Sattanathapuram Venkataraman Shekher is a popular playwright, producer and director in the Tamil film industry. He is also the sitting All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam member of the legislative assembly from Mylapore, Chennai.
Popularly known as S Ve Shekher, he shares his mobile number with all the residents of his constituency and is always accessible to them.
He recently created a flutter when he announced his decision to resign from the AIADMK. He also submitted a memorandum to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi on March 30, asking for seven per cent reservation for the Brahmin community.
He explains his reasons behind leaving the AIADMK to rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.
With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, you have announced your decision to quit the AIADMK. Why did you make this announcement now?
I didn't think of the time when I made the announcement. Local party members have been avoiding me for quite some time. I felt that enough is enough. There is no support from party supremo J Jayalalithaa also. The AIADMK is one party where if Jayalalithaa is affectionate towards you, the entire party cadre will support you. Otherwise, the party will throw you out.
You are liked by the people of your constituency because of your accessibility. Is your party chief not happy with your work?
Those things don't count at all. Nobody is bothered about your work. The only thing that works is loyalty. Yes, I accepted Jayalalitha as the chief of the party.
Did any particular incident trigger off your decision to quit the party?
No particular incident prompted my decision; there have been so many continuous incidents. When I joined the AIADMK, the party offered me the ticket to contest without me asking for it, and the party funded my election expenses. But I am basically a strong supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Why didn't you join the BJP then?
The ideology of both the parties is the same. I knew Jayalalitha and she also knew me but (BJP leaders) Atal Bihari Vajpayee or L K Advani didn't know me. I know only the BJP leaders from Tamil Nadu.
Though the AIADMK was a good party, I think I was not suitable for the party mentality. I thought they would utilise my popularity for the party's benefit. But the party wanted me to put on the mask of the party. It is not possible for me.
Did anyone ask you to put on the AIADMK mask?
I am loyal to the party and its supremo but beyond that, I don't know how to act. I am not a 100 per cent politician. I joined politics because I do a lot of social service and politics gives me more power to do that. I run a public charitable trust. Every year, I spend Rs 5-6 lakh on charity. Every month, I make the arrangements for the burial of 15-20 unclaimed bodies in hospitals. I am a regular blood donor. So, politics is not a profession for me.
I have never fallen at her feet and I know she doesn't expect me to do so. I requested her to be there for my daughter's wedding and also do the puja of my son's first film but she didn't come for either. These are personal things.
My brother's wife is an officer of the Indian Administrative Service, so she had invited the Chief Minister (M Karunanidhi) for her son's wedding. As the eldest in the family, I received the chief minister with respect. That was construed as a big mistake!
How did Jayalalithaa get to know about the CM attending the wedding?
There is a team to convey such news to her! In 2006, I was the vice-chairman of the International Film Festival here. For that festival, Dayanidhi Maran was invited. Because I shared the dais with Maran, she refused to come to my 5000th show, though I had publicised her likely presence. On the same day, I changed my show's number and celebrated it as my 5007th show!
These are the kind of punishments you get in this party. I cannot surrender myself to the party. I cannot say AIADMK is my life. I have so many other important things in my life. Meeting opposition party members cannot be construed as a crime.
Were you summoned?
No, I was not summoned. All they do is ignore you. I have been ignored completely from 2006.
Do you feel that politicians of Tamil Nadu lack maturity?
You cannot say they are immature. When you say they are not mature, it comes closer to maturity! You may belong to a different party and you may have a different opinion. But that does not mean that you look at the other person as your enemy. You see Advani and (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi standing side by side but you won't see such a thing in Tamil Nadu.
Are you planning to join the BJP now?
Which party would want S Ve Shekher? I don't want to repeat the mistake I made earlier, so I will take a decision after a lot of deliberation because I want to be part of that party forever. I don't want to be a local person; I want to go to Delhi.
Are you planning to resign from the AIADMK?
Definitely. Now, I will give a memorandum to the chief minister asking for seven per cent reservation for the Brahmin community (he submitted it on March 30). If the government appoints a committee, I will resign from the Mylapore constituency. In a by-election, it is always the ruling party that wins.
Why do you feel Brahmins need reservation in Tamil Nadu?
Why should they not get reservation? In Tamil Nadu, 69 per cent of the people get reservation and ninety five per cent of people enjoy some kind of reservation except the forward community. Where is social justice? There are over 40 lakh Brahmins in Tamil Nadu. It is the government's duty to give equal opportunities to everyone. Brahmins have been eliminated, insulted and sidelined in so many ways. You cannot punish people for what happened over 50-60 years ago.
Now that you are talking to the press about your decision to quit, what is the feedback that you are getting from your party chief?
You don't know the AIADMK. Once the party starts ignoring you, they don't bother about what you do.
Usually, people switch parties when they have some case regsistered against them. I have never been booked for anything -- not even for riding double on a bicycle. I am an MLA but I don't go in the opposite direction on a one-way street, I don't park in a no-parking zone. I am a 100 per cent law abiding citizen.
Once I decide to quit, I will send a letter to the party supremo and I will conduct a sms poll on the decision. I will hold a public meeting in my constituency as I feel I have a responsibility to the people who voted for me. At the public meeting, I will tell the people how I joined the party, why I am resigning and what I will do now.
Photograph: Sreeram Selvaraj