Interview: Kanimozhi

'I hope to unravel the facts one day'

Print edition : January 19, 2018

Kanimozhi. Photo: S. SIVA SARAVANAN

Interview with Kanimozhi.

JUST a few years after you entered politics, the 2G scam broke out. You were not a Minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime. You were not a party official at that time. How did you get involved in this? Do you think that it was because of the conversations that you had with somebody like, say, Nira Radia, which were leaked?

If my conversations with Nira Radia were the basis, then what about the thousands of people who speak to her? Nothing happened to any of them. Except some political gossip, there was nothing much in my conversations with her. And, she was not an accused, she was a prosecution witness. So what was wrong in talking to her? I have had this kind of conversations about politics with journalist friends and with other politicians. Meeting a politician became a big crime in my case. Even today, I go and meet Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] politicians in their offices, and sometimes at their residences to talk about issues.

So how did you get involved, or why did the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) think that you were involved in this? Is it because you were a Chief Minister’s daughter and, hence, could be influential?

The CBI will have to answer that because I was not even a director of Kalaignar TV. I was director for two weeks when they were setting up the place. After that I resigned. All my papers were given to the RoC [Registrar of Companies] to be filed, and I have never attended a single board meeting after that. No important decisions were made during the two weeks I was there except for basic, mandatory things. After that I have not even attended an AGM. I did not even have an interest in finding out what programmes were being aired. Commercial television is not my cup of tea. The CBI knew there was documentary evidence to prove that I did not participate in the so-called meeting that decided about the loan or whatever it was. My name does not figure in the list of people who attended the meeting. But it still claimed that I was there at the meeting. Aseervatham Achary [formerly secretary to A. Raja, and a prosecution witness who later joined the BJP] said that I was the “active brain”. Based on all this, a case was filed against me.

It would have been easy to have a discharge petition moved and you could have got out of the case. After all, the UPA was in power, the Congress was your ally, and your father was Chief Minister. But, instead, you went to jail. Were there vested interests within the Congress and the DMK which wanted you in jail?

Obviously. I don’t want to say where the interests were. But there were people with vested interests who wanted to see me behind bars. I cannot deny that.

You went to jail as an accused. You and Raja became the face of corruption in India. Why is it that the politicians have to take a large share of blame for scams and not corporate India?

That’s how it has always been. You just choose to hate some people. After the verdict too, some people said, “It’s a huge amount. How can you say it is not there anymore?” In Tamil Nadu, a few pages of the [mining baron] Sekar Reddy’s diary were leaked, which contained names of politicians. Later, a list containing journalists’ names was circulated in WhatsApp groups and the claim was that this list was also from Sekar Reddy’s diary. It was said that this list was created by the IT wing of a political party. Just because there was a sheet of paper with journalists’ names and numbers next to it, does it mean that all of them have taken money from somebody? We can continue believing it even after it was proved to be a fake.

The truth [in 2G] is that it is a notional loss. And we love to blame politicians for it. Leave alone the 2G case, if there’s a case of a politician taking money from a company, what happens to the company that gives the money? Who questions them? And what happens to the bureaucrats who allow the file to be passed?

Your father was Chief Minister, your party was in power at the Centre, and the Chief Minister’s daughter had to go to jail. Did the CBI or the government decide to arrest you when the party in power was dependent on the DMK’s support? It does not add up.

It does not add up for me too. But it happened. Unfortunately, I am a non-believer and, hence, I really can’t say it was fate. In politics, there are a lot of forces at work, there’s a lot of bartering, and there’s a lot of other things that happen. I can’t point my fingers at anything clearly. One day I hope to unravel the facts.

The other strange thing is that even though a raid was going on in Anna Arivalayam, the DMK headquarters, on the ground floor, the Congress and the DMK were having discussions on an electoral alliance. How could the government of the day use its own Income Tax Department to search a premises when they were negotiating with the same party that was being raided?

I really can’t explain it and that’s the truth. Maybe the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate work on their own, without any political interference. Today, we are against the BJP government. We still got a good verdict. I should give it credit and say that there was no interference [from the government].

The court proceedings went on for seven years despite it being a daily trial monitored by the Supreme Court. How did that affect the legal process itself and your career?

It [the Supreme Court] took away a lot of our rights. We could not appeal to the High Court. We had to go to either the trial court or the Supreme Court. One entire arm of the judiciary was off limits for us. Was that fair? How can a case be monitored by the Supreme Court every step of the way, where the charge sheet had to be shown to them and everything had to go through them? Is that fair and just to anybody? Because this was considered a scam, people might not bother. But is this a right example? Is it right? I think it is injustice. The Supreme Court appointed the prosecutor and they asked the High Court to appoint the trial court judge.

The CBI left out Karunanidhi’s wife, Dayalu Ammal, from the charge sheet though she was a 60 per cent shareholder in Kalaignar TV and, according to one statement, she was being briefed about the company on a daily basis. How can this happen when two shareholders who hold, or held, 20 per cent of shares feature in the charge sheet?

Because she did not speak English and she had given a letter that she could not actively participate in the decision-making process.

The judgment talks about a media trial and that the media had already convicted the accused. But the media were only reflecting what was happening at that point of time.

You are talking about some good old days when the media just reported news. We are not there anymore. We need our TRP ratings, we need to engage people, we need to grab their interest. I know a senior TV journalist who kept repeating that I was a director of Kalaignar TV, and how I was instrumental in Kalaignar TV getting Rs.200 crore from 2G scam-related money laundering when these had nothing to do with the truth. And after I was back from jail, and in the courtroom, she met me and told me: “I heard that you were not even a director in Kalaignar TV.” This is how it is. I am not saying every media organisation does this. She is an important, well-respected journalist with a well-respected channel with high TRPs.

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