By Arun Lakshman
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin or M.K. Stalin, as he’s popularly known, has said that the DMK government under him would take stringent action against all corrupt practices and will not allow any corrupt individual to go scot-free.
He said that there is no politics of vindictiveness or vendetta but only legal actions against those who had indulged in corruption and added that it was the promise to the people of Tamil Nadu by the DMK before the elections. He said that his government is on the development path for Tamil Nadu and that the trillion-dollar economy for the state is not a distant dream. He was speaking exclusively to IANS in an online interview.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: DMK government under you has completed 100 days in office. Do you feel that you have lived up to the expectations of people?
A: Generally, the first three months or the first 100 days of a government is called the honeymoon period but this was not the case when the DMK government came to power this time. It was a time of great crisis and the impact of the second wave of Covid-19 was severe. The financial situation was deplorable due to the administrative irregularities and corrupt attitude of the previous AIADMK government. As soon as we took responsibility, we began the process of fulfilling the promises made to the people. Promises were immediately fulfilled in the interest of the people, such as the Corona Relief Fund, free food kits, free travel for women on city buses, and a reduction of 3 rupees per liter in the price of petrol. Petrol price has been reduced by Rs 3 per liter in the Budget and we catered to all the immediate essential needs of the people. As I said in the Assembly, I will not deceive you by saying that we have fulfilled all our promises, but I can assure the people of Tamil Nadu that this government will work resolutely and diligently in gradually fulfilling all the promises made during the election.
Q: When you assumed office the Covid-19 pandemic was ravaging the state, with a daily fresh cases touching up to 30,000. How did you overcome the challenge?
A: The previous AIADMK government failed to fully control the first wave. It also did not care much about the impact of the second wave. When we assumed power after the successful electoral hustings, Covid-19 pandemic was spreading and had shot up to 30,000 fresh cases a day, and the situation was alarming. The death toll was also high. We thought of controlling the infection and reducing the number of deaths as the first duty and started the activities even before taking office. I had discussions with the officials even before the results were out as well as before the swearing-in as the whole of Tamil Nadu and the world was witness to it.
However, from the day the government was sworn in, we carried out the work in full measure and worked 24 X 7 without a break. The situation was pathetic, we could see ambulances lined up at the gates of hospitals as there was shortage of oxygen, and oxygen cylinders were not available. The patients and their families were in great tension and the situation was tough and we also had fear and apprehensions as to how to handle the situation. It was a tough time — we acted in the hope that it was not an insurmountable period and brought the situation under control in about a week. This was made possible by the concerted effort and the full cooperation of the officers and the medical department and the Cabinet of Ministers. All worked in unison and brought the situation under control and we had a clear plan from day one and we executed it properly. It was a team effort in the end.
Q: You have assumed office after a lull of ten years out of power. What lessons have you learnt as a political leader who was out of power and has come to power?
A: The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is a movement that works for the people whether in power or not. Despite not being in power for 10 years, the people realized that it was the strong foundation and development plans laid by the previous DMK government that had saved Tamil Nadu to this extent. The reign of Kalaignar Karunanidhi was people-centric and based on the lives of people from all walks of life and the overall development of Tamil Nadu. Our activities were aimed at regaining the confidence of the people. During the disaster, we supported the people through the ‘Come Together’ campaign. Despite the lack of administrative power, the DMK was the ruling party in the minds of the people. Now, it is the ruling party with power. We continue to work for the people with full dedication and commitment and taking proper feedback from the people of Tamil Nadu on the steps we are taking for the betterment of the people’s lives as well as the all-round development of the state of Tamil Nadu.
Q: The TN economy is in a massive crisis with debts of more than 5 lakh crore and you are planning for a trillion-dollar economy. Is it possible?
A: Every time the DMK government is in power, it is customary to reform the economic structure and increase financial resources. That situation did not exist when the AIADMK came to power for various reasons. The debt of Rs 5 lakh crore is the result of the worst administrative corruption in the last 10 years, especially in the last 7 years. Our government is working hard to improve the financial situation. There is hope that we will fix it in two to three years. Not only that, we are working towards the goal of trillion dollars as we move towards the path of economic growth. Any long journey starts from the first step and we are certain that our first has been taken with confidence and determination. When the DMK government continues for 10 years in office, Tamil Nadu will be on track to achieve its economic goal. People will definitely give us that opportunity.
