With Madras Mayor M K Stalin's name figuring in a police complaint by a works contractor, and Chief Minister Jayalalitha herself declaring her intention to get Central Bureau of Investigation cases against predecessor M Karunanidhi based on the Sarkaria commission reports of the seventies, the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu has begun a collision course that could put the rival DMK on the defensive at the legal level, but on the offensive, politically.
While forming part of the AIADMK electoral promise, the court cases could put the DMK in the same credibility predicament that rocked the Jayalalitha leadership at the end of the 1996 polls, particularly on the eve of local bodies polls due in October, with Stalin topping the list of alleged offenders under the Karunanidhi dispensation.
The case against Stalin is based on a complaint by a civil works contractor, who says that money was paid to the city mayor and then state transport minister T Kirrutinan, through a middle man.
The Madras police has arrested former DMK parliamentarian Parasuraman, on charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code, for abduction and assault of the contractor, D G Deivasigamani.
According to the police complaint, Stalin and Kiruttinan had been paid Rs 75 lakh in bribes, or five per cent of the contractual value of Rs 15 crore, road-laying work for which was allotted to him by the Madras Corporation under Stalin's stewardship.
The money, it is claimed, was paid through Ramesh, supposed to be a friend of Stalin's, who is purported to have obtained the work contract for Deivasigamani.
While Parasuraman, who according to the complaint had claimed to have helped Deivasigamani, was arrested after he allegedly abducted the contractor, seeking his share of the 'cut', investigations against Stalin and Kiruttinan are said to be under way.
Simultaneously, Jayalalitha also revived her forgotten demand for reopening the CBI cases against Karunanidhi, based on the report of Justice R S Sarkaria, who probed the misdemeanours of the DMK regime of 1971-76, based on a complaint by AIADMK founder, the late M G Ramachandran.
By urging Prime Minister A B Vajpayee to order reopening of the probe, based on a memo presented by her when the AIADMK shared power with the BJP at the Centre in 1998-99, Jayalalitha also seems to be putting the leadership of the National Democratic Alliance on the offensive.
Jayalalitha made the demand in the state assembly on Monday, and followed it up with a charge that the prime minister did not initiate action on her request earlier, purely for political reasons, as the BJP was keen on jettisoning the AIADMK in favour of the DMK for an ally at the Centre.
With Jayalalitha facing at least four cases involving the Centre from her earlier innings as chief minister -- including a tax-related prosecution at the personal level -- the BJP would have some explaining to do when
she storms the national media in the coming weeks,
when she promises to call on Vajpayee at Delhi.
Coming as they do after two criminal assault cases
involving DMK legislator Paruthi Ilamvazhuthi and N Devarajan, the brother of former electricity
minister and party treasurer Arcot N Veerasamy, the
case against Stalin and Kiruttinan is believed to be a
step towards the Jayalalitha government moving up the
ladder of the DMK hierarchy in matters of criminal
However, all three cases are based on
private complaints, where preliminary investigations
seem to have been shoddy, against the
thorough probe launched into most cases earlier preferred by the Karunanidhi government
against the AIADMK leadership.
Where no substantial
evidence could be gathered, the DMK government thought
it wise not to proceed with the cases.
For his part, Arcot Veerasamy has defended his
brother, whose name used to be mentioned in
relation to violation of hoarding rules in Madras city whenever the DMK has been in power in the past
decade and more.
Devarajan's name was more recently
mentioned in relation to land-grabbing, and for
obtaining an illegal patta in his favour, for land
owned by the Madras Corporation. His name also used
to be mentioned with relation to cases of criminal
assault and threat, the like of which is now the
subject matter of the criminal case against him.
Devarajan and Parasuraman -- the latter involved in the Stalin case -- have since been arrested, while
fresh charges have been added against Paruthi Ilamvazhuthi, in what once was seen as a
murderous assault-attempt on him, on the day
In the original case, AIADMK front
nominee for Paruthi's Egmore seat, John Pandian,
better known across the state for his muscle-man
tactics, was arrested, but once the poll results were
known, Paruthi too was booked.
The DMK has called the arrests and police complaints
as political vindictiveness.
Arcot Veerasamy has taken
up the gauntlet on the DMK's behalf, and has said that
the party would face the criminal prosecution without
According to DMK sources, the state government
seems to be counting on 'unsubstantiated allegations
and alleged confessions' of purported co-conspirators
to nail party leaders who are otherwise above board.
In contrast, they say, the cases against the erstwhile
AIADMK ministers, including Jayalalitha, were based
mostly on direct police or government complaints, where
substantive proof came from official documents that
could not be doctored.
Against this, AIADMK leaders refer to the Sarkaria
commission dubbing the earlier Karunanidhi
government's acts of corruption 'scientific'. Over the
past three decades, "the DMK has fine-tuned the method
even better, with the result, you have to count on the
good sense of a co-conspirator to come out with the
whole truth and nothing but the truth," said a
In this context, he referred to Jayalalitha's
electoral promise of 'exposing the corrupt practices
of the Karunanidhi family that cost the exchequer Rs
5000 crore and more, and expects the DMK cadre to
stay away from the controversy as they were carefully
kept out of such fruits of office by those in power.
With the threat of court cases against DMK leaders
becoming real, and pending court cases against
Jayalalitha's chief ministership expected to come
up for hearing after the Supreme Court and Madras
High Court reopen next week after the summer
vacation, the party executive is meeting in Madras
next Monday, to take stock of the situation and work
out its strategy.
Ahead of it, the DMK is celebrating
Karunanidhi's 78th birthday on Saturday, for which the
Madras police has denied the party permission to hold
a public rally at Panagal Park.
Citing a pending court case, which did not seem to
have come in the way of holding election rallies, the police have instead asked the DMK
to choose Marina. While the DMK hopes to
revive the morale of the cadres, who are down
after the assembly polls -- but may not be out --
through such public displays, the AIADMK seems keen on
'exposing' the DMK at it, by offering it a venue where
even a substantial crowd -- if at all -- would look
small in comparison.
And with local body polls round the corner, the DMK will have a tough time to
revive its electoral hopes, that too in strongholds
like Madras if its futuristic leader and city mayor
himself is tied down to court cases that could
sap his energy and challenge his integrity.
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