This assembly election is perhaps the toughest challenge for the DMK in recent history: It has 23 members in the current assembly and no Lok Sabha MPs; at 93, former chief minister M Karunanidhi is the party’s chief ministerial candidate and he is yet to hand over the reins to his younger son MK Stalin, and, in a multi-polar contest the DMK is not the focal point for anti-incumbency votes.
In an interview to HT, former Chennai North Lok Sabha MP and DMK spokesperson TKS Elangovan talks about the Jayalalithaa government’s performance, the anti-incumbency factor, the Sri Lankan issue and responds to allegations that the DMK copied the PMK’s draft manifesto. Excerpts:
How is the DMK approaching this election and what is your take on the AIADMK government’s performance?
The election is based on the performance of the incumbent government. This AIADMK government has totally failed in administering the state—no development, no infrastructure and no employment opportunities. There is also all-round corruption by the Jayalalithaa government. They have even failed to deliver promises made during last elections. The people want to remove this government and the next choice is the DMK because we have performed earlier. The issue in this election will be the contributions of the DMK governments versus the mal-administration of this government.
Will the PWF split the anti-AIADMK vote and thus eat into the DMK’s vote share?
No. The DMK will not lose its vote share. Because of the anti-incumbency factor the PWF might get the anti-AIADMK vote. The DMK’s support base is a solid vote bank. We have about 33% and that will stay with us, and we might get some of the anti-AIADMK votes.
How do you react to allegations that the DMK copied the PMK’s draft manifesto?
There are some common issues which every party will highlight: The Lokayukta (Bill) cannot be copied from anyone. Similarly, the Right to Services Act is there in about eight states now. The people have demanded prohibition. These are issues that all parties will speak about. We have based many aspects of our manifesto on the UN’s sustainable development goals.
Parties are targeting the DMK for joining hands with the Congress that was in power at the Centre when the Sri Lankan government went to war with the LTTE.
The DMK left the UPA because the government of India did not press for a stronger resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN. The BJP at that time opposed a resolution against Sri Lanka, which means that the BJP is more dangerous and unfriendly towards the Tamils in Sri Lanka. So we support the Congress because they supported at least a diluted resolution.
Will the DMK bring prohibition if voted to power? And will it be complete prohibition?
Yes we will bring it. There are certain obligations every government has to factor in. For some category of hotels a bar is a requirement and then there are medical cases. If we put a blanket ban then the abuse of illicit liquor will spread, and that is a big challenge. What is happening today is that even school-going girls are drinking liquor. We want to put an end to such evils.
If DMK comes to power, will MK Stalin become the CM?
Kalaignar (M Karunanidhi) will become the CM.
Is MK Alagiri back in the party? If not, will he be taken back?
He was a party man, an MP, but because of his activities he was suspended from the party. He is no more a party man. In the past many people who the party suspended have sought the pardon of the party headquarters and we have accepted some of these. In Alagiri’s case nothing like that has happened yet.