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Home > News > Specials

The Rediff Special/ S Kumari in New Delhi

Dayanidhi Maran has had a great fall

May 14, 2007

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He was tech-savvy, very businesslike, loved the flavour of success, money and power. As a Union minister, he answered all questions on floor of the House with style.

But, that's not enough to make you a good politician in India.

Dayanidhi Maran, former Union minister for telecommunications and information technology has had a great fall. But Tamil Nadu's voters are not surprised the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, his party, rather his mentor Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's party, issued a directive against him, resulting in his exit from the Union Cabinet.

The rise and fall of Dayanidhi Maran

Such action was invited by Dayanidhi himself, claim party sources in Chennai.

Since April 2006, Maran's actions were under a close watch. He used to complain that Karunanidhi never gave him an opportunity to share his woes. The CM hardly gave him more than five to ten minutes of attention, he reportedly told his friends.

But Chief Minister Karunanidhi has his own reasons to sulk.

Recently, Jaya TV flashed the news of former Chief Minister Jayalalitha reacting to reports that Sun TV has been permitted to import two Bombardier aircraft at a cost of Rs 300 crore.

In February the Union Cabinet passed a resolution; Dayanidhi Maran was absent from the Cabinet meeting but the company connected to his family empire was given permission that helped Sun TV finance a partnership with FDI from Mauritius, enabling direct to home television.

Karunanidhi was misled: Maran

Such matters created distrust and distance between Dayanidhi Maran and the party that he could not fill up with a political acumen.

More than Karunanidhi it was his son and chosen heir M K Stalin who based his grilling on these matters.

It was also speculated that the chief minister was not clearing files relating to the telecom sector in Tamil Nadu and his office was not allocating land for the erection of factories for multinational companies close to Maran.

The DMK leadership on the other hand felt the Marans were using the party's goodwill to get plum business deals. And, to rub it all in, the party was not getting any richer.

Karunanidhi and Stalin believe the Marans wanted to divert attention away from money matters and awkward questions related to mega deals.

To silence their critics in the party the Marans may have used the Dinakaran newspaper opinion poll, which showed Stalin ahead of his brother in the popularity stakes.

When the survey was published, Karunanidhi admitted in the state assembly that he wanted to stop the publication of the survey. His anger revealed his displeasure against the Marans.

Sources in the DMK are of the opinion that the Marans tried to play a political game.

The DMK leadership suspects that Maran might have conveyed to the Congress headquarters and also to the Prime Minister's Office that Dr Manmohan Singh should not attend the 50th anniversary of Karunanidhi as a legislator since three newsmen were killed inside the Dinakaran newspaper office following violence over the survey.

After the death of the three newsmen, the Marans reportedly conveyed to the PMO and the All India Congress Committee that Karunanidhi might in fact cancel his felicitation.

When Sonia Gandhi brought this to the notice of the chief minister, a shocked Karunanidhi wanted to suspend Maran from the DMK.

However, the function, held in Chennai two days back, went off smoothly. Karunanidhi even encouraged Azhagiri, who was shown lagging behind in popularity stakes in the Dinakaran survey, to attend the event and occupy the front row.

Karunanidhi permitted the DMK's 25-member strong central committee to ventilate its feelings. It was a well-tutored meeting. Three junior Union ministers spoke against Maran and asked him to quit the Cabinet. The mood of the meeting became so emotional that Stalin left the meeting early.

Some members even hurled abuses against Maran. Some reminded listeners of how Maran secretly boasted that Sun TV was the real strength of the DMK.

"The DMK wanted to get rid of the venom from its body," said a senior Union minister, in a veiled refence to the Marans.

They know the Maran brothers are owners of the Sumangali Cable network and the clout it carries.

Sumangali distributes news and entertainment channels to cable operators in small towns, cities and villages.

Having been in existence since 1985, Sumangali plays politics to keep its monopoly in business. For long, it distributed only Sun TV and avoided airing rival channels like Jaya TV and Raj TV.

Sumangali was selective about broadcasting Hindi or English or even sports channels to its viewers.

Irked by the attitude of the Marans, Jayalalitha, as her last chief ministerrial act, wanted to nationalise Sumangali cables. She wanted to take over the company.

Now, the Karunanidhi camp would like to ensure that Sun TV is crippled financially and will not release advertisements from the state government.

The DMK will also urge the Centre to cancel the advertisements being given to the Sun TV network.

According to an estimate Sun TV gets Rs 40 lakhs per day from the central government's 18 departments. Apart from that, many telecom MNCs and automobiles companies release advertisements to the network.

It is difficult to say whether this is the end of the Marans or not, but Maran's millions are not enough to help him come back as a winner in Tamilian politics.

The Rediff Specials