Uneasy, angry and helpless – that’s how former Union health minister and Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) Youth Wing secretary Anbumami Ramadoss looked at the press conference held on Monday in Chennai. Amid criticism of its pact with the ruling AIADMK and BJP from various quarters, Ramadoss said the PMK forged the alliance for the welfare of Tamil Nadu.
“PMK has given the permission to party chief Dr Ramadoss to take the final decision regarding the alliance. We have joined with AIADMK for the welfare of Tamil Nadu. We will force the AIADMK to agree to all the 10 demands put forth by us,” Anbumani said. The 10 demands listed by PMK include release of seven Rajiv Gandhi case convicts, exemption of Tamil Nadu from NEET, complete prohibition etc.
PMK has been allotted seven seats in the state for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and a Rajya Sabha berth. With its support base among the most backward Vanniyars, the PMK holds sway in at least nine constituencies in north Tamil Nadu.
On questions being raised by Opposition parties regarding its alliance with the AIADMK despite being a vocal critic of the party on several issues, including corruption, Anbumani reasoned the PMK’s move by pointing at the SP-BSP pact in Uttar Pradesh.
“For this Lok Sabha election, all parties approached us to join them, including DMK. No one can say that they haven’t made an alliance with the parties they have criticised before. What about DMK? They ridiculed Indira Gandhi more than anyone, but now they have forged a pact with Congress. In Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati and Akhilesh have a rivalry much worse than DMK-AIADMK, but they have joined hands now,” Anbumani said.
In the past too, PMK hasn’t shied away from switching sides during elections. In 2004, it was part of the Democratic Progressive Alliance comprising DMK and Congress. In 2009, it was part of a third front led by AIADMK. In 2014, it was part of the NDA but decided to contest alone in the 2016 general elections, failing to win a single seat.
When asked why AIADMK closed only 1,000 Tasmac shops when it had promised a total prohibition in Tamil Nadu, the PMK leader said, “Our party was instrumental in getting all parties on board for prohibition in Tamil Nadu. Till now, we have protested from outside but now we will pressure the state government from inside (as part of the alliance) to ensure our state is liquor-free.”
On the PMK’s present stand on corruption charges against the AIADMK over which it had earlier submitted a memorandum to Governor Banwarilal Purohit seeking action, Ramadoss said the party remained firm on its stated position
“As a party, we raised the issues that came to our knowledge. Judiciary should take the necessary action if the charges are proved,” he said.
Anbumani also said the PMK would be the first to demand the resignation of Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijaya Baskar if charges were proven against him in the multi-crore Gutkha scam. “CBI has launched its investigation. If he is proven guilty, our party will be the first to demand his resignation,” he said. He also said the party would force the AIADMK government to scrap the Chennai-Salem eight-lane highway.
Reflecting on PMK’s 2016 show in the Assembly elections, where it failed to win a seat, the junior Ramadoss said the people of Tamil Nadu and media failed to recognise the efforts of the party.
“In 2016, we decided to contest alone. Our election agenda was widely appreciated. But the appreciation didn’t convert into votes. We were not able to win in the past four elections. We stood by our ideologies for the past eight years, but Tamil Nadu people and the media failed to recognize our efforts,” Anbumani said.
Asked about the claims put forth by the working president of Tamil Nadu Congress Committee and his brother-in-law Vishnu Prasad, Anbumani said, “Our alliance or party is not affected by whatever he said. However, on a personal ground, I and my wife are disturbed by his comments. I never expected Vishnu Prasad to stoop to this level. Just for a seat, he has forgotten our 40-year-old friendship. This is a cheap trick by DMK, which is trying all sorts of things to break our party.”
Earlier this month, Vishnu Prasad said PMK’s decision to join hands with AIADMK was a betrayal for Vanniyar Sangam members.