Why did Maran have to resign?

By Papri Sri Raman


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Chennai : Communications and IT Minister Dayanidhi Maran had to resign from the union cabinet as he is said to be up against the women of DMK patriarch and Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's family.

The women here would be Dayalu Ammal, mother of M.K. Azhagiri and M.K. Stalin – Karunanidhi's sons, his ambitious daughter M.K. Kanimozhi and her mother Rajathi Ammal.

In fact, his resignation letter states he was prepared to accept the party decision "if it gave any joy to Mr Karunanidhi and family".

It was probably one of the most pragmatic of political decisions in recent times after his DMK party served him a notice for "actions detrimental to the party".

In the last three years, Maran had emerged as an effective pointsman for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), one of India's oldest parties and also part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) ruling in New Delhi.

Shipping and Surface Transport Minister T.R. Baalu was the DMK pointsman before young Maran emerged on the scene. Maran's rapport with Congress president Sonia Gandhi was as much a matter of envy as was his closeness to the industry.

The suave and cosmopolitan Maran managed to draw investment worth Rs.30 billion into Tamil Nadu alone in just six-eight months. He has proved his capability as a minister and most parties would be proud to have him as a member. So why did Maran have to go?

Kanimozhi's mother Rajathi Ammal has emerged as a powerbroker ever since the DMK came to power in the state on May 13, 2006 and her CIT Road house is where many important decisions are taken. The English-speaking and smart Kanimozhi is a glib communicator and is in the long run expected to emerge as the next pointsman for the DMK in New Delhi – if not as good as Maran, certainly better than all the others.

Maran's exit is being seen here as an opportunity for Kanimozhi.

Then there is Dayalu Ammal, mother of M.K. Azhagiri and M.K. Stalin – Karunanidhi's sons. Azhagiri had for many years been alienated from the family. He was sent away from Chennai, as he was seen as a threat to Stalin, just as Murasoli Maran was sent to New Delhi by the DMK to again safeguard Stalin for chief-ministership.

It was during the early days of the erstwhile AIADMK regime, when the Jayalalitha government arrested Karunanidhi, recorded for posterity by the Marans' Sun Television images, that Dayalu managed a rapprochement of her elder son with Karunanidhi.

Azhagiri's support in the southern districts was also a major contribution to the DMK's election victory in May 2006. In 2001, he had fielded candidates opposing the DMK's and the AIADMK won as a result.

So anyone fomenting a rift between Azhagiri and Stalin cannot be pardoned.

The DMK administrative committee that met Sunday here did not discuss any action against the chief minister's Madurai-based son Azhagiri, whose supporters burned the Dinakaran newspaper office, killing three media employees Wednesday. The violence took place as the paper, owned by Dayanidhi Maran's brother Kalanidhi, published a survey that projected Stalin as being a more popular heir to Karunanidhi than Azhagiri.

The family then told the patriarch: "If they (Marans) can do this when you are hale and hearty, what will they do when you are not?"

The DMK-Karunanidhi empire's division is currently no doubt as follows – south of Madurai under Azhagiri, Chennai with Stalin and New Delhi over to Kanimozhi. So there is no space here for any Maran.

Maran is an elected leader from Central Chennai constituency, and by the next Lok Sabha elections in 2008 he may be able to even contest as an independent.

Though he loses a ministry, Maran may continue to remain an MP unless he resigns. Maran's resignation would mean one MP less for the DMK and a by-election by year-end.

One immediate outcome of the DMK's rift with Maran is the return of Baalu as the party's chief spokesperson. But he is at the moment in the middle of a controversy over railroading the Sethusamudram canal project that no one except the DMK wants.

Baalu's relations with the opposition in parliament is not too good and there are accusations of corruption and misuse of office against him. The DMK may soon have to look for another charming and less controversial pointsman.

In June, the DMK will be sending six members to the Rajya Sabha and Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi is expected to be one of them.