CHENNAI: Sivaganga MP Karti P Chidambaram believes Kamal Haasan’s MNM, Vijayakanth’s DMDK and even the PMK will join the secular alliance led by the DMK in Tamil Nadu. In a fireside chat with K KARTHIKEYAN, the Sivaganga MP, who is one of the proponents of Shashi Tharoor for Congress presidency, opens up about the friction with the DMK over Rajiv killers release and possibility of engaging AIADMK for 2024 and even the seemingly growing popularity of the BJP in Tamil Nadu.
It’s been over a month since Mallikarjuna Kharge took over the presidency of AICC. What change have you seen as a proponent of Shashi Tharoor so far?
Kharge took over only a month ago. He has formed a steering committee, which meets on December 4. We must give him time. Nothing can be done overnight.
There is a criticism that Congress could give more attention to Gujarat and Himachal elections, as it does to Bharat Jodo yatra?
I am not holding any party position to comment on that. The questions must be posed to the PCC presidents of Gujarat and Himachal. We can pose the questions only after the elections. If necessary, we will.
A party like BJP works from election to election. Is your party doing enough in Gujarat?
I believe elections are a total war. People in the positions in AICC might have different views on elections and other party activities. I have not been to Gujarat for 20 years. I do not know.
Are you at least impressed with Congress’ Gujarat campaign?
I cannot pass judgement. We must wait till December 8. I only get anecdotal reports from people visiting there or through TV or newspaper reports.
Do you think Bharat Jodo is overshadowing elections?
Bharat Jodo is giving attention to the party. There is no doubt. Election and the yatra can happen simultaneously.
There seems to be some friction between the Congress and DMK since the release of Rajiv Killers and EWS verdict?
Congress and DMK are alliance partners, but two different parties. We don’t need to have a complete congruence on all issues. If we do, we could become one party. We differ from DMK’s point of view on the Rajiv Gandhi killers release issue. We are filing a review petition. I don’t endorse or welcome the efforts taken by some political parties for their release. It is completely misplaced for them to be pitching their political weight behind their release. I strongly condemn the celebration of the released killers.
Even Chief Minister M K Stalin embraced Perarivalan.. So did Thirumavalavan…
The Chief Minister should have avoided it. Thirumavalavan does not hold any government position. I think the CM has realised it. I respect CM for that.
Did it disturb the alliance bonhomie?
It is an emotive issue. Anyone celebrating or glorifying the killing will upset us. DMK and Congress will not be on the same page on the issue.
DMK had promised their release in the 2021 poll manifesto. You differ on the EWS verdict too….
Their manifesto and ours are different. Congress' position on EWS has changed. I don't accept EWS reservation because we cannot have economic criteria for reservation. Even when you extend reservation on economic grounds, you should not introduce caste into it. EWS is a reservation that excludes, which is the view of the DMK. I endorse the view of the DMK on it.
TNCC president KS Alagiri wholeheartedly welcomed SC verdict.
I don’t think Alagiri did it because he believed in it. Maybe he was pressured.
Should PCC endorse AICC’s view?
It depends on the PCC president. He was only compliant with the AICC.
Opposition camp believes the friction could fracture your alliance and trigger a realignment with Congress and AIADMK working together for 2024?
We are very secure in our relationship with the DMK. There is no question of us looking at another alliance. No AIADMK cadre wants to go with the BJP. It's an unnatural alliance thrust upon them. If Palaniswami actually wants to do something, he must first break the alliance with the BJP before he fantasises other alliances.
Should AIADMK break ties with the BJP, will Congress consider engaging it?
At the moment, we are very secure in our relationship with the DMK.
At the moment… are you unsure?
Everything in politics is at the moment. We have been a winning alliance. It continues. I believe we will have a couple of more parties joining us.
Who do you expect to join your alliance?
I am confident Mr Kamal Haasan, Mr Vijayakant and maybe PMK can also join the alliance.
What gives you confidence?
When it comes to national elections in TN, most political parties have come to the view that they should oppose any formation which includes the BJP.
Do you think the BJP is so disliked in TN?
It is not just about the party. It is their poisonous agenda and the Hindu and Hindi agenda that is wearing most parties away.
Is the public perception so much against the BJP in TN?
BJP gets a disproportionate amount of publicity because of its resources and huge advertising budget.I think they are not winning the minds and hearts of the Tamil people who do not accept their political agenda.
So, you dispute the BJP’s claims that they are growing in TN?
They grew from around 2% to 5% in urban local body polls….
Unless they face an Assembly or Parliament election on their own, we cannot accept it. It is only speculative.
The BJP claims the public acceptance has increased and people are coming towards it in TN. It is only the history sheeters and local rowdies who are joining the BJP for protection. BJP seems to be welcoming them. Even people like Khushbu and Gangai Amaran, who joined the BJP earlier, have disappeared.
So, you call the BJP a haven for criminals?
It seems to be a magnet for such people. Can the BJP deny? They claim that they come from RSS, which is ideologically pure. The events of the last few days itself show the kind of people in the party, their public behaviour and their antecedents. Annamalai himself was ‘shopping’ for another party. He was flirting with the idea of Rajinikanth floating a political party. When it did not happen, he joined the BJP. He is not some person committed to the Hindutva ideology of the BJP even.
Of late the BJP is claiming that they are luring AIADMK cadre…. Some critics say the right wing in the AIADMK is drifting towards the BJP..
There is no truth in it. It is a misnomer to think the BJP is right wing. Classic right wing in the world believes in small government, individual liberty and little regulation in person and commercial activity. The BJP is exactly the opposite. It wants to interfere in what you eat, wear and your religious practices. BJP is nothing but a Ayatollah Hindutva Party. Like the Islamic Republic of Iran, they want to make a Hindu Rashtra India. At the grass root level, the AIADMK is intact.
Is the “Two Leaves” of AIADMK slowly withering?
No it isn't. They seem to have confusion over the duality of leadership, which they are not used to.
There is a fear that the BJP could get the AIADMK symbol frozen, like it did for Shiv Sena…
The BJP will embark on any kind of misadventure or underhand operation to further its own cause. Anybody who writes off AIADMK is doing so at his/her own peril. As a person from the southern districts, I know the strength and depth of AIADMK. It is still vibrant and strong. There is a great distaste for the politics of the BJP in TN.
Will the fall of a regional play not open the window for a national party like BJP or even Congress?
I do not believe the AIADMK is collapsing. Even if it does, I do not see them moving towards the BJP.