Out of power for ten years, DMK President and Leader of Opposition MK Stalin hit the campaign trail last year, visiting district after district much before elections were announced to the state of Tamil Nadu. In an interview with TNM, Stalin hits out at the AIADMK-BJP alliance calling the 2021 poll battle as a fight against corruption and fascist forces. He also speaks to TNM about AMMK and MNM’s role in the elections, BJP’s Hindutva in Tamil Nadu, misogynist and sexist comments made during campaigning and more. The campaign is at the last leg. What do you think the DMK’s chances are? When I started the campaign, I said that the DMK would win 200 seats but after visiting the constituencies across the state, the anger of the people against the current regime and their enthusiasm for change made me believe that AIADMK will lose all seats and the DMK will sweep the elections. People have understood that even if AIADMK gets a single-seat this time, their MLA will function as a BJP MLA. People of Tamil Nadu are fed up with the AIADMK-BJP government and have decided that DMK+ must win all 234 constituencies. This is the first time recently that TN has so many fronts and DMK is their main enemy, how do you see this multi-cornered fight? It is not a multi-cornered fight - the election this time is a clear fight between two sides. A fight between those who want to rule Tamil Nadu controlled by Delhi and those who want to govern and fight for the state’s rights. Of course, there are many co-conspirators who want you to believe it is multi-cornered but they underestimate the people of Tamil Nadu who are clever and will not waste their votes. But will the anti-incumbency vote not get divided with AMMK and MNM also in the fray? AIADMK has misruled the state for 10 years and has put the people of Tamil Nadu through a lot of suffering. People are fed up with this government and they will ensure that every single vote comes to the DMK. Therefore, it is AIADMK that will be the one to suffer due to heavy anti-incumbency. In many campaigns you have said that people are not just voting for the candidate, they are voting for you too. Do you see this election as a test of your leadership? Before it is a test for me, it is a test for Tamil Nadu to fight both the fascist forces of the Central government run by the BJP and the corrupt and indifferent AIADMK government here. Alongside my fellow citizens of Tamil Nadu, I am one of the soldiers participating in this battle against both these forces. Many in the opposition have been telling voters not to vote for the DMK, pointing at land grabbing charges and other criminal cases against ministers during the 2006-2011 regime. When the entire opposition is united to attack the DMK – it clearly shows that we are sweeping! You can imagine what would have been the state of affairs over the past 10 years that they don’t have enough achievements to showcase in front of the public and with an imminent defeat in front of them they are resorting to spread fake propaganda against us. My stand on law and order has been extremely clear – I have taken a pledge in Trichy as well – that I will deal with crimes and violations of laws with an iron fist. Is a weak AIADMK good for Tamil Nadu? In states like Telangana, we see the BJP moving into second place. BJP wants to break AIADMK and establish their foot in this land but they both underestimate and do not understand the basic fabric of the Tamil society. Whenever such forces have tried to intrude into Tamil Nadu, people have always come together to fight and preserve their identity. This is another such battle. Hence, people are very clear on what Tamil Nadu truly needs currently - which is a strong and stable government led by DMK which can stand against the BJP and not allow it into the state. How will the DMK deal with BJP’s Hindutva politics, they are here for the long game People of Tamil Nadu believe in social justice of the true kind. Anyone who tries to sow the seeds of inequality, religious divisions, or any kind of oppression in the state would be strongly opposed. The people of Tamil Nadu will show the BJP that they will not bow or bend to any power outside the state. AIADMK’s servility towards the BJP won’t change that. If you become the Chief Minister, how will you balance working with the Central govt and at the same time dealing with the BJP in the state? Uravukku kai koduppom, urimaikku kural koduppom (We will extend a hand of friendship but we will continue to raise our voice for our rights) At no point will we let them trample on our self-respect and rights. AIADMK even after being in alliance with BJP and bowing down to them every time, failed to get an exception for NEET exams, failed to secure the GST amount, and showed support for CAA. You recently issued a statement asking leaders to maintain dignity while speaking. This misogyny and sexism is a long time problem. How will you deal with it? As I shared in my statement - of the three- duty, dignity and restraint emphasized by Arignar Anna, dignity is very important. Everyone should refrain from uttering words which hurt others and are offensive to any religion, community or gender. I stand by this and will personally do everything that is possible to ensure the safety, security and empowerment of all sisters, mothers and daughters of Tamil Nadu. If you become the Chief Minister, what would your first decisions or priorities be? I have already announced my first and foremost priority - which will be to resolve the personal grievances of people that I have received over the last couple of months in a ‘mission mode’. My second priority will be to put the finances of the state in order which the AIADMK government has left in utter shambles – I will ensure that a thorough review is done and the findings and plans to restore it are shared with the people of Tamil Nadu. My third priority will be to establish the Department of Programme Implementation so that schemes can be rolled out in a way that every single beneficiary gets what they rightfully deserve.