Stalin also dismisses claim that DMK wants Panneerselvam to continue as the Chief Minister; says the State won’t benefit from the leadership of both
With all eyes on the impasse over formation of a new government in Tamil Nadu, a question that is being repeatedly asked is whether the DMK, with 89 MLAs in its kitty, would back Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam during a floor test in the Assembly. Rejecting the possibility outright, Leader of the Opposition and DMK working president M.K. Stalin,in an interview with B. Kolappan, says people would not benefit from the leadership of either OPS or Ms. Sasikala. He also hits out at Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao for the delay in inviting either party to prove its majority in the House. Excerpts:
How do you view the current political situation? You have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to get the President’s assent for the legislation against NEET on the ground that the State administration has come to a standstill…
The government machinery is crippled due to the absence of a stable government. The continuation of an interim government and caretaker Chief Minister has caused enormous hardship to people. Lakhs of students are going through agonising moments over the uncertainty on NEET. The Union Budget has already been presented, but Tamil Nadu is facing a crisis and the situation has prevented discussion and preparation of the State Budget. That is why I have written to the PM, requesting him to get the President’s nod for the legislation to dispense with NEET. I hope the Prime Minister will get it done.
You met the Governor and urged him to take quick steps to conduct a floor test in the Assembly. He is yet to announce his decision. What is your view?
The Constitution has vested the Governor with special powers on matters including swearing-in of the Chief Minister. Former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi has said (in an interview to The Hindu) that the “Governor has no time-limit prescribed to him, but he has an unprescribed credibility-limit that must be honoured.” I agree with him in the interests of the people of Tamil Nadu. That was why I met the Governor and urged him to take steps to install a stable government as per the guidelines of the Supreme Court and the provisions of the Constitution. The silence of the Governor further deepens the Constitutional vacuum in the State. It is a matter of concern that it will create an unstable situation and will pave the way for undemocratic activities like horse trading, and such developments would bring disrepute to Tamil Nadu.
There is an allegation that the BJP is pulling strings behind the scenes to gain political mileage from the uncertainty. What is your opinion?
The Governor’s delay in taking a decision offers new twist and meaning to every single political development. The actions of the Governor have not weakened such views. He showed great hurry in accepting Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam’s resignation. But the same urgency is not being shown in creating alternative arrangements. His hesitation in conducting the floor test to install a stable government goes to show that he seems to be waiting for something to make alternative arrangements. The DMK condemns the Governor’s attitude as it affects the stability of the State.
There is a view that the DMK is supporting Mr. Panneerselvam for the post of Chief Minister. Is this true? How would you describe his short tenure as Chief Minister and his performance in the State Assembly?
I have already clarified the issue in a previous interview. We are not supporting Mr. Panneerselvam, an individual member of the AIADMK. We supported Mr. Panneerselvam, the Chief Minister of the State in the Assembly, expecting constructive announcements for the welfare of the people of Tamil Nadu. The DMK supported him for the conduct of jallikattu, the ancient sport of Tamils, and for abolition of NEET to protect the future of students. We have even supported late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s resolution seeking to name Madras High Court as Tamil Nadu High Court in the Assembly. The DMK never supported an individual; but supported the welfare of Tamil Nadu. The State witnessed pro-jallikattu protests when Mr. Panneerselvam was the Chief Minister. Instead of handling the protest in a fair manner, the police resorted to lathicharge on students and youth. I also want to remind you that it was Mr. Panneerselvam who prevented us from raising the issue of the mystery over the death of Jayalalithaa in the Assembly.
How do you compare Mr. Panneerselvam with Ms. Sasikala?
He is the Chief Minister and she is the general secretary of AIADMK. Corruption is rampant and administration has plunged into disarray in the AIADMK government. Industry and economy have witnessed negative growth. Law and order has become a laughing stock and even a kindergarten student is ruthlessly murdered. Youth are facing unemployment and 225 farmers have committed suicide. Farmers have conducted “rat-eating” protest in front of the Secretariat. The financial situation is very bad and the State is reeling under a debt burden of over ₹5 lakh-crore. As far as we are concerned, the people of Tamil Nadu will get no benefit from the ruling AIADMK, its Chief Minister Panneerselvam and its general secretary V.K. Sasikala. Tamil Nadu will not see any growth.
How do you react to the accusation of Ms. Sasikala that DMK is thwarting her attempt to form the government? A few leaders from the Panneerselvam camp have also blamed the DMK.
I strongly condemn the weak and baseless argument of both the camps. I do not like to waste my time by responding to the allegation levelled with a view to turning the course of Tamil Nadu politics and to make themselves relevant. It is better to stay away from those who are totally frustrated.
There is an allegation that the AIADMK MLAs are lodged in a resort in Koovathur against their will. But Ms. Sasikala has denied it…
It is an onslaught on the freedom of an individual and an encroachment of an individual’s privacy. But the Governor has to protect the sanctity of the anti-defection law, and I stressed this point during my meeting with him. As a petition is pending before the court, I would not like to say anything more on the issue.
There is talk that Article 356 or 355 might be invoked to dismiss the government or keep the House in suspended animation. What is the stand of the DMK?
The DMK government was dismissed twice by invoking Article 356 without any reason, and on both the occasions, the AIADMK was responsible for the development. This does not mean that the DMK will support the invocation of Article 356 now.
The term “otherwise” in Article 356 was used against the DMK government for the first time and it was a dark chapter in the history of the Constitution. Evenwhen our leader Kalaignar (Karunanidhi) was arrested against all humanitarian values by the AIADMK government, the DMK did not demand the use of Article 356. Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu has said that the BJP is not in alliance with the DMK or the AIADMK to fish in murky waters now. I would like to tell him that even if we were in an alliance with the BJP, we will not demand invocation of Article 356. The DMK has never deviated from its principles.