TN BJP is gaining strength: Pon Radhakrishnan

By Jawahar T R Published on Jul 30, 2018 04:44 PM IST

Chennai: Union Minister of State for Finance and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan is known for his straight-forward talk. In a free-wheeling, lengthy chat with News Today, Maalaisudar and Talk Media Group Editor T R Jawahar, the senior BJP leader spoke on a wide range of issues from party to politics to government to criticism. Excerpts.

Q: You have been talking about extremists making Tamilnadu as their hub. Can you elaborate?

A: All the protests that are happening in the State are not led by the common public. Some people from outside have been prompting and supporting them to do such things. Right from Jallikattu to Sterlite agitations this has been the case. There were some hidden motives behind all these. This is the first chapter of terrorism.

Q: Have you spoken about this to the Ministry of Home Affairs?

A: This is an important issue. State and Central Intelligence sleuths are carrying out investigations. I have also put in a word about this.

Q: There has been a hate campaign against BJP nationwide. This is more widespread in Tamilnadu, do you feel it?

A: Those who believe in one nation and its development will support the BJP. We have to agree that BJP vote bank is not so good in the State. However, support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Tamilnadu is very high.

Particularly, there are more women supporters for him. Vote bank is less, but the trust in our leader is sky high. If this trust is converted into votes, it will lead to the downfall of several parties in the State.

Instead of trying to defeat the BJP in a democratic way, opponents are trying to tarnish the image of its leader, and many people are involved in it. I will not consider this act against BJP but something that is against the entire nation.

Q: Despite Modi having so much support in the State, why is BJP still struggling?

A: Once again I agree that there is a gap. We are trying to reduce it, and we have improved as well. As far as I am concerned, Modi's influence is BJP's influence.

Q: During the Last Lok Sabha elections, former Chief Minister J Jayalaithaa used the phrase "Modi ah...Lady ah...?" There was no response from BJP to this.

A: During that time, we took that as a challenge and approached the elections. Though DMDK was the primary Opposition party at that time, DMK which has a vote bank of more than 23 per cent could not even secure a single seat. But we were able to achieve that feat. Jayalalithaa did not dream of becoming the Prime Minister by opposing Modi.

Q: What are the benefits that the State has reaped in Modi's governance?

A: Tamilnadu has benefited in several ways after Modi became the Prime Minister. Particularly, many developments have happened in the department that I hold. Several four lane and six lane roads have been laid. Things have been speeded up in the last 1.5 years.

Now the cooperation from the State government is also more. Deepening of Thoothukudi Port is happening at a cost of Rs 3,000 crore. Maduravoyal bypass project, which was dropped for the past 10 years, has got a new life now. Works have begun at a cost of Rs 28,000 crore to make Kanyakumari the fourth biggest harbour. Kancheepuram has been announced as a Heritage city, and similar efforts are also being taken for Kumbakonam. To address fishermen's problems, we have alloted Rs 1,500 crore for deep sea fishing. Similarly, 700 boats have been upgraded for deep-sea fishing, and Rs 300 crore has been allocated in the first phase.

Tamilnadu is the only state to receive Rs 2,700 crore for crop insurance. Pradhan Mandhri Awas Yojana and Mudhra schemes have been beneficial to several people.

Q: Can it be said that after Jayalalithaa's demise there has been more support from the Tamilnadu government?

A: Even when Jayalalithaa was alive, there was cooperation. She was always supportive. It was during her period that the Maduravoyal project and several harbour projects were approved. Though we shared a good rapport, if the Central government wants to implement a scheme, the State government should approve it. When Jayalalithaa was there, this was delayed a bit. Now things are little fast.

Q: Is there any change in the State after BJP president Amit Shah's visit?

A: Humongous change. Wherever our party president goes, there has always been a positive change. Wherever he goes, Lotus always blooms. That credit goes to him.

Q: There is an image of the BJP being projected as a north Indian party...

A: I am in this party for the past 40 years. They have never ignored me as a south Indian. They have embraced and supported me as their own. The party has been very supportive of any leader who has gone from here. It is wrong to say that this is a north Indian party. We serve the entire country as one. There is less confusion in BJP compared to the 'Kazhagams' in the State.

Q: Will you contest from Kanyakumari again?

A: Yes, always Kanyakumari.

Q: Though the constituency has more Christian votes, how is that you receive so much support form there?

A: This is all vague imaginations. There is no necessity that people from one religion should vote for people from the same religion. I do not agree with this. People from Kanyakumari are well-educated, and they know to differentiate good and bad. All these false news are being spread with political motives.

They use religion as a weapon to defeat BJP, but people will not accept it. They have visibly seen the difference in the past four years. No one has brought so many changes in the past 70 years. If anyone can point out that Pon Radhakrishnan has worked in favour of one religion or caste, I am ready to leave politics.

JI FACTOR

 Asked about BJP and RSS members in Tamilnadu addressing others as "Ji," Pon Radhakrishnan said, "there is no necessity to do so. Just like how we greet people with 'Vaanga Ponga' in Tamil, 'Ji' is a word showing respect in Hindi. But we do not have to follow it. There are many beautiful words in our language."