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Jayalalithaa ready for alliance with Congress

Posted by classiindia on October 9, 2010

Jayalalithaa ready for alliance with Congress


AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa is one leader who never ceases to surprise her detractors and admirers alike. Whenever electoral debacles and court cases against her are used by political pundits to write her off, she has bounced back with full vigour and force. The AIADMK diva recently broke the lull in her camp after successive poll defeats when she flew to Delhi and exchanged pleasantries with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, leaving her party cadre buoyed. On a Monday afternoon, the charismatic leader, who will turn 62 on February 24, spoke to Jaya Menon and Ajitha Karthikeyan at length on several issues ranging from her recent meeting with Sonia, her future plans, the retirement plan of her bete noire Karunanidhi to birthday bashes during her childhood.

A lot of significance is being read into your exchange with Sonia Gandhi during your recent Delhi visit. Is there any significance in the meeting?

That remains to be seen. I am afraid I can’t make any comment about that.

But, what exactly was the exchange you had?

I was invited personally by chief election commissioner Navin Chawla. He sent two letters inviting me. And then a formal invitation, and (he) followed it up with a telephone call. So, I decided to go. There, I was taken to the VIP lounge. The Vice-President , the Prime Minister, AICC president Sonia Gandhi, the speaker of the Lok Sabha Meira Kumar and other dignitaries came there. So, when Ms Gandhi came there, we greeted each other and exchanged pleasantries. And BJP leader Sushma Swaraj was also there. We were chatting for about 15 minutes. Then the President arrived. So, I went to the auditorium and others went to the dais and the function started (smiles).

There is speculation that the Congress is increasingly becoming impatient with the DMK. And a section of Tamil Nadu Congressmen are said to be unhappy. Is there any possibility of the Congress coming closer to the AIADMK for the elections?

All that remains to be seen in the future. It is not just, as you mentioned, some partymen becoming impatient with the DMK. The people themselves are very impatient with the DMK. People would like a change. Anyway, any decision has to be taken by the Congress leadership. How can I comment?

But for the elections, you need to have the Congress?

Let us see, how things work out. If the state is destined to get a good government, if the people of TN are destined to get a good government, they will.

Are you a believer in destiny?

Definitely. Because, I never planned this career for myself. I never ever thought that I would come to politics. Never ever dreamt that I would become the CM of the state. But it has happened. I had no preparation for this kind of life. In fact, you will be surprised to know that I haven’t even been educated properly in Tamil. I studied in Bishop Cotton Girls High School in Bangalore where the main medium of instruction was English. The choice of second language was only Hindi or Kannada. Since my mother tongue is Tamil, I decided to take Hindi. By the time, I came to Madras I was in advanced class. So at that time here, there was a choice between Hindi and Tamil. But if I had taken Tamil then, I would have been at the bottom of the class whereas I was coming first in all the subjects. So, I continued with Hindi. But, I had a tutor at home to teach me the basics of Tamil. That’s how I learnt how to read and write (Tamil). I never even dreamt that I would become a leader of a Dravidian party but I did. I am self-educated in Tamil as in all other things.

How do you assess the UPA government’s performance?

They have a difficult task on their hands. Apart from the economic situation, they have to address themselves to the problem of national security. I don’t think the Indian armed forces today are equal to the challenge posed by China. So more attention must be paid by the Centre on strengthening of our armed forces, providing them the latest equipment, and motivating them with more perks and concessions.

What’s your reading of the internal security situation?

The naxal menace is growing throughout the country. We must take a firm stand and stamp it out.

What do you think are the main issues before us for the next Assembly Elections?

The total failure of the DMK government on all fronts. Rampant corruption from top to bottom, down to the grassroots level. Total breakdown of law and order, murders in broad daylight, no safety or security for citizens.

Do you think these issues will strike a chord with urban youth as well?

Yes, people are suffering every day. If elections are free and fair, there will be no doubt as to the verdict. We will form the next government.

Some commentators say the opposition made war in Sri Lanka one of its primary planks in the campaign during the last parliamentary elections, but it did not strike a chord with the people?

It’s not true. People feel very strongly about Tamil people in Sri Lanka being massacred and being treated so inhumanely. It does remain an issue. Except that Karunanidhi is not clearly doing anything to address the issue. He just uses it when it is convenient for him. Otherwise, why all this drama of going on a fast for two hours between breakfast and lunch.

