DMK, the Dad, Moms and kin party

By T S Sudhir

If you are a DMK leader of any consequence, you will `land’ in trouble in Tamilnadu. The Jayalalithaa government is going after land grabbers with a vengeance and it is no surprise that a majority of them owe allegiance to the DMK. Karunanidhi is crying foul, accusing Amma of unleashing political vendetta. He has good reason to feel cornered. After `grabbing’ the land of Tamilnadu from him on May 13, now to accuse his partymen of grabbing land is a double whammy, isn’t it?

Wonder if Kalaignar feels inspired to write poetry these days. Because if he does, it will only reflect the agony and the pain he is going through in the sunset years of his political career. He has been giving expression to his outpouring of grief frequently though. Like when his darling daughter Kanimozhi was sent behind bars. Like when son Stalin was taken into preventive custody. Yes, you guessed it right. DMK for the patriarch is just an extension branch of his family tree. It could well stand for `Dad, Moms and Kin’.

In many senses, Karunanidhi brought it upon himself. By turning a blind eye to the power struggle within his different households, by postponing crucial decisions on the succession battle, feeling cocky after the 2009 Lok Sabha results, blatant corruption and muscle power and so on. Which is why when Raja’s 2G expedition brought the army of CBI to the DMK doorstep, Karunanidhi’s game was up. The DMK sunrise was no longer as stirring a cup as Nescafe Sunrise. But like the coffee, the election results delivered instant justice.

Where does the party go from here? By targetting police officers like Jaffer Sait, who was the eyes and ears of the DMK regime and key lieutenants of Azhagiri in south Tamilnadu, Jayalalithaa is tightening the screws smartly. Having learnt that voters do not appreciate highhanded behaviour, she is eschewing the temptation to do a 2001 midnight swoop on Karunanidhi kind of operation this time. The strategy clearly is to go after the key men who provide Azhagiri, Stalin and the Marans with the oxygen. Choke the air supply to make their hearts skip more than a beat, seems to be the gameplan.

JJ is still enjoying her honeymoon with the people of Tamilnadu. And what helps her crusade against land grabbers is that corruption is an issue is agitating the country and the DMK is seen as a party that particularly benefitted by charging itself with all its power.


My sense also is that JJ’s `Discharge Muthuvel Karunanidhi’ campaign may eventually help Stalin in the leadership race within the DMK. His elder brother Azhagiri, thanks to the company he keeps, is more likely to face the heat in Madurai and suburbs. With Kanimozhi and the Marans neutralised by the law of the land, Stalin has the space to make his political moves. His decision to lead the anti-government protests from the front, I believe, was the first of those. In days to come, Tamilnadu may see more of Stalin as he `grabs’ the baton from his indecisive father to pitch himself as JJ’s rival in years to come.

Officially at least, age is on Stalin’s side. Remember, even though he is a grandfather, the 58-year-old is still the DMK youth wing secretary ! He has been in politics long enough to know that impatience does not work. Amma could do to him what the late MGR did to Karunanidhi. The DMK warmed the opposition benches as long as MGR was alive. The challenge now is for Stalin to think out of the box. That will be key since he knows his rival is already in the ring to box him.


A Raja’s life

By T S Sudhir

It is breakfast time inside Tihar Jail. While Suresh Kalmadi and Lalit Bhanot are standing in one line, Andimuthu Raja is in another queue.

“Why there, Sir,” enquires Bhanot.

En vazhi thanee vazhi,” smiles Raja. “This is the queue for south Indian breakfast, Mr Bhanot. Idly, sambar and chutney.”

“Oh ok. I will eat roti dal subzi only. Our north Indian standards of eating are different from the south Indian standards.”

“Enough, enough, Lalit of your different standards,” scolds Kalmadi. “Finish with your breakfast quick. Then we will have a meeting on how to tender for the 1982 Asian Games.”

“Asian Games? 1982?” Bhanot and Raja ask in unison.

“Yes, yes, Asian Games. Rajiv Gandhi has told me it should be a world-class Games. Elephant Appu is the mascot of the Asiad. I will make Indira Gandhi proud of me.”

