Saturday, 9 July 2011

Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran quits

Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran's resignation from the central cabinet was long overdue.
Yahoo! had predicted last month that Maran was on his way out. Today, as he drove out of the prime minister's house after putting in his papers, it was clear the Tamil Nadu politician had been forced out. His official Mercedes, with a red beacon, was gone. He drove out in a more modest Honda City. He was smiling, but he knew he could well be driving into political wilderness, or if luck runs out, into jail.
There was a lot going against Maran, but the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had remained reluctant to sack him because of 'coalition compulsions'.

Here's a quick overview of the Maran saga.
Why did he resign?
Maran is a prominent leader of the DMK, a party that has held the telecommunications portfolio at the centre for seven years. Two of his party colleagues are already in jail on charges of selling 2G spectrum cheap and getting huge kickbacks. Maran was the telecommunications minister in UPA-I, and had the authority to grant telecom licences. He allegedly armtwisted C Sivasankaran, who owned Aircel, to sell the mobile services company to Maxis. This he achieved by delaying grant of licences to Aircel as long as it was in the hands of Sivasankaran. Once his buddy, who owns Maxis, had control, the licences were all his.
How do we know the deal was shady?Maxis soon invested Rs 675 crore in Sun DTH, a company owned by Dayanidhi's brother Kalanidhi. The Malaysian company is reported to have paid more than the market value, and investigators believe the extra money was a bribe by another name.
Who caught Dayanidhi out?
The CBI, which is investigating the 2G spectrum scandal. The sleuths' case was strengthened by C Sivasankaran, a witness in the 2G case, who testified he was coerced into giving up his company to Maxis. That made Maran's position shaky. The CBI might have taken things easy, but the Supreme Court is keeping a close eye on its investigations.
What will happen to the DMK now?
The party's destructive streak continues. Karunidhi, the DMK's patriarch, is a broken man, with his daughter Kanimozhi lodged in Tihar jail. His protege A Raja is also behind bars. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reportedly spoke to Karunanidhi on Wednesday, and convinced him Maran should go. A tired Karunanidhi wouldn't have thought too hard before giving Manmohan Singh his go-ahead. Dayanidhi and Kalanidhi are his grand-nephews. His family's relations with the Marans have been unsteady. As things stand today, he will not stick his neck out to save the Marans.
Will the resignation hit DMK's ties with the Congress?
Most certainly. The alliance is already frayed. The DMK feels the Congress is not protecting its leaders when they face corruption charges. The Congress now knows the DMK's strength has eroded. DMK has lost Tamil Nadu to AIADMK. It still has 18 MPs, and shares power at the centre. The DMK hopes Maran's position will remain with the DMK, but it is in no position to dictate terms. The Congress and the DMK are still allies. They fought the assembly elections in Tamil Nadu jointly, and fared miserably. The DMK has reason to break away, and so has the Congress. The marriage may not last much longer.
What will happen to the Marans' business empire?
Sun TV is the family's most visible corporate entity. It offers a host of channels not just in Tamil but in other south Indian languages as well. Sun TV holds sway over Tamil Nadu, thanks mainly to its catalogue of films. Its stocks fell by 8 per cent as soon as Maran was arrested, but recovered some of the loss soon. The family's television business may not be affected, but its cable business is already hit, with Jayalalithaa nationalising the service. The other businesses will be affected, but to what extent and how we will know only as things unfold further.

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