Updated: March 25, 2021 10:58:25 pm
Thanga Tamilselvan, a former Rajya Sabha MP and three-time MLA, is contesting the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections against Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, from Bodinayakkanur constituency in the Theni district.
Tamilsevan was earlier in the AIADMK, where Pannerselvam was his arch-rival. He then moved to AMMK, and is now a DMK candidate. His last electoral battle was in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, where he lost to P Raveendranath, the son of O Panneerselvam.
Tamilsevan contested his first election in 2001. Following AIADMK chief and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s death, he sided with AIADMK’s rebel faction Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK). After a public fallout with the party’s leader TTV Dhinakaran, Tamilselvan sought refuge in the DMK camp in 2019.
Tamil Nadu goes to polls on April 6 in a single phase. With less than two weeks left for the D-day, Tamilselvan spoke to indianexpress.com about his chances of winning the election, the future of AIADMK and his views on VK Sasikala stepping away from politics.
How has the campaign been so far?
It has very been good. Wherever I go, I receive a great response from the public. I sense a wave against O Pannerselvam here. People are very angry that he has done nothing for the constituency. They want him to lose this election.
You have won three elections as an AIADMK candidate. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, you contested as an AMMK candidate and now you are contesting as a DMK candidate. How different is this election?
It’s a good question. When I contested on behalf of the AMMK, people didn’t recognise that party. They rejected it across the state. I got a decent vote share purely because of my popularity, the party had nothing to do with that. I am now in DMK, which is a big recognised party and has a great alliance. People vote for the party first and then think about the candidate.
Panneerselvam has been an MLA for 10 years but has no connection with ground-level workers. People here ask for a proper road, drainage system, and drinking water, which he wasn’t able to provide in all these years. He never cared about the constituency so people want to elect a person who can connect with them, address their grievances and be available for them any time. They trust DMK and me.
You have a long history with Deputy CM Panneerselvam. This will be the first time where you will be contesting against him. What strategy are you deploying against him?
I thank DMK for choosing me to contest in this constituency. The cadre is liking the contest, the public is happy. Our workers are putting in a lot more effort to see me defeat him in this election.
Do you think your arrival will improve DMK’s vote share across the assembly segments in Theni?
DMK has a great cadre base here and the vote share has also been very good. They just needed a person to organise things and I hope my addition has strengthened that. I have the full support of our party cadre. I am campaigning on a daily basis, I meet different sets of people. I am not a tall leader, but I have been given the responsibility of the district secretary and I hope I am doing it well.
How has the journey been with DMK so far? We didn’t see you much in the DMK meetings. Do you think you are being sidelined because you have come from a different party?
I have a free hand here. I can approach our leader Thalapathy Stalin very easily. There is no formality and unnecessary rules and regulations in the party. I visit the party headquarters and meet my leader, it’s as simple as that.
Our leader has a good relationship with me, he calls me sometimes and we discuss things for the welfare of the party. Even if I point out some mistakes, he listens patiently. Since I have been appointed as the Theni (North) district secretary, I don’t find much time to visit many places, and that is the reason why people don’t see me much at DMK meetings. There is no issue between me and the party high command.
The pre-poll surveys have favoured the DMK-led alliance. Do you think your party can sweep this election?
People are fed up with this corrupt government. The current ministers of AIADMK have made crores in black money. People are well aware of all this, even in villages. After the demise of Amma, people lost hope in the AIADMK.
The EPS-OPS dual leadership is not well received on the ground, party workers have no faith in them. Pre-poll surveys predict more than 180 seats in favour of our alliance but I can confidently that we will win more than 200 seats.
VK Sasikala announced she will step aside from active politics. Do you think she will reconsider her decision?
I had no direct contact with her even when I was in AMMK. I can say that she is a victim of Dhinakaran’s conspiracy. The performance of AMMK in the upcoming polls will decide Sasikala’s comeback into active politics.
In a recent television interview, Pannerselvam has said AIADMK might consider taking Sasikala back into the party if she accepts the current set-up. How do you see that?
Panneerselvam waged a “dharmayudham” against Sasikala, in his own words. He said our Amma was beaten to death by Sasikala and her family. He said an inquiry commission should be set up to probe Amma’s death. It has been three years, why hasn’t he appeared before the Arumugasamy Commission? His recent comments show what kind of a person he is.
He became Chief Minister because of Sasikala and Dhinakaran. He then revolted against them and now he is praising them. How can people trust a person who keeps changing his stand?
Apart from DMK and AIADMK, there are other players like Kamal Haasan, TTV Dhinakaran, etc. Do you think they will make an impact in the upcoming polls?
It’s just a two-way contest. The election is about DMK and AIADMK, no one else matters. When 18 MLAs got suspended and contested from Dhinakaran’s party, they thought they might gain sympathy and emerge victorious, but that didn’t happen. So AMMK has no stake here, TTV Dhinakaran is completely lost and has no future.
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