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'BJP Has No Right to Speak of Corruption After Electoral Bonds': DMK's Kanimozhi

'The 2024 general elections are about freeing India from BJP,' said the DMK MP in an exclusive chat with The Quint.

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"I don't think the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) has any right to talk about corruption anymore after the electoral bonds data and the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) report," said Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MP Kanimozhi in an exclusive conversation with The Quint.

(Last year, the said CAG report had highlighted instances of misallocation and misuse of public funds in three projects.)

Meanwhile, she added that the DMK has "nothing to hide" with regard to electoral bonds.

"We are not threatening anyone with ED (Enforcement Directorate) raids and enquiries... Whoever has donated to the DMK via electoral bonds has done so only because they wanted to donate to the party," Kanimozhi, who's the daughter of late DMK leader M Karunanidhi, noted.

The DMK, the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, had received Rs 656.5 crore worth of electoral bonds between April 2019 and April 2023. In comparison, the BJP, which is the single largest beneficiary of electoral bonds, received Rs 6,060 crore in the same period.

Ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Kanimozhi, who is contesting from Tamil Nadu's Thoothukudi for the second time, speaks to The Quint on electoral bonds, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's arrest, the INDIA bloc, the BJP's Hindutva push in Tamil Nadu, and more.

Edited excerpts below:

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The BJP has accused the DMK of "corruption" and "dynasty politics". Tamil Nadu BJP chief has also said that "Tamil Nadu is awaiting a political change." How does the party respond to that?

See, one thing is, I don't think the BJP has any right to talk about corruption anymore after the electoral bonds and the CAG report. People can come into politics inspired by their fathers, brothers, sisters and mothers. But then, people have to accept you... To continue in politics, it is important that people vote for you, accept you, otherwise you will just disappear like so many have.

"And, the truth is, it is not that there is nobody in the BJP who is not a dynast. There are so many leaders who come from a family of politicians. When you allow that in your party, then what right do you have to talk about others?"
Kanimozhi
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The DMK was one of the few parties who voluntarily released the electoral bonds data on donors. Was that a conscious choice? The data also shows that Future Gaming was the single largest donor – and the party to have benefitted the most from them was DMK. Your comments.

We don't have anything to hide, that is why the party leaders decided to put out the information when it was sought (by the Election Commission). And we are not threatening anyone by saying that we will start an ED raid or enquiry, then people pay up, and after that everything else is dropped. That's not what's happening. Whoever has donated to the DMK have donated because they want to donate to the party.

It's not that we are threatening them or using any other means and ways. We are not giving them any investments. Because, you know that some of the companies that have donated money, have gotten government projects. We have not done anything like that.

"Whoever has donated, we have been open and clean about it."
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With just weeks to go for the Lok Sabha elections, what do you have to say regarding the timing of the ED arrest of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, and I-T notices being sent to the Congress?

It is very apparent that they are doing this to threaten the Opposition parties. And, of course, freezing the bank accounts of the Congress party, means that they will not have any money to spend for the elections, and in that way curb them. I think people have gone beyond that.

I don't think any Opposition leader or party is really afraid of the BJP anymore. They are ready to face the cases. They just think it is more of an ideological fight – and it is important that they fight it till the end.

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Do you think the INDIA bloc has done enough to speak against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's arrest?

Yes, definitely. All the leaders have come together and expressed their opinion very strongly against his (Arvind Kejriwal) arrest. The DMK had even staged a protest in Chennai, with party leaders leading it. Everybody knows why he has been arrested and how unfair it is.

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The BJP in Tamil Nadu has portrayed the DMK as an "anti-Hindu" party. How would you respond to that? Do you think Tamil Nadu is ready to accept a non-Dravidian party in the state?

Mr Annamalai can dream, but I don't think people will want BJP anywhere near them. I really don't understand how the DMK can be called an "anti-Hindu" party.

Most of its schemes are for the majority Hindus. When you talk about reservations, it is for the majority Hindus that we are talking about. We have the Hindu (Religious and Charitable) Endowments Department under the government. In the last three years, we've done the consecration of around 1,300 temples. There are many small village temples which do not have any money to upkeep those temples. And the government has given around Rs 130 crore to them...They used to get Rs 1lakh, but it's been doubled to Rs 2 lakh.

More than nearly 13,000 temples survive today, and there are poojas happening there, because of this government's allotment of funds. So how can you say that the DMK is against Hindus?

People in Tamil Nadu have understood that religion is a very personal thing, and that we cannot bring religion into politics. Because, from a government, what you expect is not to protect your religion. Your right to religion, yes, has to be protected.

Governments like the BJP, which does not do anything for the people, uses religion to protect themselves to ensure that the people don't question them.

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How does the DMK counter the BJP's Hindutva push in Tamil Nadu?

People know when their own temple is being taken care of, and you see a renovation happening and the temple functioning better than it was before...

Their (BJP) politics is based on religion. So, they will try to consolidate and turn one religion against the other. But I think people are very clear. They are more interested in development, education health, industries, and employment. When governments concentrate on these aspects, people are happy with the government, and they don't get carried away by the things that people tell them.

Annamalai is the BJP leader here (in Tamil Nadu) and they (BJP) hope at least he will win. That is why the prime minister (Narendra Modi) is coming down so often.

The PM is coming and saying that 'I am there for the Tamils.' But Annamalai, when he was working in Karnataka, himself said, 'Don't call me a Tamil. I am a Kannadiga. I don't want to be called a Tamil.'

"At least they could've found a candidate who is a Tamil and who feels proud to be called a Tamil."
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Are the Tamil Nadu elections a two-way fight or a three-way? Will the AIADMK-BJP split hurt or benefit DMK in any way?

I clearly think it is a two-way fight. The fight is between the DMK and the AIADMK. I am sure though that people don't think that the AIADMK has really moved away from the BJP. Because, they (AIADMK) have supported most of their (BJP) non-people Bills. So, I don't think people really trust the AIADMK.

But I still have to accept that the fight is between both of us, and the BJP does not find a place here. If the BJP has won a few seats in Tamil Nadu, it is because of the alliance they had with the AIADMK, and not on their own merit. So, I don't think there's going to be any change because AIADMK and BJP have split.

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Why has the BJP not been able to enter the south of India in contrast to his reach in the north?

It is because they (BJP) are not able to relate to the issues that people care about here. People do not want to bring religion into politics, people don't want to hate each other. They've lived in peace and harmony for centuries. And they would like that to continue.

They (people) want progress, their children to be educated, and a better life and security for their children. These are the things people here want.

You don't want hatred, you don't want to fight with each other, and lose everything that you've created. I think the BJP does not understand that.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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