Modi thinks he is only the Prime Minister of the Hindi heartland: MK Stalin
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief, MK Stalin, 68, will contest the Tamil Nadu assembly elections on April 6. While he has been in the electoral fray for decades, this is the first time he will contest as the party’s chief minister’s candidate, bearing the legacy of the Dravidian party after the demise of his father M Karunanidhi in 2018.
Since he began his political journey in the DMK as a teenager, Stalin has been the party’s youth wing leader, a six-time legislator, Chennai mayor, deputy chief minister, rural development minister and now Opposition leader. As he prepares for his biggest battle, Stalin speaks to HT about his political beliefs and the current electoral situation. Excerpts:
What have you learnt being out of power for a decade?
Whether in power or in the Opposition, I have learnt to work for the welfare of the people. It is because the DMK is the party that is always with people in their joy and sorrow. DMK was launched not only for power but essentially for social empowerment of the deprived class and downtrodden in society. DMK works for the welfare of the people and fights for the rights of the women. I have always led the party in such a way that those in power act on people’s demand. Hence, DMK is with people’s power always and it is the party with mass support always.
Also Read | The political life of DMK’s MK Stalin
Did you believe that the Edappadi Palaniswami-led government would complete its term or are you surprised? He was barely known before 2016; how do you feel that you will be fighting him as your primary rival?
DMK is a party which stands for ideology. We never tried to come to power through the back door. Even during the chaos in AIADMK due to ill health and death of former chief minister Jayalalithaa, DMK clarified time and again that it will not come to power through the back door. If you see the massive corruption in Palaniswami regime and the way in which he allowed his ministers to plunder the treasury, one cannot be surprised at the continuance of Palaniswami government till the end of its term. Even now, he is known only by the advertisement campaign done by spending government money, and not by his deeds. The people know him now only for his poor performance and failures on all fronts during these four years of misgovernance.
What is your view on Narendra Modi? The Bharatiya Janata Party has been investing in infrastructure projects and increasing its booth-level strength to gain a footing in Tamil Nadu. What do you think of its prospects?
Prime Minister Modi is thinking that he is the Prime Minister of only the Hindi heartland. He has no interest in the development of Tamil Nadu and for that matter, any states ruled by non-NDA (National Democratic Alliance) parties. From the beginning, Modi has been only demeaning cooperative federalism and is in a hurry to usurp of the power of states. The State List and Concurrent List, which are part of the Constitution, is under constant threat under the BJP regime at the Centre.
As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, they used the AIADMK only to communalise the otherwise communally harmonious land of Tamil Nadu. No infrastructure projects for Tamil Nadu have been implemented during Modi government. AIIMS at Madurai, announced six years back, is a non-starter even today. The people of Tamil Nadu believe that both AIADMK and BJP are one and the same and hence, they will reject BJP and also its allies AIADMK in the state.
If the situation demands, in a post-poll scenario, would you be open to joining hands with the BJP? Your father defended DMK aligning with BJP between 1999 and 2003. It’s not been a political untouchable.
DMK is the champion of secular values and a party for democracy. How do you expect such a post-poll scenario? DMK will not align with the BJP politically and we are in the secular alliance, led by the Congress nationally.
Do you think the AIADMK’s alliance with BJP is the biggest factor against it and do you think anti-Hindi sentiment is still strong in Tamil Nadu?
I have already said that AIADMK and BJP are one and the same. Both are disrespecting the sentiments of youth of Tamil Nadu. Both are depriving lakhs of youngsters in Tamil Nadu of employment opportunities. Both are destroying the educational opportunities for the youngsters of Tamil Nadu. More than a dozen young girls and boys died by suicide because of the NEET exam but both AIADMK and BJP governments remained mute spectators. Medical education of rural youth has been snatched by BJP and, even now, it is introducing NEET for nursing education also. Tamil Nadu is always opposed to the act of imposition of Hindi, which ignores and insults the mother tongue — classical Tamil. That sentiment is rampant in the state and it will reflect in the election.
You were 13 when you began organising youth wing functions and you’ve worked your way up in administration and politically in different capacities within the DMK. What is your response to the AIADMK-BJP criticism against dynastic politics since your son Udhayanidhi was appointed as youth wing secretary, he’s one of your star campaigners and is contesting from Chepauk?
DMK is the family of cadres because they are committed to the noblest Dravidian ideology. When you are wedded to one particular ideology, that too for the upliftment of the people and development of the state, you cannot expect that he or she will switch over to a different party and a different ideology. Adopting his father’s or his father’s party ideology cannot be termed as dynasty politics. Just because he is my son, I cannot compel him to adopt a different ideology. That is the position of those in DMK.
Are you grooming him the way your father groomed you for politics?
But one thing is sure — either me or any one in party cannot groom their sons in politics just because they are in DMK. For growing in DMK, one has to work hard, reach out to the people and fight for the state’s welfare. The AIADMK and BJP’s criticism is born out of frustration, aimed to hide their corrupt and communal alliance from the eyes of people who have suffered in the last ten years of misrule of AIADMK.
If your father, M Karunanidhi was alive, what advice do you think he would give you at this juncture?
He would have advised me to go to the people with the slogan of “throw the communal and corrupt forces out of Tamil Nadu” and “Restore the pride and self-respect of Tamil Nadu”. Now I am doing exactly what he would have wished and hence even in his absence, I am following the ideology that was near and dear to his heart only.
Political observers say that DMK won’t be able to repeat its sweep of 2019 in 2021. What in your assessment has changed or went wrong after you won 38/39 in the 2019 parliamentary elections because subsequently the gains in by-polls and civic polls were not enough. Do you think you will sweep 2021 elections with your mission 200 or do you assess this to be a close election?
Despite all blatant misuse of power by the AIADMK government, the people of Tamil Nadu gave us a massive victory in rural local body election. AIADMK was rattled at the victory of DMK and that is why they did not conduct urban local body elections. In the by-elections too, the DMK won more seats than the AIADMK. The 2019 Parliamentary election victory will be repeated now and the DMK and its alliance parties would sweep all the 234 assembly seats.
What are your top priorities if you come to power and how would they be different from your father’s?
I have promised that the grievance petitions received from the people during “Stalin in Your Constituency Programme” would be solved within 100 days of coming to power. That would be my first priority. In Trichy, I announced “Stalin’s Seven Assurances” - which is a vision document of DMK for Tamil Nadu for the next 10 years. DMK Manifesto is the hero as usual. Hence, I have clear priorities at my hand. My government will be the one which will be guided by the noble visions of Perarignar Anna (DMK founder CN Annadurai) and Muthamizharignar Kalaignar (M Karunanidhi).