The appointment of Tamilisai Soundararajan as the Governor of Telangana has raised quite a few eyebrows. She will be replacing ESL Narasimhan to become the first Woman Governor of Telangana. A doctor by profession, Tamilisai has served as the Tamil Nadu BJP President for five years. The governor-designate of Telangana will take the oath of office on September 8.
In an interview with indianexpress.com, Tamilisai opens up on her appointment as the Telangana Governor, her equation with her father and her husband, how she stood up to body-shaming and trolling in Tamil Nadu, and on other issues. Excerpts from the Interview.
What was your first reaction after being appointed as the Governor of Telangana?
I was surprised, to be honest. I have been working hard for the past 20 years without expecting anything in return. My party has identified an ordinary karyakarta like me and recommended for a higher post. In the coming January, I will be completing my tenure as the BJP state president and as per party guidelines; I won’t be able to contest again for that position. I have served as the National Secretary of the party as well, so the party has decided to elevate me to a much higher position to serve the people and I’m thankful for that.
Political leaders who had been at loggerheads with you for years have congratulated you on your new role. How do you see that?
I am overwhelmed. See, we may have ideological differences but our intention is the same, we have to serve the people. Moreover, they are happy that a woman from their state has been given such an honour. It’s not pride for Tamilisai, its pride for Tamil Nadu, I will miss this state.
You have been a victim of Internet trolling. What’s your message to the meme creators?
First of all, I appreciate their talent (laughs). They are so brilliant with their editing skills, the moment I say something on television immediately it will be on social media. They will take some dialogue of actor Vadivelu or Goundamani, they will insert my picture and edit it with perfect sync. I enjoy trolls. They try to shake my confidence and bring me down with such remarks, but they never knew they helped me grow. They saw my curly hair, they saw my dark color, they saw my short stature and they started making memes. I know they can mock my appearance but they cannot claim I am corrupt or talk about my education or my eloquence. I know I am no way inferior.
I don’t take the trolls to the heart, but other people might get offended. I just wish those thambis (meme creators) troll people without attacking them personally.
How did your father a Congressman, react to your appointment?
He (Kumari Ananthan) must have felt happy. I hope my appointment would heal the scar, we are a lovely family and we got separated due to our ideological differences. It’s quite natural for him to react that way because he has been associated with Congress for such a long time and I had joined the BJP. During his campaigns if he had asked some person to support Congress they would immediately criticize him saying that first ask your daughter to do that and then we would follow. Countless incidents like these must have caused him major embarrassment. Similarly, I wasn’t able to visit my father on special occasions like his birthday because he would be surrounded by his party cadre and as I being a BJP cadre, wouldn’t be accepted in their celebration. But he knows how hard I work, so he would be delighted with my elevation. Even other relatives including my uncle (Congress MP H VasanthaKumar) who had their reservations since I joined BJP, wished me good luck. I guess Tamil Nadu’s political history cannot be completed without mentioning my family (she quipped).
Tell us more about your husband…
My husband (Dr. Soundararajan) is the love of my life. I got married when I was a first-year medical student and my husband was pursuing Nephrology in the same college. People get married after falling in love with each other, in our case it vice-versa. We got married and fell in love with each other (laughs). We eat together at the canteen, we used to go to the clinic together, our love story has been of that kind. I told my husband that I will continue studying ever after marriage; he accepted it and helped me pursue my passion.
We understand each other so well, he made me a physician and also a politician. He would observe me always, one day suddenly he said I concern so much for the society that I should get into the public service. He kept encouraging me and has sacrificed a lot right from time, money, and our personal space, etc. He was the driving force behind my political career, he is a nice person.
You have served as the BJP leader for five years, how do you analyze your journey?
I have served the longest term as Tamil Nadu BJP president and I am proud of it. I have done 90 per cent of what I thought I wanted to do as a state leader. Dedicating time for party cadre and common public, doing welfare activities, strengthening the party at booth level, organizing conferences of Modiji and Amit Shahji, campaigning throughout Tamil Nadu, I did everything with utmost sincerity and dedication. I am proud that under my leadership, the part’s membership grew to 44.5 lakh in Tamil Nadu.
Character assassination is common in this era. A leader has to be a role model both in both political and personal life, so from the beginning, I was cautious about my image and I wanted to be incorruptible like my father. Also as a leader, I never saw any difference between a Hindu/non-Hindu. I make it a point to eat at least breakfast or dinner in the minority’ people’s house during my election campaigns. I am not saying this to boast myself; I wanted to experience their life and I did that, even my colleagues in the center appreciated it. I was confident as a woman leader, life is not a bed of roses, that’s the advice I would like to pass on to the future generation. My only unfulfilled wish would be I didn’t get the opportunity to represent the people of Tamil Nadu as an MLA or as an MP.
What’s your plan for Telangana?
I am a straightforward and law-abiding person. I will perform my duties within the purview of the law. I am looking forward to working with Mr. Chandrasekara Rao, the relationship will be co-operative friendliness. I want Telengana to grow; I am just studying the state’s developments and other issues.
Finally…Will Lotus ever bloom in Tamil Nadu?
In my tenure, we faced one assembly election and one parliament election, we fought hard but we lost. This is a hardcore Dravidian land so it will take time for some other party to gain the trust of voters. We have sowed the seeds, it will grow, and Lotus will definitely bloom in this state.