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Tamil Nadu Assembly elections | AIADMK’s stand on CAA has exposed the party, says K. S. Alagiri

The TNCC president says the DMK-led alliance, with a growth-oriented manifesto, will secure a big victory this poll

The AIADMK’s stand on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in its manifesto has exposed the party, and all its promises are an attempt to fool voters of the State, said Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC) president K. S. Alagiri. In an interview on Monday, he insisted that the “ideological alliance” led by the DMK and its vote share would ensure a big victory for the front in the Assembly election. Edited excerpts:

Everyone in your party was insisting on getting a minimum of 30 seats from the DMK, but you finally settled at 25. What has been the reaction from party members?

From a practical point of view, they have accepted it. Though there is a feeling that this is less, in the existing political scenario, it has been accepted. All parties in the alliance came to a decision at the last minute. Everyone [alliance parties] had asked for more seats, but based on the ground situation, everyone accepted what was given.

Do you believe this is more of a political compulsion because the election was announced at such short notice?

None of the Opposition parties expected that the election would be held this soon. The ruling party knew about it. But the manner in which the constituencies have been allotted to us, we have not faced any political compulsion. Nor did they [DMK] force us to take any seats.

Some of your leaders are protesting the manner in which seats were given to candidates in the party. Will this not affect you?

All parties in Tamil Nadu face this type of situation. We had 2,500 applicants for 25 seats. Obviously, except among the 25 people named as candidates, there is bound to be some disappointment among others. We cannot say this disappointment is not natural. It is the job of the leadership to address this issue and we have addressed it. They have understood it.

There is also a charge that the Congress has given seats to relatives of leaders…

We have not given seats to heirs of Congress leaders in all constituencies. We have given it to some. Thangkabalu [former TNCC president] did not ask nomination for his son, I did not ask for ticket for any of my family members. Just like how leaders work, their family members also work for the party. Three [heirs] of the 25 seats is a small number [actually the party has fielded sons of five leaders and a relative of another]. It has not been given to the unworthy. Among those who are worthy of contesting, these people are ahead. That’s all.

How much of the internal quota system for seat allocation was followed this time?

For the first time, there was no quota system followed. Selection of candidates happened only by merit.

Why is there not even a single female candidate?

We are going to announce women candidates. We have four seats to announce.

So will you announce four women candidates?

We are giving…there is no difference of view point here. We will make an announcement soon. [But] it will not be in all four seats.

Your numbers [in the alliance] have been reducing over the past few elections. From 63 in 2011, you are now down to 25….

Maybe in the next election, we will fight in 200 seats. Anything is possible. In politics, you will see victories, defeats, highs and lows. Our aim now is to ensure the victory of the alliance. We are engaged in fieldwork now. We have a plan of action. In the next election, we will have a larger presence.

When talks were being held with the DMK, one of the key issues raised was your party’s “strike rate”. What is your expectation this time?

In the Lok Sabha election, we won eight of the nine seats allotted to us. What is the strike rate there? That strike rate is high. Why are you harping on the past? Look at what happened recently. As per my calculation, we will win a minimum of 90% of our seats, although looking at the current electoral scenario, we will win all our seats.

What do you believe is likely to go in your alliance’s favour?

The vote share in our alliance is bigger than the vote share of the AIADMK alliance. Even when we performed badly, our vote share was more than the vote share the AIADMK currently has. Plus, our alliance is an ideological one and has been strong for a very long time. But it is not the same in the AIADMK-BJP alliance. They have so many confusions. Our manifesto — the DMK’s manifesto — is growth oriented, will enhance agriculture, create jobs, help people on the margins of society, ensure social justice, bring in reforms in education…these were the expectations of the people and they have been addressed in the manifesto.

What do you make of the AIADMK’s manifesto, especially its stand on the CAA?

The CAA was enacted only because the AIADMK supported the Bill in the Parliament. They have made such a big mistake and are now saying they will take up the issue [seeking revocation]? Who are they trying to fool; the voters? Or are they talking against what factually happened? If you take this one point alone from the AIADMK’s manifesto, it shows that they are just making false promises on everything.

Among other things, the party is also promising government jobs for one person in every family….

There aren’t many jobs in the government. In the last five years, how many government jobs have they created? They could not do anything. These are all just electoral announcements. They are not practically possible. Many jobs have moved to the private sector. They cannot keep up the promise and this is just an attempt to fool voters.

The Congress has not asked for a share in power when your alliance has been in power. Does the Congress have a way forward in Tamil Nadu? The BJP appears to be steadily increasing its presence…

After the 2021 poll, we will decide on how to work on this. For now, it is not a policy decision to ask for a share in power in the [DMK] government that is going to be formed. That the BJP is growing in Tamil Nadu is a myth, or that the BJP is gaining support among the people of Tamil Nadu is an illusion created by the media. If you want to know our party’s strength, all you need to do is look at the massive crowds that our leader Rahul Gandhi got during his six days of tour recently. The crowds that we saw…no other leader has got such reception in recent times. None of these people were brought in with money. Have such crowds come for Prime Minister Narendra Modi or any other BJP leader? We do not have that kind of funds. The crowds came out of trust on Mr. Gandhi and the Congress.

Assuming you win in all seats allocated to you in districts where Rahul Gandhi toured, would it be his victory or the party’s?

It is both. Rahul Gandhi and the Congress are not separate.

Do you believe that Coimbatore South will be a tough contest for you?

Kamal Haasan [MNM] and Vanathi Srinivasan [BJP] might seem stronger on paper. But in the public forum, based on our alliance’s vote share, our candidate [Mayura Jayakumar] will only win. We don’t believe Mr. Haasan’s party will split our votes [in any constituency].

Do you expect minority votes to consolidate towards your alliance? Is there a possibility of MNM taking some of those votes?

People generally look at who can fulfil their demands. Mr. Haasan’s team is a small one. It cannot make a big impact in the election. The DMK’s alliance is a big one and has a larger vote share. People will not vote for a team that may not win. They may like a party or a leader, but when people know that the possibility of their victory is less, they will not vote for them. Our alliance is the strongest now and people will vote for us.

In the last election, every party spoke about total prohibition. None of the parties are talking about it this time. Why?

The political scenario has changed now. It is a policy decision. Though it has not been brought up during campaigning, the seeds of it remain and will be implemented soon enough.

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