'There is nothing called Modi guarantee': Kanimozhi

UPA government believed in dialogue and discussion, she says


Interview/ Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, MP and DMK leader

It is a sweltering afternoon at Therespuram in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi district. A large crowd surrounds a campaign van as it comes to a halt. In the front seat is Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, DMK leader and MP from Thoothukudi.

“Akka, please speak,” says a young man. “It is enough if you speak. We don’t need anything more.”

Kanimozhi, clad in a red and black cotton sari, asks the crowd to wait. Then she gets up from the seat, and grabs a microphone from an open panel in the roof of the van. There is thunderous applause as she says, “This is not an election just to change rulers. This is an election to send Prime Minister Narendra Modi back home.”

At her MP office, Kanimozhi sat down for an exclusive interview with THE WEEK. Excerpts:

Q/ Surveys say the DMK has an edge in Tamil Nadu. But, do you think the INDIA bloc can bring in a change across India? There are so many challenges in Hindi-speaking states.

A/ There are challenges to the BJP as well. They are contesting alone in Punjab. Their most trusted ally in Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK, is not with them. It is like most parties across India don’t want to align with them. People don’t want to be seen with them either. It shows that it is not going to be easy for the BJP.

Q/ The DMK pitched Rahul Gandhi as the PM candidate in the 2019 polls. But the INDIA bloc has no PM face. Wasn’t there a consensus?

A/ We have seen so many elections where the PM candidate was not announced earlier. The decision is made after the elections.

Q/ Was there any difference of opinion on the matter?

A/ There was no difference of opinion. Every party in the INDIA bloc decided that it was not the most important thing. Being together, and fighting to keep the country as it was, is much more important. Having a secular country where people have the freedom of expression, and saving democracy and the Constitution, are the most important issues.

Q/ You have been a three-term MP. How has it been working as an MP during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government?

A/ The UPA government believed in dialogue and discussion. They believed that it was their duty to answer questions in Parliament. But in the past two terms under the NDA, I see a total deterioration of democratic and parliamentary values. Ministers are not taking the question hour seriously.

When ministers don’t answer questions or supplementary questions, I have seen the chair―the vice president or the speaker―intervening and saying, “Answer the question. This is not the answer.” Today, nobody does that. The chair does not protect the member. The chair only protects treasury benches. You cannot raise anything against the government.

In Tamil, there is a saying: “Mm endral siraivasam.” (Jail, if you say hmm.) Like that, if you go to the well, or speak against the government in Parliament, you are suspended.

Q/ The prime minister calls the DMK “corrupt” and “a party of dynasts”.

A/ It is funny coming from somebody from a party that has been named by the CAG as corrupt… [The BJP] has been named by the CAG for spending 0250 crore [per kilometre] for a road. And, what happened to the PM’s medical insurance scheme? And, of course, the electoral bonds. It is shocking that the PM can call anybody else corrupt. He has legalised corruption. In 10 days, for a wedding, you could create an international airport [in Gujarat]. So who is talking about corruption?

Q/ The Delhi High Court recently admitted an appeal by the CBI challenging your acquittal in the 2G case.

A/ That is one of their methods. They think that they can threaten the DMK and our leaders by doing that. I have faced much more, and I am not going to sit back and withdraw because of this.

Q/ Most of the Modi guarantee schemes are for women. The free LPG scheme has benefited women.

A/ It is a fascist thing to say that gas cylinders are only for women. They said they would bring down the prices of LPG cylinders. They promised that women will get subsidies for gas cylinders. Where are the subsidies? When the BJP came to power in 2014, the cylinder price was Rs410. Now it is more than Rs1,103. And, of course, the great Women’s Day gift was a price reduction of Rs100. That is what they think women should be doing―cooking.

Women’s reservation bill was in the BJP manifesto every time. But we saw what happened; we do not know when it will come into force. Census, delimitation and women’s reservation―these promises will never be implemented or will never see the light of the day, like the Rs15 lakh in every Jan Dhan account.

Q/ My question is specific: What do you have to say about the Modi guarantee schemes?

A/ There is nothing called Modi guarantee.

Q/ The BJP is confident that it will win 400 seats.

A/ That is their wish. Anybody can wish for anything.