India Abroad May 2, 2014 A25 US NEWS
Former telecom minister Andimuthu Raja is not what you expect him to be, nor is his campaign what you expect it to be.
In the run-up to the 2011 assembly election, his party, the
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, was routed thanks to the 2G
spectrum scam, in which case he is accused number one.
Ahead of the elections there was a pall of gloom over the
DMK cadres and their supporters then as they read clearly
the writing on the wall.
Three years later, things seem to have changed and how.
The legal case is still underway, in court. Raja’s allotment of
the spectrum was castigated by the Supreme Court, which
termed it ‘unconstitutional and arbitrary’ and even cancelled it, calling for fresh auction of what it called an
‘important natural resource’.
Relations between the DMK and its ally, the Congress
party, too soured over the scandal as Raja was portrayed as
the face of corruption, before ending bitterly.
A Congressman from the neighboring Coimbatore constituency sums up the divorce with DMK thus: ‘Karai
vilagiyadhu (the stain has gone).’
One would think given all this, Raja would be on the back
foot in his election campaign, and that the people of the
constituency would be angry. The picture one finds in
Nilgiris, however, is markedly different.
Neither is Raja defensive about what the spectrum allotment on his watch, nor is the electorate asking any questions about the alleged scam.
The former minister’s account is that he did whatever he
did in order to expand the cell phone user base, and credits
his action for ‘putting the cell phone in the hands of poor
people like you.’ This, he tells his voters repeatedly, did not
go down well with the rich, whose prerogative the instrument had hitherto been, and so he was singled out.
Luckily for Raja, there are more important issues facing
the Tamil Nadu voter than a scam about something as
arcane as spectrum. Like the crippling power cut across the
state, which many say have brought industry to its knees,
apart from putting consumers at great difficulty.
This time round, Chief Minister Jayalalitha’s sins of
omission more than commission may well cost her dear,
and work to the DMK’s advantage in the state.
After a hectic road show in his constituency, a tired and
reluctant Raja took a brief while off to answer questions
posed by India Abroad.
What does the election result in Tamil Nadu, and India as
well, seem like to you?
I think as far as India is concerned, the federal polity, a
reflection of federal polity, will be there this time.
What we call the collection of regional parties will be
reflected in the central politics.
Without the regional parties, even the national parties
cannot form the government.
So this will be a real federal nature government that will
be formed in this election.
What do you think will be the role of the Congress party in
that federal government?
Maybe all secular forces, they have to support. They will
maintain secularism, so whoever is secular, they will have
to support the secular forces, no?
I am asking specifically about the Congress party’s role
because your party the DMK and the Congress party fell
out. Given that, what will be its role assuming that your
party will be a part of the federal government?
We have to wait for the numerical strength, no? So we
wanted to form a secular government, and our party’s stand
is that we want to form a secular government.
When we are uniting the secular forces, other issues may
go into the backseat. So let us wait for the numerical
strength of each and every party, then we have to decide.
But our only aim is a secular government.
I spent a day with you at your road show, saw the public’s
enthusiastic reaction to you. What is the message from the
public to you? What do you read from them?
During our regime, during the regime of Dr Kalaignar (M
Karunanidhi), when I came here and contested the election from here for the first time, I did a lot of things
through the government.
Whatever be the need of the people, I just made a
demand to my leader, and as chief minister he gave a very
special package to this constituency.
Moreover, when there was a very big natural calamity in
2009, there was no electricity, there was no road connectivity, there was no diesel, petrol, milk supply, water supply,
everything was tackled. We did all that within a month
with the support of the state government. So we gave a very
special package when the people of Nilgiris were facing a
Now people are recalling that memory, that Raja did
something for us, they have faith in me. That trust is always
on the people, we are working together, so we will come.
That is the message.
You must have addressed at least 50 meetings during your
road show today. You told them what you had done for
them, but what struck me was that throughout, you never
told them what you will do for them in the future.
I have never done so in my entire political career. I contested elections for the first time in 1996. I will not give any
tall promise. But I wanted to fulfill all the requirements of
the people on the basis of their need and necessity. Need
and necessity will have a role.
Giving tall or false promises will not be good for you and
the people also. It is my style in politics, don’t make any
promise, but prove when you are in power that you are giving more and more achievements to the people.
Do you think the 2G scam will have any impact on the elec-
tions this time, especially yours?
No. Before my arrest, after my arrest, I always maintained pre-emption. I pre-empted the entire situation so
far as 2G is concerned, that I did a revolution, it is not
unknown in history that a person who did a revolution is
always called a criminal.
So right from the beginning I maintained what happened.
Luckily this time the entire prosecution evidence is over.
Did you see my pamphlet?
In it I made it very clear, that this evidence came day by
day, day by day, where two things are very clear.
One, that I did not have any DW, disproportionate
wealth, as per the CBI’s contention before the court. And
there has been no loss to the exchequer, which has been
admitted by the joint secretary.
‘I did a revolution,
got branded as a criminal’
A Raja, the controversial former Indian telecom minister, in conversation
with Saisuresh Sivaswamy
A Raja being offered aarti at a halt during his campaign in his constituency April 18.
SAISURESH SIVAS WAM Y/REDIFF. COM