Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai’s ‘expensive’ Rafale watch triggers debate over corruption, ‘nationalism’

Hitting back, the BJP shared posts about the expensive things owned by Chief Minister MK Stalin, his son Udhayanidhi, and other DMK leaders.

ByShilpa Nair

Published Dec 20, 2022 | 10:15 AMUpdated Dec 20, 2022 | 10:15 AM

Annamalai Rafale watch

At the centre of the latest flashpoint between Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai and DMK minister Senthil Balaji is an expensive Rafale special edition watch owned by the former.

The controversy erupted after several DMK members put up pictures of Annamalai sporting a black wrist watch — which, according to a website selling it, costs ₹3.48 lakh — on social media platforms. They questioned the state BJP president as to how he could afford such an expensive watch when he claimed to come from a humble background.

Responding to the social media posts against him, Annamalai said that he owned the watch, which is made out of parts from the Rafale jet produced by the Dassault Aviation company, as he was a “nationalist”.

“I am wearing a watch made out of parts from the Rafale jets. 500 such watches were made under the Rafale special limited-edition collection. Though I am a staunch nationalist, I am not lucky enough to fly a Rafale fighter jet. That’s the reason why I use this watch. Out of the 500 watches, mine is the 149th piece. I will wear the watch until my last breath,” he told reporters.

“Rules of war started changing after India procured the Rafale fighter jets. After Rafale, the high-altitude warfare has changed and India’s reach has substantially improved,” Annamalai added while explaining the significance of his watch.

Within hours, Tamil Nadu Electricity minister Senthil Balaji, who is often at loggerheads with Annamalai, took to Twitter wondering how Annamalai bough a wrist watch “worth over ₹5 lakh” when he claimed that his “sole assets were four goats”. While challenging Annamalai to produce the receipt of purchase of his watch within one hour of his tweets, the DMK minister also took a dig at the BJP leader’s “nationalism”.

Once again, this evoked a rebuttal from Annamalai who stated that he was “more than ready” to take on the DMK on the issue of “corruption”.

He stated that he would release the details of his Rafale watch, which was purchased in May 2021, before he became the state BJP president, along with its bill; his lifetime income tax statements, bank statements for 10 years; details of his earnings as an IPS officer from August 2011 till the time of his resignation; information on all the immovable and moveable properties he owns, including the number of sheeps and cows, on the day he kickstarts his padayatra across the state ahead of the 2024 general elections.

“If anybody can find one paise of property more than what I have declared anywhere in the world, then all of my property will be given to the government. Now I leave it to my TN brothers and sisters to decide whether they want to seek this from the DMK party leaders as well,” Annamalai added.

The BJP, of course, did not stop with just that. The party IT Wing also used the opportunity to share posts about the expensive things owned by Chief Minister and DMK chief MK Stalin, his son Udhayanidhi Stalin and other party leaders in a bid to pay back the DMK with the same coin.