parties together, in the near future. We are talking to the political leaders across the country in a bid to raise a voice for state autonomy. Chief ministers like Chandrababu Naidu and K. Chandrashekhar Rao too have turned against Modi. Now, on behalf of the DMK, we are talking to all these chief ministers and political leaders of like-minded parties across the country to hold a national conclave to safeguard autonomy of states.
Do you think the rulers in Tamil Nadu don’t know that Tamil Nadu is being betrayed?
They are very much aware of this. But they are maintaining as if they do not know. This is because they are caught in series of serious scandals, hence they are afraid of the Income Tax Department and CBI and they are afraid of the Centre. So, they panic to talk about state rights.
Again talking about state rights, you said Naidu and Rao have spoken to you. Your tweet welcomed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s idea of a anti-BJP front?
Yes, the West Bengal chief minister has been talking about state rights and she has been continuously pressing for state autonomy. This is the reason why I expressed gratitude by way of a tweet and she too expressed happiness on this.
What is your view on the federal front mooted by Banerjee? Is the DMK party to it? Can we call it a third front—an anti-BJP, anti-Congress front?
There is no term as third front or second front as of now. All these fronts will be only during elections. There is one more year for elections. So, there is no necessity for a front or an alliance as of now. And when it comes to floating an alliance, I am not the person to decide on this. There are so many friendly parties of the DMK in the state with whom we will discuss. And then, there are the general council and the executive committee of the DMK, which will discuss and deliberate on the alliance.
Is the front non-Congress and non-BJP?
Our only aim is to bring down the anti democratic BJP, which has a communal agenda. All the regional parties are coming together to oppose the BJP.
So, is the Congress part of the alliance?
Banerjee has been talking to the Congress also. So, it is the coming together of all the like-minded parties to oppose the communal BJP.
You say anti-BJP. But why is that the DMK stayed away from the meeting called by the Congress to discuss the impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra? Don't you think the DMK has done a historical blunder by this action?
The DMK always has its own policies and ideologies. There might be several criticisms against the judiciary, but the DMK believes in the independence of judiciary and that the judiciary is the last resort for the common man. This trust and faith has to be preserved. As a regional party and in furtherance of our policy, we have taken this conscious decision not to sign for the motion. It is to protect the judicial trust and not for politics. However, if the motion comes up for discussion in the Parliament, we will participate.
Do you think the DMK lost in 2016 because you failed to strategise in terms of forming a strong alliance?
The DMK always has its own strength. By winning or losing an election, it doesn’t mean that the party had lost the people’s trust. Even today, we have made history as with 89 MLAs, DMK is the single-largest opposition party in the state all these years. We lost only by 1.1 per cent margin. So, there was nothing wrong in strategy.
Do you think the DMK has lost people's trust after it lost in the last three consecutive elections?
Elections are not the scale of measure for any party. The DMK has always been strong despite losing elections. There are so many parties in India that have been washed out after elections. But DMK has been together. The party structure is intact. I have been working towards this recently. I toured the state to meet all my party functionaries, revamp the structure in the party, appoint office bearers, hear from my own party men about their concerns and make DMK stay as the people's party forever.
Do you think the legal victory in 2G Spectrum scam and Aircel-Maxis deal has given the DMK a new strength? Where do you see Kanimozhi and Dayanidhi Maran in the party?
You have not mentioned Raja’s name. When Karunanidhi was at the helm of affairs, he asked Raja and Maran to quit their portfolios, face the case and come out clean. They went to the court whenever they were summoned, cooperated with the courts and investigating agencies and now proved themselves to be clean. Kanimozhi is our party’s women’s wing leader. Raja is our propaganda secretary. And Maran continues to be where he was in the party earlier. All these haven’t changed. They have been given the due respect they deserve. The party has never lifted them up or not let them down.
Of late, your son, Udhayanidhi Stalin, is seen in all party meetings. With the DMK already reeling under the tag of dynasty politics, don’t you think brining in Udhayanidhi will earn a bad name for the party?
No, Udhayanidhi has always been there in the field, since his young age. He is not being projected or promoted by the DMK or by me. It is the media that is claiming so. He travelled with me during my election campaigns. And not just me; he worked for Kalaignar (Karunanidhi) and other senior leaders during several election campaigns. In the DMK, both the party and I are not promoting Udhayanidhi.
He has come from the ranks of the party. There are many such Udhayanidhis in our party, who rise from the ranks. In DMK, the only way to rise up is through fieldwork and rising from the ranks. Everyone in DMK can come up, from the ranks, not just Udhayanidhi.
You are one of the active political leaders in the state now, after Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa. Where do you see yourself in the near future?
I came up from the ranks from the days of Emergency and MISA. Not just me, there are many other leaders in the DMK along with me. I want to be called the working president only to work for the party cadres and for the people of the state, with the advice of Kalaignar.