Bhanot whispers to Raja, “Ever since he has eaten that namkeen in the jailor’s room, Kalmadi keeps mixing up his Games. Sometimes, he says Olympics, sometimes he also talks of heading the BCCI. But, maanna padega, hai pucca sportsperson. He is occupying some chair or the other in some sports Federation. Never runs away from the field.”

“That means he is forgetful. Will the court also forget and forgive? In that case, I will start talking about Graham Bell and the invention of the telephone,” says Raja, chuckling at his own joke.

“Raja Sir, you remember I spoke about toilets during the CWG and everyone jumped on me. Now I am told, some film called `Delhi Belly’ which is 100 per cent about toilets and shit is a big hit. Yeh kya baat huwi? Bose DK.”

“Yes, yes, that’s a song in the film, I heard it on the way to the court the other day,” says Raja and starts humming “Bhaag DK Bose, DK Bose …”

Oye Raja, danda ghusa doonga, Tihar me gaane bajane ki mandali laga raha hai kya,” a guard shouts and Raja, Bhanot and Kalmadi scramble to their cells.

Inside the cell, Bhanot asks Raja about the trial.

“I blasted the PM, that 180 plus IQ Chidambaram and the Attorney General Vahanvati. My overenthusiastic lawyer also asked the judge why I should not get bail. Now I fear that the judge will never give me bail,” says Raja.

“It is good Sir that you know law. All my life, I only was involved with Athletics Federation of India. Tho bhaagne ke alava kuch nahin aata. And yes, athletes ka peshab leke urine test karvana. Kya saali zindagi hai. Finally, CWG karvaya Dilli me to yahan Tihar me daal diya. Bose DK. #%@^*&”

“Yaar Lalit, why are wasting your time. Have you organised the training camp for the hockey team? That Dhanraj Pillay will get angry with me that I did not arrange properly,” Kalmadi butts in.

“Yes Sir, Yes Sir. First I will send the car for MIlkha Singh. Then I will do this.”

“Why Milkha Singh,” whispers Raja.

Arrey bolna padta hai Sirji, otherwise he will next talk about P T Usha. I am asking for a change of cell. Jeena haraam kar diya hai is bhulakad Kalmadi ne.”

“Do you think he is doing a drama to escape the law?” asks Raja.

Kya pata Sir ji. We are all in shit. Deep shit. Mainu pata hai. And when I spoke about toilet hygiene, mere ko pakad ke bole, tera character dheela hai. Bose DK. #@%*^&.”

Oye Bhanot, Iss madrasi ke saath mil ke kya Idli dosa paka raha hai,” shouts a guard passing by. “Aur wo kahan hai tera Ghajini Kalmadi?

Kalmadi walks up to the guard and says, “We have to organise a World class Olympic Games. It is already 2019. We just have another six months to go. Tell your jailor I need to meet him to make arrangements.”

The guard smiles and asks, “Kyon phir Haldiram khaana hai kya, Kalmadi?” Looking at Raja he says, “Oye Bhootpurv Phunwa mantri, aap ka phone aaya hai. Ladiej prijan se. Come with me.”

Raja gets up, adjusts his veshti and follows the guard, a smile dancing on his lips. And picking up the phone, he says, “Sollungo ma Kanimozhi.”

(As imagined by T S Sudhir)

Maran is disconnected

By T S Sudhir

So one more branch of Muthuvel Karunanidhi’s family tree looks set to become part of the woodwork at Tihar Jail. If political grapevine in Delhi is to be believed, Dayanidhi Maran may soon join his predecessor Andimuthu Raja. His relative Kanimozhi is only a stone’s throw away in the women’s prison. And with Jayalalithaa likely to target the Kalaignar khaandaan‘s activities with the precision of a woodpecker in Tamilnadu, there is likely to be no karuna for Karuna.

What this means is that the next time Karuna meets Sonia, (that is if they do meet), they will have to first find an Italian English to Karunanidhi Tamizh and vice-versa translator since Kani is already in jail and Daya qatar me hain.

Jokes apart, even when he knew he was about to lose his place in Manmohan Singh’s team, Dayanidhi attended what was to be his last cabinet meeting. Where like a good boy, he excused himself when the issue of FM licences came up for discussion before the cabinet, citing conflict of interest, since Sun TV, which is into FM radio, is owned by his family. Wish such wisdom had dawned before the maran of his political career happened.

