‘We know we are inching towards Fort St George’

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Photo: Shailendra Pandey
Photo: Shailendra Pandey

AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa addressed a big rally in Madurai last week. Will the numbers translate into votes next year?
Definitely. We started the series on 13 July when we held our first rally in Coimbatore, followed by Tiruchi on 2 August and the third in Madurai on 18 October. In Coimbatore, the Karunanidhi government had organised the Classic Tamil World Conference and the entire Cabinet, government officials and police camped there for a week. According to the government’s own admission, nearly 400 crore was spent on the conference. The turnout for the final day was much less than our rally. Our rally was attended by nearly 7 lakh people, while only 4.5 lakh attended the conference.

In Tiruchi, the government tried to prevent us from getting the necessary clearance for holding our rally. Finally, we selected the Railway Ground. We approached Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and got permission. In Madurai, we continued to show that we are the No. 1 party in the state. The huge turnouts show the changing mindset of the electorate. We are confident that there will be a change of government in the next election. We are inching towards Fort St George (seat of the Tamil Nadu government).

What prompted Jayalalithaa to allege that Union minister Azhagiri is running a parallel government in Madurai?
Azhagiri has encouraged rowdy elements in the city. Most of them are involved in land scams. Madurai has become notorious for being what a city should not be.

Was there really a threat to Jayalalithaa’s life in Madurai?
We have received more than 15 threat letters recently. We have shown them to the state authorities but nothing has happened so far. A parliamentary delegation met the prime minister and home minister, who assured that necessary action will be taken. As the threats are continuing, we have demanded that the case be handed over to the CBI. Though the government has technically done it, there hasn’t been any progress. It is up to the CBI now.

The AIADMK claimed that the rallies were launched to counter price rise. So, why did Jayalalithaa concentrate more on attacking Karunanidhi and his family?
Price rise is one of the issues that is affecting everyone in Tamil Nadu. The theme of the rally was how the state has been suffering under Karunanidhi’s misrule. How a single family has been dominating the entire political, industrial and film landscape of the state. Have you ever heard of a family where the father is the chief minister, son is the deputy chief minister, another son and grand nephew are Union ministers and daughter is a Rajya Sabha MP?

Will Jayalalithaa be vindictive if she returns to power?
After coming to power in 1996, Karunanidhi started this political vendetta. He foisted false cases against Jayalalithaa, not one or two, but 13. He foisted cases against almost all the ministers.

If Jayalalithaa had wanted, she could have passed a resolution in the Assembly when she became the chief minister in 2001 and got the cases dropped. But she didn’t. She vowed to fight them in court. Now, she has been acquitted in 12 out of 13 cases. So, Karunanidhi has been working overtime to banish her from the political scene. The DMK government, which was elected in 2006, has been one of the most corrupt. Naturally, those involved in corruption will be taken to task. But it won’t be vindictive.

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Kunal Majumder writes on politics, foreign affairs and books. Since he began his journalistic career in 2005, Kunal has reported on a wide range of topics including design, fashion, business, politics, environment, human rights and the Maoist conflict. In 2011, he won the UNFPA-Laadli Media Award for Gender Sensitivity for Best Feature report and the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting. Kunal worked with Tehelka newsmagazine from September 2009 to November 2012 as a reporter. In Novemeber 2012, he was designated as Assistant Editor in-charge for web operation. He was responsible for the revamp of Tehelka website and associated online platforms like Tehelka Radio, Tehelka TV and social media. He quit Tehelka in December 2013.

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