Dr Vasudevan Maitreyan, an oncologist, has been with the AIADMK since 2000. Before that he was in the BJP and held several important posts, including that of president of the party’s Tamil Nadu unit.
Currently a member of the Rajya Sabha, 63-year-old Maitreyan is the son of independence activist K R Vasudevan and Manga Vasudevan. Having done his schooling in Madras, he graduated in medicine from the Government Medical College, Nagpur, after which he pursued his M D in medical oncology from the Madras Medical College and did his D M in medical oncology from the Cancer Institute, Madras University.
In his early days, Maitreyan was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). In 1991, he became an executive member of the Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP. He served as general secretary of BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit from 1995 to 1997, vice president from 1997 to 1999 and president from 1999 to 2000. In 2000, he resigned from the BJP and joined the AIADMK.
In an interview to SRI KRISHNA, Maitreyan spoke on his party’s protests in the Lok Sabha and how they will continue their agitation till their demand for setting up the Cauvery Management Board as directed by the Supreme Court is fulfilled. Excerpts:
Q: There is a perception that the ongoing disruption in the Lok Sabha by your party is being done at the behest of the ruling BJP-led NDA government. What is your stand on this?
A: It is totally baseless to say that we are doing it for BJP. Cauvery is emotionally and sentimentally very close to our heart. For the last few decades the state has been fighting for it.
Because of the failure of the repeated talks between the two states (Tamil Nadu and Karnataka), my leader Puratchi Thalaivi Amma (late J Jayalalithaa) never believed in the talks. She always felt that she would get justice from the courts.
The Tribunal order was given in 2007 and the then UPA Government of which DMK was a part did not notify it in the gazette. She had to knock on the doors of the Supreme Court and, on the direction of the apex court in 2013, the order for setting up a Cauvery Management Tribunal was given.
Even after that in 2013-14, the UPA government did not do anything to form the Cauvery Management Board. From 2014-18, as a consequence of the gazette notification of the Tribunal order, it was mandatory that the Cauvery Management Board and the Cauvery Monitoring Committee be appointed.
The NDA government has also not done anything. So, under these circumstances, ultimately the Supreme Court on 16 February said that Cauvery does not belong to one state and gave a detailed order directing the Central Government to constitute the Board within six weeks.
That is why since then we have been pressing with the demand that the Centre should act immediately on this matter. From 16 February to 5 March nothing happened.
That is why when the second part of the Budget session of Parliament started, right from the word go, from the first day itself, we started demonstrating and protesting inside the House as well as outside the House in the Parliament complex in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue.
We have been pressing for the Central government to act immediately and constitute the Board. The no-confidence motion was nowhere in the picture at that time. So, to say that we are raising this issue to bail out the BJP will not curry favour with anybody who knows Tamil Nadu.
Q: With the Budget session coming to an end and the Supreme Court giving six weeks time to set up the Board, why do you think the government is delaying the setting up of the Board?
A: Both the Congress and BJP have stakes in Karnataka where Assembly elections are to be held. They both have hopes of coming to power in Karnataka whereas both the parties have no stakes in Tamil Nadu.
For the last 50 years Congress has not been a player in Tamil Nadu. BJP has not even blossomed in the state and they have no stakes in Tamil Nadu and have all the stakes in Karnataka. So, they will try to do anything which would be electorally favourable for them.
So be it Congress or BJP, they have always been partisan on this issue and their acts have always been against the interests of Tamil Nadu.
Q: When the Budget session of Parliament ends, how do you plan to take forward your demand for the setting up of the Cauvery Management Board?
A: The expression of our feelings and emotions is in many forms. Protests inside Parliament is one form of it and there are other avenues like for instance on 3 April throughout the state in all the 34 revenue districts our party held day-long fasts pressing the Central government to act immediately and constitute the Board.
Already Tamil Nadu has for the past week been virtually on the boil and people have resorted to protests and demonstrations such as road roko and rail roko and other modes of protest. So, if the Central government does not act in time, these demonstrations will spill over to the states.
Q: AIADMK leaders O Panneerselvam and E Palaniswamy are on fast demanding the setting up of the Cauvery Management Board as also your political rival DMK. How are you planning to take forward your protests?
A: We are all one as far as setting up of Cauvery Management Board is concerned. Cutting across party lines, entire Tamil Nadu is united and as far as our parties’ programmes are concerned, we may be having different modes of protest but ultimately the aim is the same. We have done the fast on 3 April and on 4 April DMK undertook fast in some places. So, these things will continue.
Q: How do you see the shape of politics in Tamil Nadu, especially in view of film stars Rajnikanth and Kamal Hasaan entering the fray?
A: You can claim electoral victory and become the ruling party and capture power. People like MGR and Puratchi Thalaivi Amma toiled for the people of Tamil Nadu for decades before they became chief ministers.
MGR had been in DMK since the early 1960s and he became Chief Minister in 1977 taking almost 17 years. Amma was in politics since 1980s and she was also a member of the Rajya Sabha.
She became Chief Minister in 1991 taking more than a decade. So, aspiring to become Chief Minister overnight is not possible. After MGR and Amma, the era of film stars dominating Tamil Nadu politics is over.
Q: Besides these film stars, even other artistes like T M Krishna, Carnatic musician, are attempting to enter politics. What is your view?
A: See, we are a democracy and everyone is free to have his own views and they can do so. Ultimately, it is the people who will decide who is fit enough to be the ruler.
Q: Recently, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had come to Delhi and met all leaders in what appears to be an exercise to drum up support for a non-Congress, non-BJP front of regional parties as part of cooperative federalism.
A: Those who know Amma, know she was the champion of federalism and throughout her life she fought for the rights of the people of Tamil Nadu.
So what Naidu is speaking today, my leader had been speaking of it for more than two decades. It is not something new as far as Tamil Nadu is concerned. Tamil Nadu has been ruled for over 50 years by a regional party and has been the champion of federalism.