The Maran brothers were always seen as shrewd business operators in the corridors of power in Delhi. Elder Maran in particular was seen as someone who had the kala to earn a lot of nidhi. Dayanidhi as a suave, English-speaking young politician soon became the  toast of India Inc, which was just beginning to be seduced by the telecom item number.

Maran used his portfolio to good effect to build bridges for himself with the powerful Delhi circuit. It helped Daya that Karunanidhi & Sons were the rustic Madarasi Veshti types. Tongue-twister names like Azhagiri did not help matters since the only south Indian words which Dilliwallahs found easy to pronouce were idly, dosa and sambar. And Dayanidhi too !

Another quality the Maran brothers have is combativeness. They do not go down without a fight. The CBI charge against Daya is that he, as Telecom minister, made it difficult for Aircel to get the license until Sivasankaran sold off to Maxis. After which, Maran laid out the red carpet for Aircel’s new owners who also had a cosy business relationship with Sun network.

Where does Dayanidhi go from here? In the short term, he could well have Raja, Suresh Kalmadi, Sharat, Lalit Bhanot, Balwa for company. If that happens, I expect a garrulous Kalmadi to sportingly go out of his way to make the new entrant comfortable. The Tamilian presence has already meant south Indian snacks have been added to the Tihar menu though Maran’s tastes may well be continental.

Outside Tihar, the Maran saga has marred the reputation of the UPA further. The DMK-Congress match, that of course exists only on paper now, is likely to reach breakpoint now that it is Advantage Jaya. And the Sun TV group is discovering that the milky galaxy that it revelled in when the DMK was in power, is quickly turning into a Black hole.


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.


Kalaignar defeats Kalaignar

By T S Sudhir

Muthuvel Karunanidhi’s forte as an ace scriptwriter was social films. The most notable among them, `Parasakthi’, starring the late Sivaji Ganesan, in 1952. That film was seen as the first attempt by the Dravidian movement to use media for propaganda. Karunanidhi’s scripts propagated the socialist and rationalist ideals of the Dravidian movement, with dollops of what was very controversial content for those times. While `Parasakthi’ criticised Brahminism, films like `Panam’ and `Thangarathnam’, written by Karunanidhi, focussed on widow remarriage, untouchability and abolition of the zamindari system.

More recently, ahead of the World Classical Tamil Conference last year, Karunanidhi penned its official theme song `Semmozhiyaana Tamizh Mozhiyaam‘, that was set to tune by A R Rahman at his request.

Today the music has gone out of Karuna’s life, with just about everything out of sync. The former chief minister who does not even qualify to be Leader of Opposition, has become the butt of jokes. Not just in Tamilnadu, but across the country. His party, that bit the dust last week in a humiliating defeat, is parodied for being the embodiment of all that is corrupt in the political system. His ministers and leaders are deemed to be blackmailers in white veshtis. His son Azhagiri is accused of having converted bribing voters into an art form, that unfortunately did not find gallery space with the voters in 2011, unlike in 2009. His two families are seen as being constantly at loggerheads, the kind that would give the family soaps on Sun TV a run for their TRPs. And his darling daughter Kanimozhi’s arrest, has been like the last nail in Karunanidhi’s political coffin.

“If you have a daughter and if she is punished for no mistake, how will you feel? That’s the way I feel,” was Dad Karunanidhi’s reaction to Kani’s journey to Tihar Jail No. 6.
Contrary to what the poll results say, it is not Jayalalitha who defeated Karunanidhi. Kalaignar defeated Kalaignar. Literally so as well, since Kalaignar TV is facing allegations of being the recipient of 214 crore rupees in kickbacks from the 2G spectrum scam.

I am told, when Sharat Kumar was chosen to head Kalaignar TV, Karunanidhi’s confidant Arcot Veeraswamy went to Sharat’s home at 3 am to tell him that Kalaignar wants to see him right away. 4 am is when Sharat was ushered into Karuna’s room where the DMK supremo blessed him and asked him to proceed with work on the channel immediately. Sharat was to confide in a friend that he wasn’t even asked nor given a choice to say yes or no. When the DMK issues a decree, no questions are to be asked.

