Rise & fall of Dayanidhi Maran

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | Updated: Oct 11 2011, 09:06am hrs
It is now well established that leaders of the losing side in any electoral skirmish in Tamil Nadu may have to spend a spell behind bars. That seems to be the case with the DMK, and former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran has already cleared the necessary condition for an imminent arrest, with dramatic raids by CBI at his various residences.

It has been an inglorious fall for Dayanidhi, once feted as DMK patriarch M Karunanidhis eyes and ears in Delhi, then labelled a pariah after a bout of family infighting and then finally another victim of the 2G juggernaut. Just how did Dayanidhi, heir to a fortune in media holdings and one of the bright sparks of the UPAs first term in government, come to this pass

Dayanidhis start in politics, like many of his cohort group in the Class of 2004, boasted a privileged lineage. He is the son of former Union minister Murasoli Maran, and grand nephew of Karunanidhi. In fact, at Dayanidhi Marans official Website, his biographical sketch has more about his fathers strong stand at the WTO and his fathers trade policy as commerce and industry minister than about himself.

This was the connection that got him an entry into politics, and then into the Union government as Cabinet minister in the first year that he entered the Lok Sabha. He was also an English-speaking sophisticate, educated at Loyola College in Chennai, and Harvarda better fit in Delhi, or so it was thought.

Karunanidhis own calculation was that Dayanidhi could perhaps replicate his own successful pairing with Murasoli Maran, which saw the latter as Union minister in Delhi and Karunanidhi at the head of state politics. Karunanidhi planned for Dayanidhi to be that Delhi foil for his own sons Stalin and Alagiri.

In 2007, however, it all unravelled. It began with Sun TVs initial public offering (IPO). One of Karunanidhis wives held a 20% stake in Sun TV, which operated out of the DMK headquarters, Anna Arivalayam. Before the IPO, the brothers bought out that stake. Karunanidhi didnt comment, but the next generation of the family knew they had been gypped.

Then came the now-infamous leadership survey in the Maran-owned Dinakaran newspaper, which played favourites among Karunanidhis sons for the post-Kalaignar scenario.

This transgression, even more than any other, tipped the scales for Karunanidhi. So incensed was the DMK leader that when Dayanidhi went to meet Karunanidhi in order to explain his position, he was kept waiting and then summarily asked to send his resignation to PM Manmohan Singh. Needless to say, Sun TV had to look for new premises soon.

Ironically, it was the funding of Kalaignar TVlaunched as a replacement to Sun TV as the partys propaganda toolwhich landed Karunanidhis daughter MK Kanimozhi in jail.

Thus ended Dayanidhis tenure as telecom minister, the threads of which seem to be unravelling now. Bizarre details are cropping up every day. Apart from 323 telephone lines that ran from his home in Chennai to his brothers TV offices, he has got into a legal soup over allegations that he forced Aircel owner C Sivasankaran to sell stake to Malaysias Maxis. And while Maran had another stint at the Centre after a rather uneasy patch-up with the Karunanidhi family, it didnt last long. The Aircel-Maxis deal put paid to his second stint in government.

During his last Cabinet meeting in Delhi, Dayanidhi excused himself from the meeting when the question of FM licences was being discussed, citing conflict of interest considering his own business interests. A case of bolting the stable doors after the horses had already run away, it seemed.

That evening, he resigned, to an uncertain political and legal future.

As the drama continues to unfold, is there a lesson to be learnt Could Dayanidhi have played it any different Could he have been a little humble, a little smarter, bothered to make friends With money, might and clout, did he over-reach

These are questions that even Dayanidhi will ask himself. And like his aunt Kanimozhi, he will have plenty of time to contemplate the answers.

nistula.hebbar@expressindia.com