In a bind

Print edition : May 20, 2011

A beleaguered DMK feels the heat as Kanimozhi, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's daughter, is named in a charge sheet.

in Chennai

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi arrives with his daughter Kanimozhi for the party's high-level meeting in Chennai on April 27.-R SENTHIL KUMAR /PTI

THE Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has been facing crisis after crisis ever since the United Progressive Alliance government sought and obtained the resignation of A. Raja, Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology, on November 14, 2010, for his alleged role in the 2G spectrum scam. In the ongoing political battle of attrition over the 2G scam, the Congress, which heads the alliance, is wearing down the DMK, its partner in the UPA and the ruling party in Tamil Nadu.

The relationship between the two allies is strained once again. A beleaguered DMK is feeling the heat with the fallout of the spectrum scam having reached the doorstep of the DMK president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi. Cornered on the issue, the DMK has pledged to fight it legally even as the opposition All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) stepped up their offensive.

The latest crisis for the DMK developed on April 25 when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing the scam, named in a supplementary charge sheet Karunanidhi's daughter and Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi, Kalaignar TV managing director Sharad Kumar, and three others for criminal conspiracy and receiving illegal gratification. Karunanidhi's wife Dayalu Ammal will be one of the witnesses in the case. Special Judge (CBI) O.P. Saini, who took cognisance of the charge sheet, issued summons to Kanimozhi and Sharad Kumar, and the three others named in the charge sheet Asif Balwa and Rajiv Aggarwal, directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Limited, and Karim Morani, director of Cineyug Films to appear before his court in New Delhi on May 6.

DAYALU AMMAL, WIFE of Karunanidhi, holds a 60 per cent stake in Kalaignar TV.-N. SRIDHARAN

These five persons, along with Raja and DB Realty co-owners Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka, have been arraigned for their involvement in transferring Rs.214 crore from the DB Realty Group to Kalaignar TV between December 2008 and August 2009 by following a circuitous route through Dynamix Realty, Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Limited and Cineyug Films. Raja was arrested on February 2 for his role in the grant of telecom licences and the allocation of 2G spectrum in 2008 in violation of the established guidelines and procedures. Raja and Shahid Balwa, who was also arrested, have been remanded to judicial custody in Tihar Jail in New Delhi.

While Dayalu Ammal has a 60 per cent stake in Kalaignar TV, Kanimozhi and Sharad Kumar hold 20 per cent each.

The CBI questioned Dayalu Ammal and Kanimozhi on March 12 at the office of Kalaignar TV situated in Anna Arivalayam, the DMK headquarters in Chennai. On February 19, the CBI raided the Kalaignar TV office and interrogated Sharad Kumar after it found an alleged transfer of Rs.214 crore from Cineyug Films to Kalaignar TV. The CBI officers said Cineyug Films arranged the money from Shahid Balwa's DB group, the promoter of Etisalat DB and one of the main beneficiaries of the spectrum allocation. A Kalaignar TV official, however, maintained that the Rs.214 crore was a loan obtained from Cineyug Films and the same was returned with an interest of Rs.31 crore after the deal for picking up stakes in Kalaignar TV collapsed over differences in the valuation of shares.

SHARAD KUMAR, MANAGING Director, Kalaignar TV, has a 20 per cent stake.-R. RAGU

What has hit the DMK hard is the naming of Kanimozhi as a co-conspirator in the case. The party reacted immediately by convening its high-level implementation committee on April 27. However, the DMK's helplessness was evident when the committee merely passed a resolution expressing surprise at the inclusion of the names of Kanimozhi and Sharad Kumar in the charge sheet and vowed to fight the issue legally. It blamed hegemonistic forces for playing a game of political chess since the Comptroller and Auditor General's report spoke of presumptive loss to the Centre. The resolution attacked the press and some political leaders whose culture and way of life is to indulge in corruption but who saw the allegations in the 2G scam as a rare opportunity to politicise the issue, dismember the UPA, rattle the DMK and remove Karunanidhi from political leadership.

There was little the DMK could do other than fulminate against the media and some political leaders. A chastened DMK did not indulge in brinkmanship this time. On March 5, it had threatened to withdraw six DMK Ministers from the UPA government and offer issue-based support because the Congress demanded that it be allotted 63 seats of its choice for the Assembly elections held on April 13. It is not clear whether the election results on May 13 will give the DMK-led alliance, of which the Congress is a partner, a mandate to rule once again. If the DMK pulls out its Ministers from the Union Cabinet and also loses power in the State, it will find itself in a bind. Informed sources said the DMK sent out feelers to the Congress that it was willing to form a coalition government (an idea it was opposed to earlier) in Tamil Nadu if the DMK-led alliance were to capture power again.

FORMER COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER A. Raja being taken to court by officials from the CBI headquarters in New Delhi on February 17.-SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY

Informed DMK sources said Karunanidhi was anguished that the party's image had taken a beating. He explained to the high-level committee that if he personally brought Kanimozhi from her home to the meeting, it was not because he wanted to save her from the situation she was caught in. He saw her as a party worker and said her rise in the party could not be attributed to her being his daughter. He wanted to protect her on behalf of the party because he did not want the party's image to be bruised. It was out of jealousy that people were venting their spleen on Kanimozhi, but he would not betray the party for the sake of anybody, he said. Kanimozhi and her mother, Rajathi Ammal, were in a traumatic situation and he himself had not visited them for three days, the Chief Minister said.

Jayalalithaa's demand

AIADMK general secretary and former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and CPI(M) State secretary G. Ramakrishnan lost no time in attacking the DMK. Both demanded that Kalaignar TV be taken off the air. Jayalalithaa said it was not enough to merely mention Kanimozhi's name in the charge sheet. In a statement on April 25, she said: The operational licence granted to Kalaignar TV, which was clearly started with graft money, should be withdrawn and the channel should be taken off the air immediately. Kanimozhi, like all others charge-sheeted so far, should be arrested. She also wanted all the other members of the Karunanidhi family, who were direct or indirect beneficiaries in the gargantuan scam to be charge-sheeted and arrested. She insisted that the money trail should be fully traced and that the funds that have been taken out of India should be recovered.

THE OFFICE OF Kalaignar TV in Anna Arivalayam, the DMK headquarters in Chennai.-M. KARUNAKARAN

Jayalalithaa alleged that the supplementary charge sheet indicated that a clear kick-back link had been established between some key beneficiaries of the spectrum largesse doled out by Raja and Karunanidhi's family. This link has been established through the Rs.214 crore payment made to Kalaignar TV through a maze of companies linked to Shahid Balwa, the promoter of Swan Telecom, one of the biggest beneficiaries in the scam, she said. There is no justification for Shahid Balwa to pay Rs.214 crore to a newly launched Tamil television channel in which he has no other interest unless he had been asked to do so by Telecom Minister Raja as a quid pro quo for allotment of 2G spectrum licence, she added. It was surprising, Jayalalithaa said, that while Kanimozhi and Sharad Kumar were named in the charge sheet, Dayalu Ammal was left out.

Ramakrishnan wanted the functioning of Kalaignar TV, which, he alleged, was set up with the scam money as the capital, to be stopped until the court proceedings were completed. Action should be taken under the Indian Penal Code against the five named in the supplementary charge sheet, and it should be similar to the action taken against Raja, he said.

DMDK leader Vijayakant wanted to know why Dayalu Ammal was not included in the charge sheet when she held shares three times the value of shares held by Kanimozhi. Since the case was being monitored by the Supreme Court, Karunanidhi, on moral grounds, should resign. Or his government should be dismissed for justice to prevail, he said.

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