INTERVIEW| Don’t preach me…Karti Chidambaram loses temper on Chinese bribery row, Rameswaram visit

Karti’s behaviour was marked by display of arrogance as he made provocative gestures and discriminatory oratory to patronise Dua, while making uncharitable remarks on the media organisation.

| Updated: 20 April, 2024 7:13 pm IST
Rohan Dua in covnversation with Sivaganga MP Karti Chidambaram

SIVAGANGA: On the first day of Lok Sabha polls, Sivaganga MP Karti Chidambaram, who is the son of former Union Minister P Chidambaram and is contesting from Sivangana in Tamil Nadu lost his temper during an interview with Executive Editor Rohan Dua over questions ranging from bribery allegations, money laundering and visits to shrines like Rameswaram in the neighbouring district on Pamban Island.

Karti’s behaviour was marked by display of arrogance as he made provocative gestures and discriminatory oratory to patronise Dua, while making uncharitable remarks on the media organisation.

His remarks also carried a distintictive derogatory phrase, aimed at dividing North and South India based on religious practices: “We don’t follow North India Sanskritized vegetarian Hinduism as he chose to take a swipe at culture among north Indian Hindus. Excerpts:

Rohan Dua: How confident do you feel today, given that this is the crucial time when the BJP seems to have made some inroads in Tamil Nadu? What do you make of AIADMK, BJP and CPI in your constituency as well as the DMK which is partnership with yku?

Karti Chidambaram (arrogantly, carrying a smug expression): I think your fascination or obsession with the BJP clearly shows your lack of understanding of Tamil Nadu politics. The BJP is a political party that doesn’t get Tamil Nadu and is not connected to Tamil Nadu. The principal political party here is DMK. The second political party in Tamil Nadu is ADMK.

Rohan Dua: But, in 2021, when the BJP made an entry with four seats, it definitely made some sort of entry.

Karti: They won in an alliance; they have had MLAs even before, so nothing is new. It wasnt the first time that they entering the assembly; they have entered even before. Why are you making a brouhaha about it? I tell you something about the disproportionate interest that this so-called National Media has in a formation that is not going to make any gains in this election and finish third. This is not a running race where we have a gold medal, a silver medal, and a bronze medal. Only the winner will go to Parliament, and the rest two will go home. There is no second prize or third prize here in politics.

Rohan Dua: In places like Madurai, Chennai, and the south of Tamil Nadu, Tamilisai Sundara Rajan and Professor R Srinivasan have significant support in their favour. In your constituency, of course, people want to see you as their MP, but those significant pocket boroughs seem to have support for the BJP

Karti: You are talking about urban areas; you would have perhaps talked to upper-middle-class people who might have some sentiment, but that does not represent the sentiment of Tamil Nadu. In Tamil Nadu, the major political formations are the DMK and the AIADMK. You are not taking the AIADMK seriously because they don’t speak English, give interviews to English media, and are not on social media. So, you’re not noticing them, but they’re really and truly a grass-roots party.

 

Rohan Dua: In the last four or five years, there have been accusations that have been levelled at you, whether it is the INX case or the case involving the Chinese visa. Just last month, ED alleged that you facilitated the visa for Chinese and then took Rs 50 lakh as a bribe for that through your father, who was home minister at that time.

Karti: If you want to listen to the fables of the ED, then you can listen to the fables of anybody else. Have you read these so-called charges? Have you read the details of the charges?

Rohan Dua: Yes, I have! I was posted in Bathinda at that time in Talwandi Sabo, which is the power plant they say that the Chinese people were working in.

Karti: Who are these Chinese people working there? Do you have the names of these Chinese people?

Rohan Dua: There are about 250-plus of them, which ED has mentioned in the chargesheet.

Karti: I should read it like a Chinese menu when I read it, so these are absurd things. Just because my father is the most vehement and articulate critic of the BJP, they come up with some sort of ridiculous thing.

Rohan Dua: Why would they cook up or fabricate things?

Karti: This is the nature of this agency and this government.

