The Congress party in the state received an endeavor within the arm when DMK president M.K. stalin planned All India Congress Committee president Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate for the forthcoming Lok Sabha election. Welcoming the DMK’s stand, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee spokesperson Peter Alphonse said his party was particular about changing the election into a fight between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the people. In an interview on Sunday, he explained his party’s position and preparation for the polls.
How do you view Mr. Stalin’s nomination of Rahul Gandhi as a Prime Ministerial candidate, against the backdrop of a possible rejection of this proposal by leaders of certain regional parties?
Mr. Stalin has taken a very measured and timely stand. But the Congress has not made any such proposal since it does not want to reduce the Lok Sabha poll into a personal fight between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr. Rahul Gandhi, because the BJP is keen on [making use of] such an opportunity. The Congress wants to convert the election into a fight between Mr. Modi and the people of the country. Secular parties, including those that have differences with the Congress, have realised that the party is the prime force in the fight against the BJP. Former Prime Minister Deve Gowda, NCP leader Sharad Pawar, the RJD leadership and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu have a problem with supporting Mr. Gandhi’s candidature. In States like West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, more than two secular parties have to resolve the issue amongst themselves. But Mr. Stalin has no such compulsion in Tamil Nadu because the secular parties, including the Left, have accepted the DMK’s leadership in the State and that of the Congress at the national level.
Would the Congress be able to capitalise on the prevailing situation?
The advantage for the Congress is the prevailing anti-Modi mood in Tamil Nadu. He is seen as anti-Tamil and anti-Tamil Nadu. The organisational strength of the DMK, the goodwill enjoyed by the Congress among the people and the cohesiveness of the secular alliance will prove to be a great advantage. The high command has appointed two senior leaders — Sanjay Dutt for South Tamil Nadu and Sirivella Prasad for North Tamil Nadu — to closely monitor the situation. They are travelling across Tamil Nadu and overseeing the constitution of booth committees. This process will be completed by the end of January. We are also engaging people from all sections of society in the preparation of our manifesto. Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram chaired one such meeting in Chennai and is visiting Tiruchi. National spokesperson Rajeev Gowda will participate in meetings in Coimbatore and Erode. We will use these inputs.
But the BJP is the only party that has gained ground nationally despite your efforts to check its growth. Has appeasement of minorities, as alleged by some sections, worked in its favour?
The BJP’s only political plank is religion. Leaders like Mr. Modi use it subtly, while many others, including RSS leaders, use it brazenly. On the issue of women’s entry into Sabarimala, the BJP refuses to follow the order of the Supreme Court, but preaches about the values of the Constitution and the order of the Supreme Court when it comes to triple talaq. Why should it target Muslim men alone when women of all religions need protection from men who desert them? The BJP’s objective is only to divide the country.
Would your alliance in Tamil Nadu include the TMC, led by G.K. Vasan?
It is for the high command to decide. Any decision will be taken jointly by the Congress and the DMK.