Brothers in trouble

Print edition : August 12, 2011

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and DMK chief M. Karunanidhi at the latter's Gopalapuram residence in Chennai on July 17. Dayanidhi Maran (right) is also present. - PTI

MISFORTUNES never come singly. This adage seems to have come true not only for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) but also for the two Maran brothers, grandnephews of the DMK president and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi. It is now the turn of Dayanidhi Maran to face the 2G spectrum music after A. Raja, former Union Communications and Information Technology Minister, and Kanimozhi, Karunanidhi's daughter and Rajya Sabha member. Both are in judicial custody in Tihar jail in New Delhi.

Dayanidhi Maran resigned as Union Textiles Minister on July 7 after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing the 2G spectrum scam, told the Supreme Court that there was prima facie material to suggest that there was an element of coercion by the former Telecom Minister in Aircel selling its shares to a Malaysian telecom company. The CBI also told the Supreme Court that Dayanidhi Maran, who was Communications and Information Technology Minister from May 2004 to May 2007, deliberately sat on Aircel's applications for telecom licences for months together until Aircel was bought out by Maxis, the Malaysian telecom company.

Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, who appeared for the CBI, told the Supreme Court, This gentleman [C. Sivasankaran, promoter of Aircel] was forced to transfer all his shares to the Malaysian company. Only after the transfer took place in March 2006, action was taken on all the applications for licence. The Letter of Intent was issued to the Malaysian company in November 2006 and the licence was granted in December 2006. The CBI is now probing whether there is any quid pro quo in the transaction.

Venugopal, who read out in the Supreme Court the highlights of the CBI's status report in the 2G spectrum case, said Dayanidhi delayed the file for granting telecom licences to Aircel. Frivolous and unwanted queries were made to Aircel aimed at delaying the file while no such queries were raised against two other companies that had applied for licences during the same period, he said.

There was also trouble in store in Chennai for Dayanidhi's elder brother, Kalanidhi, who is chairman and managing director of Sun Network. Kalanidhi owns Sun Pictures as well, which is into production and distribution of feature films. The Chennai Police summoned Kalanidhi to appear before the investigating officer at the K.K. Nagar police station after the police arrested Hansraj Saxena, chief operating officer of Sun Pictures, on July 3 at Chennai in a cheating case, and a magistrate remanded Saxena in judicial custody in the Central Prison at Puzhal, near Chennai. The next few days saw police arresting Saxena in more cases under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for cheating, assault, and wrongful restraint.

The police arrested Saxena on July 3 on a complaint from T.S. Selvaraj, a film producer from Salem. Selvaraj accused Saxena of cheating him of Rs.82.53 lakh over distribution rights of a Tamil film after reportedly promising to pay him Rs.1.25 crore. The police arrested Saxena in another case after Shanmugavelu, a film distributor from Salem, complained to the police that Saxena, his associate Ayyappan and three others assaulted him after a misunderstanding over the distribution of the film.

Saxena was arrested in a third case after Nemichand Jebak, a film producer from Chennai, complained to the police that Saxena had him confined to a room in a hotel and that he was made to part with Rs.3.37 crore. Nemichand said he had produced a Tamil film and Sun Pictures released the film after making him a payment of Rs.4 crore. But Saxena wanted his money back when the film did not do well, Nemichand said.

A police officer explained why Kalanidhi was asked to appear before the investigating officer at the K.K. Nagar police station in the wake of the three complaints against Saxena and the latter's subsequent arrest: Since the quantum of money in the cheating cases is to the tune of a few crores of rupees, we need to examine Maran in his capacity as the managing director of the company [Sun Pictures]. Such huge transactions could not have happened without his knowledge. We have called for the documents pertaining to the transactions between Sun Pictures and film distributors. The Chief Financial Officer of the firm was examined ( The Hindu, Chennai edition, July 14). Kalanidhi sought time to appear before the investigating officer, saying he could appear any day after July 26.

What has unnerved the Sun TV group is that Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has promised action against Kalanidhi and his companies on the basis of complaints filed against them. Whatever complaints have been received, whatever evidence has come to light, will be acted upon with all seriousness, she said.

Dayanidhi is worried that the CBI might summon him soon for interrogation. Informed DMK sources said the Maran brothers were jittery and that they were fully occupied with evolving a strategy to counter the legal cases that might be filed against them.

Nobody in the DMK seems to be shedding tears for Dayanidhi or Kalanidhi. If Dayanidhi, with his condescending attitude, did not endear himself to the DMK cadres, Kalanidhi's Sun Pictures alienated a big section of the film industry with its high-handed actions in producing, distributing and screening films during the DMK regime that was voted out recently.

DMK leaders are not sympathetic to the Maran brothers' plight because in their perception it was Sun TV that blew up the 2G spectrum scam and went to town with the story after Raja was allotted the Communications and Information Technology portfolio again in 2009. The DMK leaders alleged that Sun TV did this because Dayanidhi was chagrined that he did not get the coveted Communications and Information Technology portfolio in 2009.

In several indoor meetings of the DMK, cadres have openly complained that one of the reasons behind the DMK losing the Assembly elections in 2011 was Sun TV drumming up the 2G spectrum scam, and the high-handed actions of Sun Pictures, a DMK leader said.

After Raja, Dayanidhi is the second Union Minister belonging to the DMK to become a casualty in the 2G spectrum scam. On July 9, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is a trouble-shooter for the Congress, met Karunanidhi in Chennai and suggested that the DMK president name two party nominees for Union Cabinet berths as replacements for Raja and Dayanidhi. Karunanidhi declined, which is not surprising in the context of the strain that the alliance has been under since Raja's resignation in November 2010.

T.S. Subramanian

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