Rohan Dua: ED also operated under your father and you. (His father P Chidambaram was a Union finance minister & home minister)

Karti: But they were more professional than now. They are doing completely politically hatched jobs.

Rohan Dua: Then they have also, of course, frozen the assets, including your KK property as well.

Karti: They have not frozen anything.

Rohan Dua: They have attached the four properties; these are all preliminary attachments by the ED itself.

Karti: Nothing has been confirmed by the High Court.

Rohan Dua: Coming back to Tamil Nadu, DMK and AIADMK are the principal opposition and principal political parties, but if I move to Karnataka and Kerala, Mr. Gandhi today is contesting from Wayanad. There was a time when he and his mother were one of the most popular leaders in Rae-Bareli and Amethi. It’s a matter of fact that both of them are not contesting anymore and making conquests here in South India.

Karti: The Prime Minister has given up his seat in Gujarat and is contesting in Uttar Pradesh. He gave up Gujarat. Why did he not go back to his home state? Why is he contesting from UP? If the Prime Minister can move from the West to the North, then why can’t Rahul Gandhi move from the North to the South? What’s the logic?

Rohan Dua: He (Rahul Gandhi) did that after losing the seat, and the PM did not lose.

Karti: The point is not about the prime minister not losing his seat; the point is that people are free to contest where they want. Rahul Gandhi has the freedom to contest from wherever he wants and wherever the party wants him to contest.

Rohan Dua: If Congress goes on to form the government at the Center, are we going to look at Karti Chidambaram also becoming a minister?

Karti: I hope so! If there is a government and they give me an opportunity to serve in the cabinet, I’ll be willing to serve, and I look forward to serving in the cabinet.

Rohan Dua: So then the charges against Congress always stand true that they always promote nepotism.

Karti: Then, who is Piyush Goyal? Who is Dharmendra Pradhan? Their party was not relevant in India, and what about the Munde, the Mahajan? What about Vasundhra Raje’s son? Why are you faulting me or my father if we both are healthy?

Rohan Dua: They are not ministers or holding posts together as father & son. You and your father as a Rajya Sabha MP are.

Rohan Dua: Is it a conscious call to not step out of this constituency?

Karti: I am a candidate here, so I have to focus on my seat; that’s my job. That’s all I always do, and I do what I have to do to win this seat.

Rohan Dua: The last controversy that really caught the Delhi media’s attention was the remarks by Udayanidhi Stalin for ‘Sanatan Dharma’. I saw some of your tweets where you supported Uday Nidhi when he attacked Hinduism.

Karti: I am a practising Hindu, and we have more temples here than anywhere else in India. We break more coconuts than anyone else in India. We don’t need to be preached the practice of faith. We don’t follow the “North Indian Sanskritised upper caste vegetarian Hindu.”

 

Rohan Dua: BJP always asks that Chidambarams must tell them how many times have they visited Rameshwaram Temple or even fought for the building of the roads near the temple where Lord Ram walked, since your government only questioned the fact in an affidavit in the Supreme Court in 2007 that Lord Ram did not exist.

Karti (Conveniently skips the question): We are not the government in Tamil Nadu; we are very pious, God-fearing, religious, perhaps even Orthodox people. What the BJP is propagating is a very North Indian sanskritised upper caste vegetarian Hinduism, which doesn’t sit well with us here and does not gel well with our practice and faith on a daily basis.

Rohan Dua: If you and Congress go on to form the government, then are we going to see focus on Ram-Setu and on Rameshwaram temple and direct trains from Rameshwaram to Ayodhya?

Karti: I think we need to first focus on the economy; we need to quell the distress that people are facing because of the price rise; and then we also have to rebuild the social fabric, which has been so badly damaged.

Rohan Dua: So, while you went to church, would you also like to go to Rameshwaram and Ayodhya temples as well?

Karti (loses temper, starts using derogatroy language, starts moving in a huff muttering words under his breath): I visit more temples than you have the number of temples; don’t preach to me the practice of faith; that’s really condescending; you have nothing; you have no concept; the people who come here have no concept of what faith is. You are completely ignorant and have no understanding of how religious people are.

 

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