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'We're looking at long-term progress'

Age has not eroded DMK chief's spirit. M Karunanidhi speaks his mind on a clutch of issues...

india Updated: Apr 24, 2006 19:28 IST
GC Shekhar

M Karunanidhi hardly looks his 83 years as he hurtles from one rally to another braving the heat and the dust. In Madurai, where he arrives after addressing three back-to-back meetings, a large crowd greets him.

It takes his lieutenants 20 minutes to clear a path through the cheering multitude to the dais. It is this popular enthusiasm that has led the veteran to change his prediction of a DMK front victory and a coalition to a clean sweep. Excerpts from an interview to GC Shekhar in his hotel room on Saturday.

You've predicted your front will win more than 200 of the 234 seats. What's makes you so confident?

The DMK's election manifesto and my tours.

Your promises of the freebies were initially greeted with disbelief. Are people more convinced now?

Even then many thought our promises were feasible. Subsequently, as I explained how we will do it and it would not cost the state too much, they have become more convinced than ever.

Isn't it a sign of under-development that people have to be promised even the most basic things like rice, land, homes and jobs even after so many years?

Yes it is unfortunate. That is why the second part of our manifesto deals with long-term development — bringing in real investment. The promises are meant to capture the chair. Once that happens, our priority will be overall economic betterment.

How will you find resources to give rice to the poor at Rs 2 a kg or free colour TVs?

We need only Rs 354 crore more for subsidizing the rice from Rs 3.50 to Rs 2 per kg. The fact that Jayalalithaa, who first mocked at our rice scheme is now offering 10 kg rice free is a moral victory for us.

We have huge untapped revenue due to undue favours shown by Jayalalithaa to Midas Distilleries run by Sasikala's benamis. The AIADMK has always helped liquor barons to bend rules and make millions. We can divert huge amounts to the state coffers by just plugging this leak.

How do you view Jayalalithaa's non-cooperation with the Centre on almost every subject?

It is unfortunate and the state suffers. Do you know how many letters Dayanidhi Maran has written to her to attract investment? She has not bothered to reply even one. Look how she dumped the Nanguneri SEZ promoted by Murasoli Maran. If implemented, the South would have become prosper ous by now. She even insulted Vajpayee when he was PM.

That's the way she is. Whose vote do you think actor Vijayakanth's new party will cut into votes? Will that spoil your chances?

Difficult to predict. He may have a big following. But he does not have the requisite organisation base.