Tamil Nadu Assembly Elections | Party can’t be held responsible for unaccounted money of individuals, says MNM’s Santhosh Babu

MNM is only party that talks about integrity & honesty, says the party’s Velachery candidate

Former IAS officer Santhosh Babu, who quit as a bureaucrat to join Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), insists that the party is transparent in its dealings. In a telephonic interview, the Velachery candidate, who is down with COVID-19, says the party cannot be held responsible for the unaccounted money of individual members. Edited excerpts:

Why did you join the MNM when there were other alternatives?

The MNM was the only party and Kamal Haasan the only person that openly talked about honesty and integrity in politics. The other parties are submerged in corruption.

The MNM was a party with fresh thoughts and was looking for good people to join it. I know that Mr. Haasan does what he says; he is not two-faced like [other] politicians.

You say honesty attracted you to the party. But last week, the Income Tax Department seized a huge amount of unaccounted cash from the premises of your party’s treasurer. How do you see this?

Mr. Haasan has answered this. But within the party, no one takes cash at any level — it is either a demand draft or a cheque, and the accounts are maintained. The party cannot be held responsible for the unaccounted cash of individuals.

Have you done a SWOT analysis on the key problems in your constituency?

On the day my constituency was changed from Villivakkam to Velachery, we had three meetings. Every ward was discussed in detail. We put the problems on one side and the solutions on the other and based on that, we formulated our manifesto. Unfortunately, after I contracted COVID-19, I could not visit these places. Drainage is a big issue here, and we have to sit down together and solve this problem. Flooding is another concern.

In our manifesto, we have said that we will find a permanent solution to flooding. A majority of the roads are bad; footpaths have been encroached upon; and electricity keeps fluctuating. These are all concerns as there are several IT firms here, and they impact the common man, too.

Post-hospitalisation, you tweeted that you will go ahead with a digital campaign. Do you think this will work?

Digital campaigning can’t dominate physical campaigning. People smile and wave when they see you; you can see their reaction. In digital campaigning, connectivity is sometimes an issue – I am sitting with two power banks. Since the doctors have advised rest, I am lying down. I do campaign work for up to nine hours a day [online]. But my volunteers are on the field, distributing pamphlets and helping me reach voters through videos.

I hope some day the government will stop physical campaigns and embrace digital campaigns. In doing so, one could save a lot of money.

How do you view your party’s prospects?

We are a three-year-old party and people know us well. We have an outstanding manifesto that was prepared by our own teams — not outsourced to strategists — after consultations with experts and the public.

Our manifesto has a transformational agenda and we have doable ideas. Tamil Nadu is not for sale, and people should not sell their votes for cash.

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