Basking in the warmth and affection he said he received from the people, EPS assures that his philosophy of sharing the riches of the state with the less-privileged will always be a priority of his government.
In the past four years, you have not only run a government, but you also kept the AIADMK together. How did you do it? What were the lessons learnt?
I have been a foot soldier of the party since 1972. I was trained by Amma. My whole life revolves around my party. In all my actions and thoughts, the welfare of my party has been of paramount importance. When our intentions are pure, our actions yield the desired results. Today, I feel a sense of satisfaction that with the support of my senior colleagues, we could hold the party together.
You have been campaigning for the Assembly elections since December 19. How do you perceive the voter’s mood?
The voters are very positive and highly appreciative of our work and performance. Wherever I went, I could see that people were supportive and encouraging. The mood of people has made me very happy.
The AIADMK government has already waived farm loans and given Rs 2,500 as Pongal gift among other incentives. What other ‘freebies’ can people expect from the AIADMK if voted to power?
I have time and again explained that the term “freebie” shall not be used when reference is made to the sharing of resources and empowering of the needy through targeted actions of the government. Let me put this in perspective. Laptops, educational tools, school uniforms, cycles and other benefits are very important for students. It is a way to empower the future generations of this country. When citizens are empowered, they become members of a tax paying community, as they have the opportunities for employment both in India and abroad. What we give to the younger generation is an investment made for the future.
When people, due to inherited official disadvantages and cultural practices, find no way to benefit from the state’s resources and revenue, a welfare government must find ways to create an atmosphere of inclusive growth and equitable distribution of its tax income. Remember what John F Kennedy said in 1963? “Pockets of poverty anywhere threaten prosperity everywhere.”
Unless we proactively share resources with the needy, social upheavals will affect the peace and equilibrium of the entire society. So, I don’t consider these gestures as ‘freebies.’
I would rather call it a way to share the state’s resources. Those who have less in life should have more by law. As a leader, I will constantly work towards keeping this concept alive, as well as look for ways to find more innovative and meaningful ways of sharing.
Opposition leader Stalin often says that the DMK will probe corruption charges against your Cabinet Ministers. The party has submitted a memorandum to the Governor on alleged corruption charges. What is your view on this?
It is the reflection of DMK’s desperation to come to power. They have been playing such petty politics from the time of Puratchi Thalaivar MGR. They were the core reason for all the humiliation and suffering Amma (J Jayalalithaa) underwent which ultimately led to her untimely death. They (DMK) think the same tricks and techniques can be used against me. Let me tell you, this election will be their ‘Waterloo’ – it will be their downfall.
I have been at the helm of a very transparent government that has run with maximum efficiency. The people of Tamil Nadu are extremely pleased with our performance. The DMK will fail miserably in its attempt to malign my administration. Gone are the days when their (DMK’s) false propaganda found takers. The voters will give them a fitting reply on April 6, 2021.
Opposition parties say there is an anti-incumbency wave and the people are longing for a change of guard. How do you respond to this charge?
It is a planned, politically motivated propaganda by the Opposition parties. I do not find any sort of wave against us. On the other hand. I see a very positive response to our campaign from the people. I have been Chief Minister for the past four years only, but in that time period, I have implemented a historic number of schemes and projects.
Where is the question of anti-incumbency when our government has consistently delivered results? For a first-time Chief Minister like me, who doesn’t have any kind of background, aura or fanfare, the amount of warmth I have got from the people is very encouraging.
The continuity in my tenure as Chief Minister is needed for the ongoing development of Tamil Nadu. That’s what people want, and they trust me to carry on the good work.
The methane extraction project and NEET has faced opposition from the DMK. How do you defend this?
The methane project was brought in by the DMK government, a fact that TR Baalu accepted in an interview. However, we were the ones to declare the Cauvery Delta region as a Protected Agricultural Zone, where methane extraction projects will not take place.
Similarly, NEET was also brought in by the Congress and DMK run Union government. It is well known that Nalini Chidambaram, senior lawyer argued in favour of NEET before the Supreme Court and passed a remark that she put a full stop to the NEET cases.
On the other hand, my government is actively making all efforts to overcome the NEET problem.
There is a view that the AIADMK and DMK are evenly matched in this elections, but the BJP might be a liability to your party. What does BJP bring to the alliance, in your opinion?
The BJP is a ruling party at the Centre. Maintaining a cordial relationship with the ruling party is in the best interests of Tamil Nadu. Electoral alliances are decided based on relative advantages. We don’t see this as a liability at all.
The AIADMK had always fought nepotism. In this regard, what is your opinion on Udhayanidhi Stalin contesting from Chepauk?
Udhayanidhi is the third generation from that family to aspire for the CM post. Every single person in that family wants to be in some top Constitutional or governmental position. That is the biggest threat that democracy is facing today. I hope people are aware of this danger and they put an end to the greedy aspirations of one family in Tamil Nadu.
Actor Kamal Hassan says that he will bring in the rule of MGR to Tamil Nadu. Your comments?
Kamal Hassan has no offers to do films, he has no work in the film field. He wants to stay occupied in his old age. There’s nothing more to say.
Which achievement of your government are you most proud of?
We are disciples of Puratchi Thalaivar MGR and true followers of Amma. Each and every action undertaken by our government has been to bring happiness to the lives of our people. Our people-oriented programmes have put Tamil Nadu ahead of other states on several parameters.
For me personally, I can count the following projects as some of our proudest contributions: The Kudimaramathu scheme, the Advanced Institute for Integrated Research on Livestock and Animal Sciences, 7.5 % reservation for medical aspirants from government schools, our Athikadavu Avinashi scheme which was a dream project for 40 years, the formation of the Cauvery Water Management Authority and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee, declaration of the Cauvery Delta region as a Protected Special Agriculture Zone, and Cauvery-Gundar river linkage project.
We are also the only state in India to get 11 medical colleges in one year. Finally, the waiver of the co-operative bank loans of our women and farmers have also been key achievements.