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Who’s the best minister of them all?


Chennai : An opinion poll on the best union minister here has added to the rift between the DMK and its ally PMK, and its first victim could be the Reliance group.

The trouble started when Dinakaran, a newspaper owned by Kalanidhi Maran's Sun Group, published the result of an opinion poll it conducted saying Union Information Technology and Communication Minister Dayanidhi Maran had polled maximum votes for being a good performer.

Dayanidhi is the son of late DMK leader Murasoli Maran and brother of media magnet Kalanidhi Maran. The paper said Maran was chosen as the best minister with 64 percent votes followed by P.C. Chidambaram and T.R. Baalu.

The paper Monday said performance-wise, its readers had ranked PMK leader and Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss at the bottom of the list. He got only one percent vote.

A very angry PMK supremo and Anbumani's father, S. Ramadoss lashed out at DMK leader Maran, saying, "He (Dayanidhi) expects the Murugans and Adityans of Tamil Nadu to compete with Mukesh Ambani and Aditya Birla."

The rift had its repercussions in the assembly Tuesday, forcing Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi to intervene in a discussion on the demand of grants for industries and IT departments, and respond to the PMK's demand to close all Reliance retail outlets in Chennai.

Dayanidhi has been advocating more entrepreneurship in Tamil Nadu as well as special economic zones (SEZs), foreign direct investment (FDI) and other corporate programmes.

Ramadoss and the PMK are against FDI in retail, SEZs and other massive expansion plans of the DMK government.

They are also advocating a ban on smoking while the DMK is supporting a delay and stay on caution signs on nicotine products.

After the publication of the ratings, PMK cadres throughout the state took out rallies condemning the newspaper as well as the union minister.

Ramadoss remarked: "Let them scratch their own backs but let them not bring Anbumani's name into it." He added that the people of Tamil Nadu "do not like self-praise" and this was "anti-Tamil culture".

Ramadoss even accused Maran of formulating the Tamil Nadu government's stand on multinational entry into retail.

A hugely embarrassed chief minister and DMK president was forced to make a statement here pulling up Dinakaran saying such polls should not create hatred among the constituents of the ruling alliance.

"Do not have faith in such polls or comment in a manner that will destroy the friendly relationship among the allies," he told his partymen.

On Tuesday, PMK's G.K. Mani said in the house that there were 18 fresh Reliance retail outlets in Chennai and MNCs like Wal-Mart also were also planning to invest in the retail sector. "This would badly affect the livelihood of crores of small traders in Tamil Nadu," he added.

The chief minister passed the buck to the union government, saying that he "was not sure whether the state government had the powers to execute such a ban".

He added that both the DMK and the PMK "as part of the union cabinet" could press the centre for a resolution for the ouster of Reliance and other big companies from the retail trade.