No personal animosity between me and AIADMK leader Thambi Durai, says Union Minister Pon. Radhakrishnan
Senior BJP leader Pon. Radhakrishnan and AIADMK propaganda secretary M. Thambi Durai have been embroiled in a war of words over the allocation of Central funds to Tamil Nadu. Against this backdrop, the Union Minister of State for Finance and Shipping has insisted that the Central government has been releasing funds without prejudice. Excerpts from a telephonic interview:
What is the reason behind the strained relationship between you and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M. Thambi Durai? Both of you have been hitting out at each other…
There is no strain in our relationship on the personal front. He has made some claims on the allocation of funds and the implementation of welfare schemes under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, which are completely false. That has been the only issue between us.
The allocation of funds and disbursement of dues by the Centre have been major challenges for Tamil Nadu…
Earlier this year, there had been some issues regarding the crop insurance under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. I intervened to sort them out. Two months ago, the Centre facilitated the release of dues to the tune of ₹1,400 crore. On my request, the State government provided a list of dues two days ago, which we will look into.
The BJP government and the Finance Commission have been critical of populist schemes, more so in the case of Tamil Nadu. That being the case, how do you justify the ₹2,900-crore Statue of Unity project?
The contributions of the country’s first Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Patel, towards ensuring the unity of the nation have been enormous; but his contributions have been blacked out. Though he was from the Congress, he belonged to this great nation. There have been times when memorials were built by spending crores [of rupees]. Not that there was no financial crunch then.
Are the AIADMK government’s “cordial ties” with the Centre to ensure timely release of funds being taken advantage of?
Though we differ ideologically from the CPI (M) government in Kerala and the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal, we have been releasing funds for them as we do for all other States. It is for the AIADMK government to work efficiently and secure the funds due to Tamil Nadu. We have been releasing funds.
Four-and-a-half years after the BJP was elected, an international container terminal for Kanniyakumari district is still at the Detailed Project Report (DPR) stage. Is the project feasible at all?
Kanniyakumari district needs the project now more than it ever did. Hundred per cent, it is politics that has been delaying the project. Though the MLAs from the district personally support the project, they (publicly) oppose it because of politics. Some of them have been bought by private parties.
You had earlier claimed that terrorist elements were rearing their heads in Tamil Nadu. Is there any documentary evidence for this?
Based on the inputs I received, I said there were terrorist elements in the State. Senior police officers, the DGP and even the government accepted [my assertion] later. I made the same point during the jallikattu protests, and subsequently, those who took part in the agitation confirmed that such elements had infiltrated the protests.
The BJP appears to be passive about the impending byelections to 20 Assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu. What is your strategy?
We were part of the Assembly as early as in 1996, when C. Velayudham, of our party, won from Padmanabhapuram. The State BJP will decide whether or not to contest the bypolls. My focus is on the general election.
In 2014, the BJP was part of a large alliance. Will that be replicated in 2019?
Definitely, the BJP will be in a large alliance for the 2019 elections, and this alliance will also get the maximum number of Lok Sabha seats from the State.