DMK MLA Anbil Mahesh, who is seeking a reelection from Thiruverumbur, speaks to TNM on his vision for his constituency, BJP’s politics and allegations of favouritism.

DMK MLA Anbil Mahesh on stage
news 2021 Tamil Nadu Assembly Election Thursday, March 18, 2021 - 16:35

TNM caught up with DMK Thiruverumbur MLA Anbil Mahesh as he seeks a second term this Assembly election. A close friend of DMK Youth Wing leader Udhayanidhi Stalin and a self-confessed mentee of party President MK Stalin, Anbil Mahesh’s rise in the party unit has led to several questions of favouritism. The grandson of DMK stalwart Anbil Dharmalingam and son of party leader Anbil Poyyamuzhi, his lineage has not gone unnoticed, in an election where the Dravidian party has been accused of being a flagbearer of nepotism. But his growth from Deputy Youth secretary to replacing DMK stalwart KN Nehru as Trichy District Secretary, says Mahesh is testament to his work in the party.

In a free-flowing chat, he touches upon his vision for the constituency, BJP's politics, the DMK's decision to use MNM's promise in their manifesto and his thoughts on lyricist Vairamuthu who has been accused of sexual harassment by 17 women.

You have grown up with Udhayanidhi as a friend and MK Stalin as a mentor, has this given you an edge over other leaders in the DMK's Trichy unit?

No, I don't see it that way. MK Stalin is definitely my mentor but anybody who works for the party is rewarded irrespective of whether they are someone's son or relative. They don't see things this way in the party. Our growth depends on our work. 

What is your vision for Thiruverumbur if you win for the second time in this constituency?

Thiruverumbur already has industries like BHEL. I want to bring more such industries and give jobs to Tamil youth. As an MLA, you may ask how I will do this. But I want to use my network and my friends circle which is abroad to bring in more investments and industries. I couldn't do this when I was in the opposition.

This time, when we win, I will seek help from these circles. Our leader (MK Stalin) will of course have a global investors meet where we will pitch this constituency as an ideal place for investments. BHEL used to get far more work orders under the previous regime. Now there is Rs 4000 crore pending in payment from the Union government to the BHEL.

How will you ensure that more youngsters from TN are assured employment?

In our manifesto we have already said that 75% of youngsters from Tamil Nadu will be chosen for any local jobs. There are over 90 lakh people who are educated and registered in our employment exchange. We should accommodate these people. The Ponmalai railways for example is hiring 500 north Indians when there are 600 vacancies. Apprecenties from Tamil Nadu are left hanging while people who don't know the language or culture are given the job.

While this works for state government jobs, Central government jobs require you to pass aptitude tests. How can you promise the same for that?

We need to wait and see how the modalities work out for this. The party will decide.

MNM chief Kamal Haasan says you copied his scheme to give homemakers a monthly allowance. Do you agree?

Kamal Haasan wanted to give a salary to homemakers. But when we discussed this, women asked why they should be paid money to take care of their husband and children. So we have labelled it as 'urumai thogai' (rightful amount). This indicates self-respect.

In what way is a salary not respectful?

In the sense that you can't accept a salary for taking care of your family. When it is 'Urumai thogai', they can demand it rightfully. When it comes to copying this from MNM, you need to think about which party can actually come to power and implement such a scheme. Our party is 72 years old and has been in power five times, so people believe we can do this.

If you win, which ministerial post do you think would be most suitable on the basis of your strengths?

This is something only our party chief can decide based on our work for the party. He can tell what will fit Mahesh. I have however in the past worked in an IT company and I have headed a steel company as executive director. I have this experience, but it is the leader's choice finally.

You have said your aim is to make Stalin sit on the Chief Minister's seat. Next, will you want your friend Udhayanidhi to take over?

Whoever it is, we ask people for the final vote. We are not like Edappadi Palaniswami who takes MLAs to Koovathur and demands posts. If people choose us, then fine.

The next leader for the party will be decided based on what the party and cadres want. As a friend I would like him to lead the party and even become the Prime Minister.

DMK detractors and even leaders within the party have alleged that you have risen through ranks because of your closeness to Udhayanidhi Stalin. Can you really disagree?

Whether it is Udhayanidhi, Anbil Mahesh or any other party cadre, your dedication is what matters. They are constantly observing everyone to judge what post we will be suitable for. We have never gone up to him personally and asked for any favours.

But can you completely discount your lineage in connection to your rise in the party?

Yes, my father and grandfather were involved in the party. But I didn't plan a political entry. I was working abroad in an IT company. After the sudden demise of my father, I started taking part in protests and rallies. This was not to get a post, but just my love for the party. Soon this interest became very important to me. But it has been a gradual growth. My father died in 1999 but I got my first party posting only in 2015 (as deputy youth secretary), 16 years later. 

Our leader identified my interest and eventually gave me a post. He didn't immediately favour me because of my family.

The Delta region has been subject to several environmental concerns. What will your actions be to address these issues?

The DMK has carried out several protests in connection to environmental concerns. We stand with our leader and there is no change in our stand.

You talk about bringing several industries. How will you balance this with environmental concerns?

We will do this without any compromise in environmental standards. We will only introduce industries that are not polluting and follow guidelines. We will not allow for another Sterlite to happen.

What are your thoughts on the Vanniyar internal reservation ?

It is a sensitive issue. I don't want to comment. Our leader will take care of it after the elections.

How do you see the Thevar community voting this election? Will Sasikala's exit help DMK?

It is not necessary for us to depend on her. However, I am not sure the votes of this community will play out.

Atleast 17 relatives of DMK leaders have been given MLA tickets. A clear sign of dynastic politics?

Like our leader MK Stalin said, whoever is being fielded, it is finally the people who will decide who wins. Udhay has also said that if people think of this as dynastic politics, it is up to them to take a call on it and vote. We can't pressurise or fool people into voting for us.

BJP keeps saying DMK is anti-Hindu. What are your thoughts?

I will never accept this. They are attempting to polarise the state.

But with DMK leaders carrying Vels and posing with Ganesha idols, is it already a partial victory for the BJP?

Udhay has tweeted that this was done for his daughter (immersing Ganesha idol). Similarly, when Stalin was handed over a Vel at a political rally, he couldn't refuse it. When he was elected party chief he specifically said we must not hurt the sentiments of any religion.

But the same DMK leaders have refused other Hindu symbols (ash, vermilion) in the past.

Do only others have the license to lift the Vel? If we lift, it won't move?

What will you do to address misogyny and sexism in the state?

We will protect women. We are always there to protect them no matter the situation. 

Then why don't you condemn Vairamuthu?

I don't know if this is true or wrong. Everyone gives a press meet. But I don't know how much truth there is to this. 

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