What makes you different from J Jayalalithaa, M Karunanidhi and Vijayakanth, the other three CM candidates?
Jayalalithaa is intelligent, I agree. Among the four, I am the only one without a background in the film industry. I am the most qualified and educated among the four — I have an MBBS degree, I have completed a short course from London School of Economics, won four international awards and visited 50 to 60 countries. The other three are physically incapable, they can’t even stand or walk around… That is going to be my strength because youngsters want a change, a vibrant leader.
Why do you think youngsters will vote for you?
There are about 5.79 crore voters in Tamil Nadu, 60 per cent of them neutral, 40 per cent cadres of various parties. I hope that around 2.5 crore voters including youngsters wish for change, a party with a new ideology to come out of the clutches of these two Dravidian parties. They have been ruling and ruining the state for the last 50 years. I am the only candidate who fits in with the aspirations of the youth.
You have sounded so confident about enforcing prohibition. Will it be that easy?
My party was formed about 26 years ago but the party founder, my father Ramadoss, has been campaigning for prohibition for 34 years. Fighting a case in Madras High Court and Supreme Court, we already managed to close down some 600 liquor shops along the highways. So there is not doubt about our credentials.
Still, to many people, your plans to enforce prohibition enforcement come across as unrealistic. Aren’t they?
We have a clear plan. If we are elected to power, we will ban the sale and consumption of liquor. We will have a toll-free number where the public can give tip-offs on people selling or consuming liquor. The identity of our informers will be kept secret. If the information is true, they will be given a reward of Rs 10,000, the respective panchayat leader and the local police sub-inspector will be suspended and a black mark will be put on the service books of the DSP and the SP of that region. We will seal all state borders to prevent smuggling of illicit liquor and we will run awareness programmes on TV. Even if it is a brother or a husband or a father who drinks, relatives can alert us and we will put an end to their drinking habit. Police will be in absolute control of the enforcement plans and there will be rehabilitation centres in all taluks. Immediately after prohibition, 90 per cent will stop drinking, 5 per cent will go to other states to drink — but for a maximum of five months before they quit. The remaining 5 per cent may be chronic cases, who will be given treatment at government cost and whose families will be given financial assistance during the period. Also, some 30,000 liquor shop employees will be given government jobs and young widows of alcohol victims will be rehabilitated. Special fast-track courts will be set up for trial of violators and all trials will be completed in six months, arrests will be non-bailable and the convicts will get life imprisonment for selling illicit liquor.
What made you to take up prohibition as a major issue this election?
Tamil Nadu tops in the consumption of alcohol. It is shameful to say that one-third of our revenue comes from liquor sales. We top in road accidents, which are mostly due to drunken driving, we top in the number of young widows, and we have the highest suicide rates and liver disease cases. Moreover, we have plenty of viral videos of four-year-old boys or school-going children drinking. The revenue loss due to prohibition (around Rs 25,000 crore) will be recovered from regulating the sand, beach sand and granite mining sectors — that alone will get us Rs 85,000 crore annually. Streamlining the collection of commercial tax, which will bring around Rs 15,000 crore, and fighting corruption would together help us generate a total Rs 1.5 lakh crore a year. We won’t give any freebies and all that money will be saved for free education of CBSE standards, free healthcare and opening of medical colleges in all 32 districts.
The campaign of your party is still limited to the northern districts. How do you plan to address the image of being an anti-Dalit casteist party, S Ramadoss’s anti-Dalit remarks, the Dharmapuri riots?
Look, we are not a casteist party. The PMK is a political party contesting all 234 constituencies. After the Dharmapuri riots, Karunanidhi sent a fact-finding team to Dharmapuri but he has never sent a team to southern Tamil Nadu where caste murders are happening almost every day. My father’s remarks were not intended to be anti-Dalit. We cannot have made such statements, he never used the word Dalit in his so-called anti-Dalit statement, he was actually quoting something said by someone. I myself played a role in conducting at least 10 inter-caste or inter-religious marriages of my friends.
You have become the face of your party now. When you seek to shed your party’s casteist image, isn’t it a brand rebuilding?
Yes. People have accepted me now; huge gatherings turn out at all my rallies. They want Anbumani. Youngsters see me like that, like a brand, like they voted for Modi or Kejriwal or Mamata. So it is not the PMK, but Anbumani who is facing the people.