From the editor-in-chief
Kanimozhi, the youngest child of DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi, had long been considered her father’s literary heir, the poet daughter of the legendary scriptwriter of Tamil cinema. In 2007, she took a step forward to claiming her father’s political legacy, when he nominated her to the Rajya Sabha. With Dayanidhi Maran out of favour at that time, Kanimozhi became the urbane and sophisticated face of the DMK in the national capital. She also exercised considerable influence as the Delhi-based ambassador of a key Congress ally in the UPA coalition. Four years later, in a remarkable twist of fate, she finds herself incarcerated in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, accused of complicity in the 2G scam, denied bail four times in the last six months, and set to go on trial on November 11.
There are a number of interesting dimensions to the trial of Kanimozhi. There is the legal aspect: how long can the judiciary continue denying bail, defying all precedence, to an undertrial even after charges have been framed? And will any high profile politicians or corporate executives be eventually found guilty of wrongdoing in what has been hyped as the biggest corruption case in India’s history? Those questions will be answered in court in due course. What is more fluid are the political implications of Kanimozhi’s continued incarceration and trial. There is little doubt that Karunanidhi is deeply anguished seeing his daughter in prison. He reportedly cried when he heard that she was denied bail just before Diwali. He is also angry and agitated with the Congress for not doing enough to ensure that his daughter is released on bail. The CBI had until recently opposed her bail plea in court. The DMK may have been trounced in the Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu in May but it still has 18 MPS in the Lok Sabha. The Congress needs the DMK’S support to run a Government, particularly at a time when Mamata Banerjee, who has 19 MPS, is itching to distance herself from the Congress. For now, the DMK patriarch is not withdrawing but if things get worse for Kanimozhi, the survival of the UPA Government could be put into jeopardy.
Then there is the internal politics of the DMK. There is already an intense battle on to succeed the 87-year-old Karunanidhi who is ailing and wheelchair-bound. In pole position is M.K. Stalin, Karunanidhi’s second son from his wife Dayalu Ammal. Close behind is M.K. Alagiri, Stalin’s older brother, Union minister for fertilisers and a strongman from Madurai. Kanimozhi is the wildcard in this pack. Chennai is abuzz with theories that her father will use her jail term as a tool to foist her into frontline politics. There, however, seems little support in DMK cadres and in the family for this. The 2G scam and Kanimozhi’s involvement in it are widely seen as the leading cause of defeat in the recent elections. Still, as long as she has the support of Karunanidhi and his second wife, Rajathi, Kanimozhi’s brothers will be uneasy.
Our cover story, written by Deputy Editor Damayanti Datta with reporting from Senior Editor Priya Sahgal in Delhi and Senior Correspondent Lakshmi Subramanian in Chennai, pieces together the different facets of Kanimozhi’s trial. Beyond the politics and courts, we also report what time in prison has meant for Kanimozhi and how difficult it has been for her living away from her 11-year-old son. Says Subramanian who has reported on the
DMK’S first family for many years, “Kanimozhi is a strong person who can cope with adversity. Her only weakness is her son.” It may still be a long while before the travails of Kanimozhi end.
OUR MAY 2006 COVER