He is a family member, he says, and remembers the development work that he has brought to the constituency over the past 10 years. SJ Michael Collins caught up with him during the election campaign in Thennilaipatti near Velur. Excerpts from the interview:
Is COVID-19 a blessing or a curse for OIADMK in congregation votes?
First, let’s not mix politics with the pandemic. The state coped well with the situation and brought it under control with a well-equipped health infrastructure. This has been recognized across the country, in the state, and by the people in my home constituency. We take it as our credit. This is an additional advantage for us and we expect that this will also be reflected in the choice.
But the opposition claims you succumbed to corruption during the pandemic. Remarks?
Since we are in public life, we must face every allegation. But these allegations are baseless, as we have proven time and again. No FIR has yet been registered against me, as you can see from my declaration of election. The only FIR that was filed against me was 10 years ago, also an election-related one. These allegations do not bother me. My only intention is to work for the people who chose me and I will always be with them, both good times and bad.
Will the gutkha case have any impact on your career?
It was a faked case, initiated by the DMK to slander my reputation. It was the late J. Anbazhagan who filed three times the petition on the basis of which they were directed to file a case. Anyone can file a case, but only the truth will prevail.
As if you would believe the corruption allegations, your wealth has grown from Rs 8.98 billion to Rs 60.29 billion. Your comments?
I mentioned it as income from business operations – the family runs crushing plants, everyone knows that. At the same time, I also have liabilities.
You claim to be part of the electoral family, the DMK candidate should get emotional in the election campaign. Will such sentimental conversations help either of you win the election?
It is the people who can judge. Feelings can open up to a certain extent. But at the same time I should mention the various projects that I have brought to the Pudukkottai districts, particularly Viralimalai, over the past 10 years. We expanded the infrastructure, including drinking water supplies and roads, and improved the temples. Above all, the 100-year-old dream project of the Cauvery-Vaigai-Gundar river connection project. I am also one of the people in every crisis they face and, for example, help them return to normal after Cyclone Gaja. Opponents have campaigned that they would do better than Vijaya Baskar, which means that they recognize that I have done a lot for people. That alone is an honor for me and the party.
What about the polls that said there is an anti-government sentiment?
Most of the time, the polls go wrong as they are often flat. You should only come to a conclusion after visiting the villages to understand the soil reality. I firmly believe we will stay in power and I will certainly take a hat-trick win from Viralimalai.
But in the Lok Sabha polls, the Viralimalai segment alone received 60,000 votes for congressional candidate S. Jothimani. Isn’t it going to be a negative factor for you too?
You cannot compare the Lok Sabha elections to polls for the gathering as there was a different wave at that time. We achieved a 100 percent victory in the local polls that followed the Lok Sabha polls. That is the ground reality. Please wait until the results are announced and see for yourself.