New Delhi: Anyone willing to work for the people of Tamil Nadu and prioritising the state is welcome, whether it is a Sasikala ji or Annamalai, said Tamil Nadu Bharatiya Janata Party chief K. Annamalai in an interview with ThePrint.
The former aide of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha, V.K. Sasikala recently staked claim to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) as she unveiled a plaque naming herself as general secretary of the party in October 2021. She was expelled from the party in August 2017 and announced she was taking a break from politics in March 2021, before the assembly elections.
“Anyone who wants to serve the state, if their intention is right, is valuable and welcome. Any personality who thinks the state’s priorities are important and wants to serve the public will always be valuable,” said the IPS officer turned BJP leader, about Sasikala’s probable return to politics.
However, Annamalai clearly stated that the BJP would not broker any peace between Sasikala and top AIADMK leaders (former chief minister and currently leader of Opposition in the assembly) Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) and (former CM, deputy CM and now deputy leader of Opposition) O. Panneerselvam (OPS). The BJP would not interfere in the internal politics of the AIADMK, as it was not their policy to meddle in other parties’ internal issues, he said.
The chief of the Tamil Nadu BJP also rubbished talks of a crack in the party’s alliance with the AIADMK, saying that the alliance was going strong, as it was a “natural alliance”.
With the BJP in Tamil Nadu improving on its score of ‘0’ MLAs in the state legislature after two decades (it won four seats in the 2021 assembly polls), Annamalai said there was a strategic plan in place to expand the party’s presence in the coming years so that it could form the government in the next state election.
‘Dravidian, Tamil-centric party’
“We plan on going to the grassroots to spread the message of the BJP. We do not want to be an urban-centric party, sitting in AC rooms. We are a national party but function like a regional party. The BJP is often called an upper caste, anti-Tamil party. But we need to get the narrative right and reach out to the grassroots. We are the only party capable of promoting a person who has real talent. Will the DMK ever make someone from a backward caste a CM?”, he said.
The state BJP president also asserted that the BJP identifies as a “Dravidian, Tamil-centric party”.
“In the next Tamil Nadu elections in 2026, the Bharatiya Janata Party will get 150 seats (out of 234 seats). And not one seat less,” said Annamalai. He added that the party was now becoming everyone’s choice in the state, as the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) had failed to live up to its poll promises.
‘$1 trillion SGDP goal not possible’
Hitting out at the current state government of the DMK, Annamalai said that it had done close to nothing in the past seven months and was struggling to meet its poll promises. He also said that there was no cohesion between CM M.K. Stalin and his cabinet ministers.
Explaining this, he spoke about how senior DMK leader and MP T.R. Baalu had said that petrol and diesel should come under the Goods and Services Tax (GST), while state finance minister P. Thiagarajan was of the opinion that it should not.
“The problem is that one cannot see the vision of the chief minister and he is being let down by his cabinet ministers, whether it is law and order, school education or finance,” explained the Tamil Nadu BJP chief.
Turning to policies of the present state government, he explained that the goal of reaching a $1 trillion SGDP (State Gross Domestic Product) was neither actionable nor implementable, as the government faced too much debt.
Referring to the Economic Advisory Council that the state government formed in June 2021 with illustrious members like former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan and Nobel laureate Esther Duflo, Annamalai said that it only looked good on paper and that one did not know anything about its functioning.
“They have not submitted any vision document or report, it is only on paper, for now,” he said.
Explaining his earlier comment on how the DMK lacked “intellectual ability” to come up with new schemes, Annamalai said that there were only short-term policies being floated, such as freebies to get votes.
“One needs to ideate a scheme, nurture it and then implement it. Freebies is a recent phenomenon, it is not what Tamil Nadu’s economy is based on. There is no vision to improve manufacturing, we are lacking in the service sector as well, and there is no vision to rectify that. Earlier, Tamil Nadu used to be even ahead of the Centre in policies”, he said.
‘DMK weaponises Tamil for votes’
Regarding the DMK government’s opposition to the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 announced by the NDA government at the Centre, Annamalai lashed out at the DMK for “weaponising” Tamil for votes.
“Anyone who opposes NEP in Tamil Nadu, has not read it. NEP is a proper policy where linguistic minorities are accommodated. There is no word in the NEP that is against Tamil Nadu. For the sake of politics, they (DMK) keep raising this issue.”
He, however, credited the DMK government for implementing Central government schemes in letter and spirit and said that it had put good officers in high positions. However, he added, the issue was political interference at the grassroots level governance.
“The complaint with the DMK is that they never let the police function independently,” Annamalai complained.
‘Temples should not be under state control’
Welcoming the move to relinquish state control of temples in Uttarakhand and the announcement of a similar move in Karnataka, Annamalai said that no government had the business to manage a person’s religion or get into the business of running a temple, mosque or church. He said the same should take place in Tamil Nadu as well.
Annamalai rubbished claims that the new anti-conversion law in Karnataka (Karnataka Right to Freedom of Religion Bill 2021) brought in by the ruling BJP government was communal in nature and would be used to target communities.
“The anti-conversion law cannot catch any Tom, Dick or Harry. There is a process in place and the law is process oriented. Why should anyone be scared?” he asked.
However, he added that Tamil Nadu did not require such a law for the time being.
“The recent FCRA regulations and monitoring of money has ensured there are no forced religious conversions in Tamil Nadu,” he explained.
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)