Parties promise quota but do not think of uplifting families: MNM candidate Padma Priya

Padma Priya says if the ‘caste column’ is removed, it will soon lead to eradication of caste.
Makkal Needhi Maiam Maduravoyal candidate Padma Priya with MNM founder Kamal Haasan
Makkal Needhi Maiam Maduravoyal candidate Padma Priya with MNM founder Kamal Haasan
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From voicing her strong views on environmental issues to battling targeted attacks on social media, 25-year-old Padma Priya (aka) Chennai Thamizhachi as her YouTube name goes, has carved a space for herself. Months after she faced severe online attacks for making a video criticising the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Padma Priya is the Makkal Needhi Maiam candidate of Maduravoyal constituency.

A teacher, former-scientist, dancer, singer and an orator, Padma Priya is set to face Minister For Rural Industries P Benjamin from AIADMK and Karapakkam Ganapathi of DMK in her debut fight.

Speaking to TNM in the middle of her busy campaign schedule, the young politician spoke about her political ideology, MNM, dealing with hatred and her future plans. 

You spoke to Kamal Haasan in an episode on a Bigg Boss Tamil 4 show on environmental issues. But when did you decide to join MNM?

Immediately after the EIA issue, I received a call from Kamal Haasan sir appreciating me for making the EIA video and he called me for a meeting. During the meeting, he appreciated me for being environmentally conscious and told me to join politics for bringing a change. Later, I was in touch with the MNM team for producing some documentaries and they gave me the opportunity to be part of their environmental wing. 

When you made the EIA video, you were afraid that your family would be targeted. Does getting an assembly ticket now make you feel more empowered?

During the EIA issue, I did not receive any threat in-person; everything was on social media. A BJP member issued threats and my family members were not afraid but they were concerned. They told me to be safe. However, now everyone is telling me that I already faced the EIA issue and I should be able to deal with politics too.

There is a strong criticism from certain sections of people for your candidature since they are saying that you started as Chennai Thamizhachi on Youtube by posting beauty videos. So what's your take on that? 

Kamal sir is multi-talented and I drew inspiration from him. Likewise, I am multi-talented. I am a researcher, teacher and I even like acting. I have done several videos on TikTok ranging from scientific facts, beauty tips, myth busters, fun facts and environmental issues. But people decided to trend beauty tips.

You have received a lot of hatred online. So how did you deal with it and how has this changed you as a person?

The hatred against me was coming from a particular group of people. The public never showed hatred towards me. So the hatred is coming from IT wings and it’s planned. 

What's politics for you and are you planning to stay in politics even if it's or win or loss?

I will never leave politics since it’s addictive. The expression on people’s faces when they see an honest politician is priceless. They are treating me like their own daughter. Some people want to earn money through politics but I want to serve people.

You're fielded against AIADMK Minister Benjamin so how do you see him as a leader? 

I want to become a leader since I have never seen my leader. The people of his constituency have never seen Minister Benjamin expect while he asks for votes.  I do not know what he has done for the people which means he has not done anything much.

In a recent event (India Today Conclave), Kamal Haasan said that there is no caste column in MNM petitions filed by candidates. How do you see this ‘blinding of caste’? Do you think this is the right way to rid the society of caste bias? 

Earlier, it was like women were slaves to the men. However now it has changed and women are everywhere working equally with men. Now, do you think if we bring back the concept, women will become slaves for men? They won't because they have started proving themselves. 

Similarly, reservation was implemented since certain caste groups were not given equal access to everything. Now we can see that everyone in the society is equal, well-educated and well-settled. So do you think we need this caste system now? Those with talent can study and come up. There are many ‘upper class’ people who have all talent but are unable to come for jobs. There are many without anything (talent) and have come up only because of reservation. If you ask people if they need caste-based reservation, most of them will say no to this. That (reservation) was something which was brought long back and why was it not considered and changed yet?

Our only motto is to treat everyone equally.

Till now even in the constituency Kamal Haasan is going to contest there are reports of ‘irukuvalai method’ (Two-tumbler system). Then how do you say that there is no caste? 

I am not saying there is no caste. I am saying that caste is still there within people and if you want to change it then you should remove the caste column. Reminding people about caste is what is registering people about caste. A section of people will not get their reservation but it's only for 5-10 years, after that if there is nothing as caste then everyone can live in an equal society. 

Do you think it’s possible to abolish the caste system within 5-10 years? How do you think you can form a vision for Tamil Nadu without identifying the oppressed?

If there is a right leadership then it’s possible. We did not see the candidate’s caste while giving seats. So, if people have talent then they will get the opportunity. If a student gets 90 marks and you’ll not give a seat because he belongs to the dominant class then will that not be inequality?  

But if the student is competing with someone from the oppressed caste who does not even have the privilege to eat three meals a day?

That’s why we have a scheme through which we are planning to uplift people from below the poverty line. Every party is saying that if they come to power they will give reservation. Our vision is not to just uplift that particular student but the whole family.

In a previous interview with TNM, you had expressed your respect and liking for PM Modi. Has your reading on the Prime Minister and BJP changed now ?

I like Kamal sir and I will not stop liking him if he does something wrong. But I make sure I question the wrong. In the same way, I like Modi ji and I will point out the mistakes if he does any wrong. 

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