Chennai: A medical college with a hospital attached to it is the highest priority for A. Raja, the DMK candidate for the Nilgiris parliament seat. “There is a very urgent need for healthcare in the hills to improve. The current system in the public as well as private sector is not adequate for the people of Nilgiris,” says Raja in an interview to DC in the course of his campaign for the April 18 elections.
Convinced that there is an anti-Modi and anti-Edapaddi wave in Tamil Nadu, Raja asserts that a change is in the wind. “There is a noticeable wave against the rulers, both in Delhi and in the State capital. People are even more angry with the Central government, basically against Narendra Modi. People know that the alliance between BJP and AIADMK is only for corruption. This is an unholy alliance and I am convinced that the DMK will bring in an administration that will serve the people in Tamil Nadu and Congress alliance at the Centre.”
The former MP from Nilgiris (2009-2014) makes a point about his constituency receiving the highest rainfall in the State annually and yet suffers a water crisis every summer. “There is very good rainfall in the Nilgiris but no system to store the water and use it in summer. I will make water management schemes a high priority when I return as MP,” says the legislator who had also headed the Union Environment ministry.
“Healthcare and water management, most of all proper water regulation, are two major issues for which I have plans to help. Besides, farmers want seeds and other help in growing vegetables in the hills and I promise that proper schemes will be floated to take care of this,” says Mr Raja. “Kalaignar was our great leader and the legacy he has left behind is being taken care of by my leader Stalin. We are travelling on the path of public service that Kalaignar trod.”
Asked to speak about the difficult times he faced when charged in the 2G spectrum case, Mr Raja was forthcoming and said the court ruling in his favour was always on the cards. “It was expected. I offered myself for interrogation for 14 days. From day one I was convinced that there was no case at all. In fact, the policies were such that the people were very happy with the communications and the cost at which they were subscribing to mobile phone connections. The telecom system was empowered by policies during my tenure and people were benefiting from it,” says the former Union Telecommunications minister who was charged with being the initiator of a big corporate scandal.
Blaming the former CAG Vinod Rai squarely for seeing a scandal where there was none, Mr Raja says that he always knew he would prove himself innocent. “I spent 15 months in jail but always confident of my innocence being proved in court. I have written in detail in my book about the political conspiracy hatched and how Vinod Rai was the gun. The court has upheld my innocence and people know the truth now. People are aware it was a foisted case and the court acquittal only confirmed it further.”
Asked about Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami now threatening to order investigation into the death of Sadiq Batcha in the light of the complaints made by his widow, Raja said the CM was “trying to slap a false case against my leader Stalin as a tit-for-tat because Stalin raised the Kodanad murders. Edappadi’s ploy will not work”.
“The Central agencies are under the BJP and the Edappadi Government has the Crime Branch CID under it; so why can’t they go ahead and investigate Sadiq Batcha’s death? I was in Tihar jail when he died. Are they going to say I came out of jail, killed him and went back into the jail?”
“That is all well behind us now. We are only looking forward to serving the people,” says the four-time MP who was first elected as MP from the Perambalur constituency in 1996 and reelected twice more from there (1999 and 2004) before switching to Nilgiris in 2009....