| PICTURE SPEAK |
|"If a bigger responsibility (than chief minister) is offered to me, I will not shirk my duty." |
Q. The aiadmk has had a series of electoral defeats. Is the Jaya magic on the wane?
A You are quite mistaken. We have just had sweeping victories in the by-elections in Kanchipuram and Gummidipoondi and we also swept the local body elections.
Q. But the DMK-led alliance won all the 40 seats in the Lok Sabha polls.
A.There are ups and downs in every political career. The fact that we have been winning elections lately means the people are realising that I'm with them.
Q. So you are convinced you are on the comeback trail.
A.I don't think I ever went away. I have been very much here and the people of Tamil Nadu realise that the state can progress only if I'm there.
Q. You mean there is no alternative ...
A.There is no alternative.
Q. No alternative to Jayalalithaa.
A. That is precisely what I mean.
Q. Am I right in assuming that today's Jayalalithaa is better than the Jayalalithaa of the past?
A.You are a political analyst and a commentator and you are free to make any comment. We all change with time. Unless there is a change, there will not be any growth. So an individual must grow with time.
Q. Have you tried to correct the mistakes of the past?
A. Is there any human being who has never committed a mistake? The secret of success lies in realising one's mistake, understanding where one went wrong and taking steps to rectify that mistake. A successful leader is one who is flexible. You should not be rigid.
Q. Has being a woman chief minister made things different for you?
A. Life is tough at the top whether you are a man or a woman. I think I have demolished the myth that a woman leader can not do well in our society.
| PICTURE SPEAK |
|"People are queuing up to invest in my state, so why should I go abroad seeking funds like others?" |
Q. Then whey aren't there more Jayalalithaas in politics?
A. I can't answer that. At any point of time I did what I thought had to be done. When I felt something was going wrong and I had to stand up and fight for what I believed was right, I did that.
Q. Let us turn to the state. How much investment has come in the past one year?
A. In 2001, when I assumed office as chief minister, I inherited a fiscal mess. I had the unenviable task of having to turn this whole situation around. I think I have been successful. Today, Tamil Nadu is the top destination for investment in IT, ITEs, BPO and manufacturing. Chennai today is the new jewel of the East, India's eastern gateway to the world.
Q. Surely, all this is not sudden?
A. It is not sudden. It has happened over a period of four-and-a-half years. In 2001, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank were not ready to locate any project in the state. Foreign investors did not even want to visit Chennai. All this because of the previous DMK government. Today, Tamil Nadu is on a high-growth trajectory. India Today also rated Tamil Nadu as a top performing state in every indicator.
Q. But much of the investment in the IT sector in the past year has come because of a dynamic it minister, Dayanidhi Maran, of the DMK.
A.I cooperate with the Centre, not with any particular minister.
Q. You have dealt with various prime ministers during your different tenures. What has it been like?
A.With prime ministers I have generally felt exasperated because of the delay and vacillation. I am known for being bold and decisive and I always want quick action. Now there is a multi-party government at the Centre and one has to train oneself to deal with it. There are 12 ministers from Tamil Nadu at the Centre whose single-point agenda is to constantly denigrate my Government. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is an excellent person and a great economist. I respect him a lot but I feel his hands are tied when it comes to reining in his ministers, especially those from Tamil Nadu.
Q. Are the ministers from Tamil Nadu impeding the state's growth?
A.Definitely. They are setting a bad precedent.
Q.Who would you rate as the best prime minister?
A. It is your job to rate them.
Q. Whom did you find easiest to communicate with?
A. Dr Singh.
Q.Tamil Nadu has assembly polls next year. What is your take on this?
A. I don't go by political arithmetic. I go by the pulse of the people. And I know the people are with me because they know I am with them. My alliance is with the six crore people of my state.
Q. Will the AIADMK face the next elections alone?
A. Why don't you wait and see. We have an open mind on alliances and my experience tells me that alliances materialise usually at the last minute.
Q. The popular perception is that next Lok Sabha elections may be held in 2006.
A. Everyone is saying so.
Q. Do you believe that?
A. I don't know what to believe.
Q. Do you think the UPA Government is stable?
A.The way it functions does not inspire much confidence.
Q.You demanded Finance Minister P. Chidambaram's resignation when his wife took up a case on behalf of a department under his ministry. But you are strangely silent on the Volcker Report.
A. People of this country cannot understand why K. Natwar Singh was divested of his portfolio but not dropped from the Cabinet.
Q. Lalu Prasad Yadav is also facing charges.
A. All tainted ministers should go.
Q. Do you have any political ambitions left?
A.I have no political ambition at all. I never dreamt that one day I would become the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, but it happened. Similarly, if a bigger responsibility is offered to me I will not shirk my duty.
Q. Don't you think you should be in national politics?
A. There is some unfinished agenda in my state. Once that is achieved then maybe I can take up other things.
Q. Why is there so much animosity among politicians in the south, particularly in Tamil Nadu?
A.I don't agree with your thesis at all. It exists everywhere and not just in India. Look at Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the UK, the US...
Q. How are you different from other politicians?
A. I am quite different. My main political adversary has brought politics to a low depth which is not to be found anywhere else in the world. There should be some decency in politics. But the way I was hounded between 1996 and 2001 by the former DMK regime is something wild, despicable and condemnable. I have never indulged in that kind of politics.
| PICTURE SPEAK |
|"We have an open mind on alliances but my experience is they don't materialise till the last minute." |
Q. After 25 years in politics, how will you rate yourself on a scale of 10?
A. Splendid, 10 upon 10.
Q. A number of chief ministers travel abroad to bring in funds for their states. You don't do that. Why?
A. Sitting here in Chennai, I have managed to get Ford, Hyundai, Saint Gobain, Nokia, Flextronic, BMW, World Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and ABN Amro. They are coming here on their own.
Q. So you believe people should come to you.
A. It is not what I believe but that's what is happening. I have paid attention to the fundamentals here. I have concentrated on building world-class infrastructure in a planned and comprehensive manner for the growth of Chennai. Today that hard work is paying off. People are queuing up to invest in Tamil Nadu so why should I go abroad unnecessarily?
Q. You were in films earlier. Do you get time to watch movies now?
A. After coming to politics, I hardly find the time to see films. Even one film in a year is too much.
Q. How do you relax?
A. There can be no relaxation for a political leader. I don't have any personal life.
Q. You were born in Karnataka but chose to practise your politics in Tamil Nadu.
A. I was born in a Tamil family in Karnataka. I am not a Kannadiga. I am a Tamilian.
Q. You still stay alone?
A. No, I am not alone. I am surrounded by crores of people. My party cadre themselves number more than a crore.