Tamil Nadu is increasingly shifting from an agri-based economy to services based economy. What do you think about it?

The whole country is going that way. Look at the number of suicides committed by farmers in other states. So, we can’t afford to let agriculture die out like that. That was one point I stressed upon in the parliamentary election. The Centre should give agriculture sector a boost. State governments also have to do it. We have to provide a remunerative price to the farmers. If things go on as they are, by another two or three years, there will no sugarcane production in Tamil Nadu. That’s why I have taken the matter seriously and I am going to lead an agitation in Villupuram, demanding that the state-advised price be fixed at Rs 2,500 per tonne for sugarcane for farmers.

The recent desertions (from the AIADMK) that have been happening. Is it causing worry?

I am not at all worried. Because, these people are my creations. I have created so many MLAs, so many MPs and so many ministers. I can create many more. These people will be consigned to the dustbin of history. This has been a constant factor ever since I took over leadership of the party after MGRs death. So, it doesn’t bother me in the least. If people leave the AIADMK, it is their loss.

The calling card of the DMK over the last four years from what we can see is that it has been very strong on welfare schemes?

You can’t call distribution of freebies welfare schemes. You must enable the people to buy things themselves. If a state government spends money on starting local industries and provides employment to the local people there, that will enable them to send their children to good schools. And those children when they grow up will get good jobs and earn good salary. With that they can build their own concrete houses and buy their own colour TVs. That is the way you take society forward.

But you cannot say that just because of distribution of freebies, the DMK govt has been able to consolidate its hold over the people. That’s a fallacy. It’s an illusion. If the elections are free and fair, then you will find who is really popular among the people and who will win the elections. All the by-elections that were held in the last three-and-a-half years were totally rigged. If elections were free and fair, we would have won.

What do you think is the solution?

The Election Commission has to be fair. It has to ensure a level-playing field for all parties. The EC has to see to

it that money is not distributed for votes.

In fact, police personnel in mufti go from house to house distributing money for DMK. It happened even recently in Tiruchendur and Vandavasi. It’s nothing but rigging. And despite all this distribution of money, still the voters are voting for us.

How are you going to face this challenge?

We have been making requests to EC not to engage any Tamil Nadu government officials on election duty. We have been saying repeatedly that they should bring in Central government personnel or officials from other states. Similarly, Tamil Nadu police should not be involved in election duty. They should bring in police personnel from Gujarat or some other state. This is the only way we can overcome this.

Karunanidhi has announced his retirement plan in June?

Karunanidhi will not retire voluntarily from politics. He will not do it by himself. The people have to see that he retires. He just makes these statements for effect. He is known for doing flip-flops even within 24 hours.

There is talk that you are going to have a new party headquarters. Is there any such plan?

No. I have completely renovated and reconstructed the old building. Weve given it a very attractive look. We had acquired a place on Anna Salai, the old Safire theatre premises. But there was a lot of resistance from partymen. They are sentimentally attached to this building because it used to be MGRs residence earlier. The partymen don’t want to shift the headquarters to another place.

We have heard that you spend a lot of time reading?

That was during my acting days. Because I never ever wanted to be in films either. I wanted to take up an academic career. I wanted to become a lawyer or probably become a research scientist if I had been allowed to have my way. I had to join the film industry at the age of 16 straight after I completed my matriculation. I passed with honours. I was second in the state. I missed the first place by half a mark. So I was awarded scholarship. But I joined films. I had this passion for reading, for education. Though I couldn’t go to college, I started educating myself. I always used to carry books with me wherever I went. Today, it is all coming in handy after I came to politics. Though I don’t have a degree after my name, I am much better informed than many postgraduates.

Your birthday falls on February 24. How do you plan to celebrate?

I don’t do anything to celebrate my birthday. My mother used to give lovely birthday parties for my brother and me. My brother was two years older than me and our birthdays were just a week apart. So, we used to have one joint birthday party. We used to bring all our classmates. At that time, we were living in T Nagar. I used to bring all the girls home after school. With all things that children like cakes, chocolates and ice cream. My mother used to arrange for a good film to be shown… now there is nothing to celebrate. Conditions in the state must improve.


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