Karuna was then a man in a hurry, eager to show his ambitious grandnephews, Kalanidhi and Dayanidhi, their place. He named the channel after himself and the logo was also the rising son. As Daya came down the echelons of power, Kani took the escalator to the corridors of influence in Delhi. With his glares on, the patriarch displayed an inability to look beyond a closed circle of family members and their loved ones.

Karunanidhi, the husband and father, defeated Karunanidhi, the DMK chief, the day he shed his socialist ideals and became a family man. When the focus of a man, walking into his sunset, becomes the content of his will, there is little willpower to spend the sunset years generating goodwill through his actions. The DMK, attracting silly jokes like `Delhi Money for Karunanidhi’, was no longer the grand Dravidian outfit that propounded the values of Periyar and Annadurai. It had got reduced to a Karunanidhi family branch.

With two sons at loggerheads over control of the state, a wife with dreams for her daughter, grandnephews who saw politics as a huge business opportunity, family members who control virtually every enterprise in Tamilnadu, Karuna’s parivaar was strangulating the average Tamilian who just wanted relief from the claustrophobia. The Tamizh voter, fed up with Jayalalithaa’s authoritarian ways, was happy to go along with Karuna in 2006 but found the family coming on too strong for anyone’s liking.

Where does Karuna go from here? People like to call him the master of the craft of politics but my guess is that his bag of tricks is now empty. He himself has said the people have given him rest, perhaps meaning, he does not intend to play an active role any longer. His family has reduced a great leader to a caricature. A man surrounded by so many relatives but deep inside, he is lonely. The man who fought all his life against friend-turned-foe M G Ramachandran and later arch rival Jayalalithaa, will unfortunately be remembered by today’s generation only for how 2G drained out his political battery.

(pic courtesy :

The disunited colours of Tamilnadu politics

By T S Sudhir

Ghulam Nabi Azad’s health portfolio clearly wasn’t concerned with keeping the DMK-Congress alliance in the pink of health. It is obvious the wily politician from Jammu & Kashmir deliberately kept shifting the line of actual control in the DMK-Congress marriage. He knew it would upset Dr Muthuvel Karunanidhi. It did.

In the past decade and a half that the DMK has been part of alliances at the Centre, both with the NDA and the UPA, melodramatic posturing has been part of Karunanidhi’s political DNA, much like his film scripts. This time Gopalpuram decided to walk the talk, resolving that from now, it will only extend issue-based support to 7, Race Course Road. The likes of Dayanidhi Maran, Napoleon and Azhagiri, (who reportedly attended office this week after a good six months), will no longer remain Manmohan’s ministers.

The breakpoint. for the record, was over the Congress saying okay to 60 seats initially, in Chennai, but demanding 63, once Azad landed in Delhi. More than the three extra seats, it was the Congress insistence to choose its constituencies that upset the DMK. Especially, when Karunanidhi wanted it to contest from the same 48 seats it did in 2006 plus a dozen more.

The DMK leadership was livid. In its assessment, the Congress is a party of a few family-propped leaders in Tamilnadu and a non-existent cadre, that was pushing its luck too far. Anna Arivalayam’s decision to sever the seven-year-old alliance received a huge thumbs up from its cadre. Ever since the 2G noose has been tightening around Andimuthu Raju and the needle of suspicion pointed at  other bigwigs in the DMK, the party cadre has been irked by the smug Tamilnadu Congressman.

The Congress too is playing to a plan. The party knows the 2G scam has weakened DMK’s electoral battery and what better opportunity than this to armtwist the ace scriptwriter to make changes in the script and give the Congress more screen space. The intention is to either continue with the alliance on its terms or not to have an electoral tie-up at all.

It is not that Karunanidhi wouldn’t have seen the writing on the wall. He knew when Raja was made a CBI guest and then a resident of Tihar Jail, the adverse radiation emitting from 2G mobile towers will make matters hot in Chennai. He was shown a trailer of that when the offices of Kalaignar TV (a channel that Karunanidhi blessed and set up during the family feud with the Marans and their Sun TV) were searched. Karunanidhi’s wife and daughter Kanimozhi have stakes in the TV channel and the suspicious manner in which it was funded is already in the public domain.