Q: The DMK government has taken a hugely popular measure by reducing petrol prices by Rs 3 per litre amidst the financial woes. Your comments?
A: The state government has slashed the price of petrol by Rs 3 per liter in the midst of the severe financial crisis, realizing that the hike in petrol prices could affect people from all walks of life and the overall functioning of the state. Thus, Tamil Nadu is the only state in India to have reduced the price of a liter of petrol. The Finance Minister has said that petrol sales have increased after the prices were slashed. This price reduction is done because it will increase business, production, and working hours and bring about a positive change in the economic environment. More than all these, it will help the people a lot by saving 3 Rs per litre on petrol. It is big as far as the common man is concerned and we worked exactly for helping the common man by reducing the rate of petrol.
Q: DMK government is drawing flak over the issue of NEET with the opposition charging that you made unrealistic promises during elections. What’s your response to this?
A: The firm stand of the DMK as a political party is that the NEET should not be allowed to shatter the medical dreams of the students of Tamil Nadu. As you know, students in Tamil Nadu had committed suicide after not getting admission to medicine by not qualifying in NEET. In this context, it is to be noted that not only the DMK, former Chief Minister and AIADMK leader, late J. Jayalalitha also did not allow the NEET. After her passing away, the AIADMK Government deliberately became submissive and subservient to Delhi and allowed NEET by distorting the stand of the people of Tamil Nadu to safeguard their Government. The Bill passed jointly by all parties in the Assembly against NEET was ignored and rejected by the Union Government and it was not disclosed to the public and had kept it a secret. This is the main reason for all the problems. They have no moral right to criticize us. In order to remove NEET legally in Tamil Nadu, we, the government of the DMK, have constituted a committee headed by retired Judge A.K. Rajan and appropriate action will be taken after considering the recommendation of this committee. Our government will fulfill all the promises given by the party before the elections, and it will not be like the false promise to give free cell phones to the people by the previous AIADMK Government.
Q: The 2021 Assembly elections were the first one after the passing away of one of the towering leaders of Indian polity, M. Karunanidhi, your father. How was your feeling when you were fighting the elections without his presence?
A: I really miss Kalaignar Karunanidhi, my father. Every one of our party cadres who are my siblings misses him just as I miss him. It is indeed a pain that Kalaignar was not here to see this victory of the DMK with a thumping majority and the DMK coming to power for the 6th time in the state. Even if he is not alive and in person, the politics he has taught, the policy path he has led, his tireless work all guide me and the DMK. That is why we have won the 2019 Parliamentary elections and the 2021 Assembly elections. I presented that success at the memory of Kalaignar.When I took oath of office I had said, ‘Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin’ as it was Kalaignar, his programmes, and policies that were leading this state and the DMK of course.
Q: What are the major milestones to be achieved in the next five years?
A: Transparency in government, strong economic structure and integrated development at all levels. These are our major goals for a society based on the philosophy of social justice.
Q: The Government order issued by your government on the 10.5 per cent reservation for Vanniyars within the MBC is considered as a political move to woo the PMK. Any substance to this?
A: The DMK government was the first to define MBC and provide 20 per cent reservation. Each time Kalaignar Karunanidhi has come to power, he has implemented reservations considering the need of each community. The present government is acting as a continuation of that. This is one of the efforts to establish social justice legally. You do not have to look at it from a political perspective.
Q: When you included former health Minister and AIADMK leader Vijayabasker in the 13-member committee to counter Covid it was hailed as inclusive politics of you. However, after back-to-back raids on former AIADMK ministers, it is being addressed as a political vendetta. Your comments.
A: We do not hesitate to work together in the interest of the people and for their betterment. However, we do not agree with the idea of deceiving people and exploiting them. As a government, we will be tough on corruption charges and we will not hesitate to take to task anyone who has indulged in corrupt practices, and legal action would be taken against them. We had promised the people of Tamil Nadu that strict legal action would be taken against anyone who had indulged in corrupt practices. There is no politics in this, and our contention is that if there is no weight in the lap then there is no reason to worry, be it a former minister, a bureaucrat, or an ordinary person. This government will not have any mercy for anyone who is indulging in corrupt practices.