Money cannot win people’s hearts, I take pride in being poor and people in Karur yearn for change, says Congress candidate S Jothimani.
You are facing Lok Sabha deputy speaker M Thambidurai. Do you feel the pressure of daring a heavy weight?
Election in Karur has become presidential. It is Thambidurai versus Jothimani. He (Thambidurai) is a heavyweight only outside. In the constituency, he is not even allowed to enter. The key focus of our campaign is his failures and how we will serve the people after forming government. Our campaign is largely positive. His (Thambidurai) campaign is negative. He will either badmouth me or Senthil Balaji. He asks voters how will a woman without money win against him?
Are you getting desired and required cooperation from the DMK?
DMK is leading us well. Senthil Balaji is campaigning vigorously. It was a battle from the day I filed my nomination. Karur came to a standstill for 8 hours due to the huge turnout for me. AIADMK started threatening people waiting for us under scorching sun. Thambidurai does not act like a deputy speaker.
In a state where election is an expensive affair, you are a ‘poor’ candidate. Is that a deterrent?
I have learnt from 23 years of experience that only honesty will help. I hail from an ordinary agricultural family. When I say that, people shed tears for me. Money cannot win people’s hearts. If money does, only Adanis and Ambanis can run parties, not us.
The issue popped up before Congress finalised candidates. Even Congressmen said you don’t have the wherewithal to take on Thambidurai…
Rahul Gandhi did not enter politics to become Prime Minister. He wants to bridge the gap between leaders and people. He knows what impact my candidature would make. To be frank, I am part of the candidate selection committee of a “wealthy” state like Telangana. Still, I am poor. That is my credential. I consider it a pride. My leader and people feel the same way.
Is it true that Rahul had personally intervened to secure Karur seat for you from DMK…
Yes. Not only me, there are a lot like me contesting across the country. They are honest people with a long political history who can work on field. Our state president K S Alagiri had publicly quoted Rahul as asking them during a discussion on my candidature, “if a person without money should not contest?”
Did the party give you any (extra) funds?
Whatever (funds) the party gave to other Congress candidates it gave to me as well.
Do you think that people are yearning for regime change?
Definitely. They are waiting for three hours in the sweltering heat to meet us. People want a change both at the Centre and State.
Your party believes NYAY (Minimum Income Support Scheme) will be a game changer. Some fear NYAY has not reached many people. Meanwhile, BJP has come up with several promises…
NYAY has reached. Even if Congress had not re-leased its manifesto, people would still have wanted Rahul Gandhi for PM. People chant in our meetings that they don’t want Modi.
Most of DMK’s poll promises except the release of Rajiv murder convicts echoes in the Congress manifesto. Why?
Rahul has clarified already. Congress will accept whatever the court decides in accordance with the law of the land.
The most recent Court order says there is no bar on the State releasing them. Will Congress prevent it?
Opinion is divided. If you ask people, they will angrily oppose the release. There is an opinion in the intellectual circle that they shall be released. We cannot go by majority or minority views. We should go by what the law ultimately says.
Both DMK and Congress are proposing Rahul for PM in TN, but he is avoiding the question of PM candidate. Will it not confuse voters?
It will not. Congress had announced PM candidate only in 2009. Even an ordinary citizen knows who would become the PM in the Congress. People have a better understanding of politics. An entire country has gone astray, projecting an individual in 2014. Individual centric politics is not good. We should discuss issues. Modi fears doing that and hence he projects himself.
His major criticism is lack of a decisive leader in Congress alliance….
What is decisive leadership?
Snatching people’s money and pushing 130 crore people to the streets or eating Biriyani in Nawaz Sheriff’s house during Uri attack or hiding from Parliament when Rahul rakes up Rafale row. A stabled govt has only pushed the country 35 years backward. People have never hated a PM so much. People are angrier than us.
You are contesting in your native. Have you made some specific promises for voters there?
We are releasing an exclusive manifesto for Karur on April 13. Solving acute water shortage on a war footing, setting up a skill development center to bridge the skill gap among jobless graduates and a 24x7 women protection centre would be high on my agenda. After Pollachi racket surfaced, women don’t even know where to report because if they go to police station, even SP is revealing victim’s identity. We will raise the problems of MSMEs in Karur, the fourth largest exporter in TN, in the Parliament.
There are talks of you becoming a union minister in a Congress led govt. Are you eyeing cabinet berth?
I am just doing my duty without expecting returns. My immediate priority is sending home a person who did not visit his constituency for 10 years.