Kanimozhi, Thoothukkudi MP and Secretary of DMK’s women’s wing, speaks to The Indian Express ahead of the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections on April 6. Edited excerpts:
It looks very good, bright and positive for the DMK and the alliance. I think it is a definite win… I have travelled across the state, met people and they are quite upset and angry with the present government. They definitely want a change and they believe that change is the DMK. They want the DMK back in power because there is rampant unemployment. There is no investment in the state. The basic infrastructure and basic facilities… Nothing has been done. It is becoming a government where nobody can protest, nobody can ask questions… It is becoming very dictatorial.
What will the outcome of these polls signify for national and state politics?
For the state, it will signify a return to the right track and development. Tamil Nadu has always been at the forefront, but today we are slipping on all human development indicators. We have to put it back on track. As far as national politics is concerned, it will show that there are states which are different.
Why is the DMK focusing so much on the BJP which is not even a big player in Tamil Nadu, and is contesting on only 20 seats?
The BJP is not a big player at all but there is a proxy government being run by the BJP in Tamil Nadu. It is an AIADMK government but the shots are being called from Delhi. So, we have no choice but to attack the real owners of the government. This government is being run from Delhi.
Do people of the state understand and believe this claim?
I am sure people understand it. Why would the government support the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the farm laws, and now, on the eve of the elections why would it say that we will put pressure on the Central government to withdraw these laws? It is only because the shots are being called from there and they could not say no. They knew very well that it is not going to go down well with the people here but still they could not say no. But because today there is an election…they are obviously taking permission to say this.
As a DMK leader how do you see the AIADMK-BJP relationship?
They (AIADMK) are not confident. I don’t think till their leader Jayalalithaa was there, anybody else could call the shots. We had a lot of differences of opinion with her but still nobody else was making decisions here. Now, even their party decisions are being taken in Delhi. I think this government is at their mercy because they are very scared that the party will split or they are worried about cases which are pending…the (Central) government might go ahead with it. Nearly everybody in the government has cases against them and they are worried the government might go against them.
One charge against the DMK is that it promotes dynastic politics. You are in politics and so are your brothers M K Stalin and M K Alagiri. Now, in this election we are seeing the entry of one more person from your family, Udayanidhi Stalin.
I don’t understand this. In every party there are sons and daughters who come into politics. Why is it always that people pick the DMK? The BJP has so many sons and daughters. Nobody even mentions that. Why is it that only the regional parties and some other parties are singled out? Politics is open to everybody. Yes, I agree that once your family is in politics you get an easier platform. I don’t deny the fact. But to sustain and to be accepted you have to prove yourself. There are so many sons and daughters who have come into politics and have failed because people have not accepted them. So I think it is you who has to prove yourself to be accepted by the people.
This charge is often made by the AIADMK. None of Jayalalithaa’s family members are in politics.
Unfortunately or fortunately, whatever you want to call it, she does not have a family. Now (Deputy Chief Minister) O Panneerselvam’s son is an MP today. I don’t think he has a long history of being in politics. And I would like you to ask him the same question.
There is another perception that if the DMK returns to power there will be more disturbance of public order.
This is the AIADMK’s last resort… There is government-sponsored violence and rowdyism that the AIADMK government has been doing for the past five years…maybe more than that. Thirteen people were shot and killed because they were protesting against the Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi, my constituency. A father and son were taken into custody and beaten to death in Sathankulam and the Chief Minister says it was because of breathlessness. And you know what happened to the farmers who were protesting against the Chennai-Salem expressway? They were all beaten up. What happened to those who were protesting against the CAA? This is government-sponsored violence. So many ministers have turned violent against journalists who had written against them. It is not that this government is…this government is apparently…you can see that it is so violent…It can’t tolerate the voice of dissent. This is their last resort. I would like to clearly say when the DMK government comes…we will make sure that there is peace, harmony and there is law and order and nobody will be above it in the DMK government
It is a fiction, a myth which they are trying to create now by saying that there was violence and rowdyism in the DMK government.
There are many players in this election. Kamal Haasan, T T V Dhinakaran who is in alliance with Vijayakanth’s party. Then there is Seeman Naam Tamilar Katchi. How do you see them? Will they play spoiler and divide the anti-government vote?
I don’t think so. Some of them might be in the field to help the ruling AIADMK. I don’t have any proof. But everybody is talking about it that they are being sponsored by the AIADMK-BJP alliance. But more than that, this election is about the DMK and the AIADMK. I don’t think that in this election anybody else is a significant player. I can’t predict the future.
The BJP is making an aggressive bid in Bengal. It is the ruling party in Assam. It is part of the ruling coalition here. If the DMK wins, what message will it send to Prime Minister Narendra Modi?
That self-respect is important to us. Social justice is important to us. The state’s rights and state autonomy is important to us. And whoever, whichever government is there at the Centre…they will have to understand and respect that. This is exactly what Mr Modi was talking about, cooperative federalism, and I think he has to understand that that is very important.
The silence of your brother M K Alagiri is curious. He had in January said that without his support Mr Stalin cannot become the chief minister. It is a family issue. How do you see that?
It is not a family issue. He is not in the DMK anymore. So I don’t like to comment about it. He is silent so what is the point… There is no need to talk about it.
If you are in Madurai, do you still go and meet him?
If he is willing to meet me, I will always meet him. Politics is different. He will always remain my brother.