It is clear that four months is a long time in politics. Till November, DMK’s development agenda coupled with money power, muscle power, media power and of course the free television set thrown in as the dessert, was seen as a winning combo to ensure the party’s rising sun, stays risen. Stalin could have then proudly pointed to the CM’s chair and said `My dad’s gift’.

Not any more. Corruption charges, anti-incumbency and most important, the Karunanidhi parivaar’s monopoly over virtually every sunrise sector in Tamilnadu have become crucial  election issues and they could see the 86-year-old walking into his political sunset on Friday the 13th of May.

For instance, the Tamil entertainment industry, whose umblical chord with state politics never snapped, is today entirely controlled by different shafts of the first family and any star, however big, has to toe the line. Those who don’t, find their days as a star spoken of in flashback. Some of the disgruntled stars are now on Jayalalithaa’s side, visibly and some not so visibly.

The DMK has also been hoping that 2G will be an urban issue that the comparatively less educated rural voter will not understand. It could be in for a surprise there. Raja sent to jail on corruption charges, is good enough information for a voter who doesn’t need to then understand what spectrum and the complicated process of auction is all about, to decide who to vote for.

But while the cadre-based DMK is gambling, is the oversmart Congress overplaying its card? The cocky party will do well to remember Bihar@2010. Egged on by Rahul Gandhi, Mom Sonia ordained the Congress will contest all 243 assembly seats on its own. Yes, Laloo-Paswan were decimated but the Congress too ended up with egg on its face with a score of 4/243. Tamilnadu could be Bihar@2011.

Scenario one is that it blinks and goes back to the Karunanidhi household. But the voter has already seen the cracks in the alliance and any number of MK-SG-MMS joint appearances will not impress him. A sureshot recipe for electoral disaster, particularly when the alliance will not work well on the ground.

Here it is to be noted that the Congress-DMK partnership in Tamilnadu was at best frosty, thanks to Karunanidhi’s reluctance to share power at Fort St George. This time, the DMK patriarch reportedly was willing to give at best an unwritten promise that atleast five Congress MLAs will be made ministers if the alliance returned to power.

Scenario two is the break-up of the alliance and the Congress contesting separately. The strategy could include a knock on Kanimozhi’s door by the CBI to damage the DMK’s prospects, already afflicted by different members of the Karunanidhi clan heading different factions within the party. Don’t rule out the CBI being Congress’s partner in these elections.

Scenario three is to climb on to the Jayalalithaa bandwagon. P Chidambaram hinted at that when he remarked (to retract later) in Kancheepuram a couple of weeks ago “If one leaf withers, two leaves will sprout from the same tree”. The fact that two leaves is the AIADMK’s election symbol was not lost on anyone.

Congress leaders privately admit it is Advantage Jayalalithaa now. The lady from Poes Garden has just cast Vijaykanth in her political production, after months of some very hard bargaining from both sides. JJ had asked the Congress to dump the DMK last year. Publicly, the Congress said it and the DMK were fevicolised but knowing how fickle and unfaithful an electoral partner the Congress has been since the birth of the Dravidian parties, you can never rule out a dalliance taking place over untapped phones.

The DMK’s pitch is that JJ is not unblemished either. Charges of corruption have dogged her at every step and this election is likely to see the voter settling for the lesser of the two corrupt parties.

Irrespective of whether it contests with DMK, AIADMK or alone, the Congress wants to be a player in as many seats as possible, and then be part of the power structure in Chennai. It aspires to play kingmaker with many of its young guns – the Vasans, the Karthis – dreaming of being the mini-Kamarajs of 21st century Tamilnadu. The risk of the dream turning a nightmare, however, is real.

Last week, during a visit to Chennai, I saw the city full of posters of P Chidambaram with his face in the middle of a sunflower, with Congress colours. Now that the Congress has shown its true colours, stepping out of the DMK’s rainbow coalition, it has to try and somehow ensure its colours don’t fade in the summer heat of Tamilnadu.