Solar eclipse for Marans?

By T S Sudhir

They have been one of the biggest success stories to emerge from the Dravidian turf. Suffice to say the Sun never sets on the Maran empire. Quite literally so. The Sun Network with its footprints all over India and even outside the country, is easily one of the most powerful media conglomerates. And with Spicejet, SCV, Sun Direct, Dinakaran, SUN pictures thrown in, getting into Tamilnadu is like entering the Maran kingdom.

The Maran brothers, Kalanidhi and Dayanidhi, sat tight while former Telecom minister Raja and the apple of Karunanidhi’s eyes, Kanimozhi, moved their postal address to Tihar Jail. There were eyebrows raised at Anna Arivalayam as Sun TV, after the election results on May 13, slowly moved gears to shift allegiance to the new dispensation at Fort St George, with a pro-Jayalalithaa slant on Sun News. Kalanidhi Maran, the shrewd brain behind the business operations of the group, knows that with the DMK’s solar power connection disconnected by the electorate, it would make sense not to antagonise Jayalalithaa. He knows too well, what JJ is capable of, if she decides to switch channels.

Kalanidhi owns 77 per cent of the Sun TV network and 38.61 per cent in Spicejet. The Sun share price dropped by 27 per cent on Thursday as reports suggested the Marans lost 3000 crores on Dalal Street in the first hour of trade. This was after newspaper reports that Dayanidhi Maran will have a lot to answer about the spectrum license awarded to Aircel, when he was Telecom minister (2004-07).
The allegation is that Daya armtwisted the promoter of cellular service provider Aircel to sell out to Malaysian telecom company Maxis, which in turn, invested Rs 599 crore in Kalanidhi Maran’s business. Aircel then got 14 spectrum licences in 2006.

This is not the first time the Marans are flying into turbulent weather. In 2007, after Dinakaran published a survey on who will be the DMK supremo after Karunanidhi and the results were unflattering to Azhagiri, all hell broke loose. The fallout with the DMK patriarch led to the brothers being banished from his courts at CIT colony and Gopalapuram. Karuna was so miffed with his grand nephews that he snatched Daya’s Sanchar mantri crown to give it to Raja and immediately executed a plan to launch a rival rising sun in Kalaignar TV. The bitter fruits of that rushed affair is what the Karuna family is eating now inside Tihar.

The Marans made peace, thanks to interconnected family wires. It helped that someone from the Karuna family was married into the Maran family. They needed to as well, for a vindictive DMK in power, could have crippled the Sun’s rays.

Unlike in the case of Raja and Kani, there will be no tears shed for the Marans should the CBI and the courts ask them for a date. Ever since the DMK suffered its worst drubbing ever, there have been murmurs that Dayanidhi could jump ship to the Congress. But with charges of corruption becoming a poisonous noose around the Congress neck, the party is unlikely to extend a hand to show daya on Maran and Maran.

Investigation into the Aircel-Maxis-Sun and spectrum deal are certain to throw up uncomfortable questions. And Kala will have to exhibit his `kala’ as a business mind to claw out of this one. Aircel which has been in the forefront to save India’s 1411 tigers, now will have to save itself from being hunted down. And the Marans story is certain to give all the popular soaps on Sun TV a run for its TRPs.



About t s sudhir & uma sudhir

Uma Sudhir and T S Sudhir are senior journalists, based in Hyderabad. Both work for NDTV. Uma is a Tamilian, who was educated in
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