INTERVIEW| 2011 jail taught me who are my friends & women in politics are dispensable: Kanimozhi

As the sun sets over the palm-fringed coastline, the New Indian team heads to the Thoothukudi constituency of Tamil Nadu to capture the essence of the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections 2024. Kanimozhi, an MP from Thoothukkudi, is known for her atheistic views, which she openly discusses. Her political career, while notable for its longevity, has not been without controversy.

| Updated: 19 April, 2024 12:54 pm IST

Toothukudi: As the sun sets over the palm-fringed coastline, the New Indian team heads to the Thoothukudi constituency of Tamil Nadu to capture the essence of the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections 2024. Kanimozhi, an MP from Thoothukkudi, is known for her atheistic views, which she openly discusses. Her political career, while notable for its longevity, has not been without controversy.

She went to Tihar Jail in the 2G scam, and she tells TNI Executive Editor Rohan Dua what jail taught her in her political career.

Rohan Dua: What’s your speculation on how many seats the DMK is going to win?

Kanimozhi: I think we will get 39 plus one “Bondi” cherry. And the fight is not between the BJP and the DMK. It is between the AIADMK and the DMK.

Rohan Dua: But let me also tell you, ma’am, I am being devil’s advocate. In many states, sometimes there are surprises like our Mamani Party went on to have a huge victory, a stellar victory in Punjab. 90-plus seats when nobody expected when chips were down. Now BJP got four seats in the 2021 assembly elections. Don’t you think there is some… They got four seats in 2021.

Kanimozhi: That is thanks to the alliance they had with the AIADMK. If they had gone alone, I don’t think they would have even won one seat.

Rohan Dua: So considering that their leaders are of course making towering claims that BJP’s connect with the masses due to the Prime Minister or its firebrand leaders like Anna Malay. Do you think that he is a potent threat?

Kanimozhi: Let’s see. We will count the votes finally and let us see what comes out of it.

Rohan Dua: As far as your campaign is concerned, what are the issues that you are talking about addressing the concerns? Because many say it is a cakewalk for you. And if it is a cakewalk, then what are the issues to be addressed? If you think that it is going to be such a smooth ride for you here in Tuticorin, then what are the promises that you are making?

Kanimozhi: Nothing can be a smooth ride. As you said, anything can throw surprises. I talk to them and I ask them about what the village needs, what the town needs. And we interact. And then of course we talk about price rise. We talk about why the BJP has to go. And we need a government that believes in democracy.

Rohan Dua: And now that the campaign has reached the last stage, you seem to be very well stable in the campaign. Not many giant leaders have come in this part of the country from the BJP or Congress. I saw of course your picture with Mr. Gandhi last week or two days ago in the next-door constituency.

Kanimozhi: My leader, Stalin also was here. The chief minister of Tamil Nadu also came here.

Rohan Dua: Decades on, when you look back at your career as a Rajya Sabha MP and then of course a leader here elected as a Lok Sabha MP. What do you think that your father left an indelible impression that you missed after his demise which you want to carry or does in your memory that make you a proud daughter of his?

Kanimozhi: He was a very caring father. A very loving father. And I miss him as a father and as a friend.

Rohan Dua: What excites me in this campaign is that the Lok Sabha constituency happens to be a port city. Over the past few years and a few months, I have seen that there has always been a controversy surrounding Sterlite. Do you think that the controversy remains the talk of this election?

Kanimozhi: Yes, because the court has said that Sterlite has to be closed. So I don’t think the controversy is over. Even the company is now challenging the decision by the government saying that they should be allowed. Not the government. This was taken by the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court has said that Sterlite has to be closed.

Rohan Dua: When I look back at your decade-and-a-half-old career, you fought back considering the court only acquitted you and Mr. Raja. The acquittal came at a time when this government was in power. But do you nurse some injuries? Do you nurse those dreadful thoughts on what went inside in 2011? Of course, it’s a difficult time for anyone to go to jail and then come back off, come out of it, and then stage a fightback which you did. So what were the learnings during that period that made you a solid politician and also a solid mother to a young son and also a solid daughter to the then father who was the chief minister?

Kanimozhi: It teaches you who your friends are and who to trust. And it teaches you that politics is a game of power. And women are always dispensable in politics.

Rohan Dua: Are we ever going to see you becoming a deputy chief minister in the future as well of Tamil Nadu?

Kanimozhi: This is an election for the parliament. And let us think about this election now. Why are we talking about what will happen, you know, months later? No, I am thinking about the elections now. And I am thinking, I hope that the India alliance wins and we do very well.

Rohan Dua: Your supporters have told me that they want to see you… No, the DMK supporters want to see DMK back in… But you are already in power in Tamil Nadu.

Kanimozhi: Again, after two and a half years, we will have elections again. And we want our chief minister back as a chief minister. He is doing very well.

Rohan Dua: In this state where all the seats are going to vote, like the other states where there are multiple phases, do you think that the North versus South battle is going to become more polarized in terms of BJP versus?

Rohan Dua: In this state where all the seats are going to vote, like the other states where there are multiple phases, do you think that the North versus South battle is going to become more polarized in terms of BJP versus Congress and the allied partners? Because many surveys still believe that if Congress and its allies like DMK or other political parties may be dominating in South, it will still be the BJP which is dominating in the heartland, which is the home world.

Kanimozhi: I think it should be like the BJP and the other party. And that has been very good for the nation.

Rohan Dua: One important question which I of course want to understand from you honestly. When you take the attack on Adani and Ambani on Modi, many people say that Adani of course invested in your state to 48,000 crore. So then what makes DMK or Congress go against the Adani group when they are also investing in the Congress-ruled or DMK-ruled states as well?

Kanimozhi: See, we are not against anybody investing or we are not against all corporate houses. But then when something is done out of the way, that is when we have to oppose things. That is when the Congress is opposing it. Where nobody is against any corporate house which is investing and which is going to give employment. It’s only when questions rise that it goes out of the way.

Rohan Dua: Recently of course ma’am there was a controversy that PM said this one island was given to Sri Lanka. Do you subscribe to this notion that there was any such thought that such a thing happened?

Kanimozhi: This was done in the 70s. And the Prime Minister has been the Prime Minister for nearly 10 years. 10 years. He has never raised it. And so many times the MPs from Tamil Nadu have raised this issue. And we have spoken about, we have raised questions about Kachati. But nobody from the BJP, none of the ministers have even responded. Gave clarity on this. No, they have never even responded to it. And today just because the heat has turned on them about the Indo-China border, they want to divert it.

Rohan Dua: On the counter, when your party made this statement, they also countered this. They said, you know, Mr. Karunanidhi also once made a famous statement on Setu Samudram Canal that who is Ram, who is that engineering marvel.

Kanimozhi: So DMK should first ask their one. Then party president that why he made these statements rather than asking us why we did not. Yeah, we can ask him. But I think the BJP should go and ask him.

READ MORE : I went against family wishes to join BJP in 1996: Tamilisai Soundrajan

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