The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jaya allergic to ‘PM’ Sonia

Chennai, June 13: Jayalalithaa today only smiled when asked if she secretly nursed hopes of stepping into Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s shoes, but was categorical she wouldn’t tolerate Sonia Gandhi in them.

Claiming the ADMK would be pitch forked onto the national centre stage as the general election would return a hung verdict, the Tamil Nadu chief minister foresaw a “major role” for her party next year.

“It is quite possible that a situation may arise after the next parliamentary election when no combination of political parties can form the government without the support of the ADMK,” she said at a news conference at the state secretariat.

But her old antipathy to a foreigner as Prime Minister burst to the fore when asked if she would tie up with the Congress. “We are not interested in any alliance with the Congress if they project Ms Sonia Gandhi as the Prime Minister. The ADMK cannot accept a foreigner as the Prime Minister,” she said.

Fielding a wide range of questions, Jayalalithaa said her party workers’ plea that she move to the national stage reflected their “immense affection” for her, but as of now the question was too hypothetical.

“At the moment, I am concentrating all my energies in taking Tamil Nadu to the number one position in the country.”

She justified a larger role for the ADMK at the Centre, saying unless a “powerful voice” was heard in the corridors of power in Delhi, Tamil Nadu would not get justice even on issues like the Cauvery river water sharing.

Maintaining her party was “equidistant” from the Congress and the BJP, Jayalalithaa said discussions about a “third front” for the general election would begin only after the Assembly poll in five states in November. “There is every possibility of a third front emerging,” she said.

The ADMK chief said there was little political significance to her meeting with finance minister Jaswant Singh in Delhi on Wednesday. She had merely asked for higher cash assistance and allocation of rice to run the food-for-work programme for 80 lakh landless agriculture labourers in Tamil Nadu.

Denying that she met Jaswant in connection with various cases, the chief minister said there was no case or any economic offence “pending with the finance ministry regarding me”.

“During all the 30 minutes of our meeting, only state matters were discussed and I urged Mr. Singh to put in a word to the deputy Prime Minister Mr L.K. Advani for more cash and rice assistance to tackle the drought.”

She rebuffed the Pope’s criticism against the laws banning forcible religious conversions, saying he had “no right to talk about a legislation by democratically elected governments”. There was “ample religious freedom in India”, she asserted.

She said a state government team had recently gone to Washington to tap the World Bank for development aid. A $450-million loan had been approved for a road sector project which would be sanctioned by October, she said.

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