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Maran case another melting point for Tamil Nadu politics

Sandhya Ravishankar | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:39 IST

The case

  • Dayanidhi Maran is alleged to have run an illegal telephone exchange when he was a Union minister
  • The exchange ran from his house and transferred data to brother Kalanithi\'s Sun TV offices
  • The CBI alleges the 300-line exchange cost the exchequer Rs 1.7 crore
  • At the CBI\'s behest, the Madras High Court has cancelled Maran\'s anticipatory bail
  • The Supreme Court has stayed Maran\'s arrest till 14 September

The impact

  • Maran\'s impending arrest is the latest corruption case against a top Tamil Nadu politician
  • DMK\'s Kanimozhi and A Raja are already standing trial in the 2G scam
  • AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa\'s acquittal in a corruption case is being challenged in the SC
  • Even smaller players like PMK\'s Anbumani Ramadoss face CBI cases
  • As such, Tamil Nadu politics faces a crisis of leadership

Former Union Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party in Tamil Nadu was staring at arrest in the BSNL Exchange case.

However, he can heave a sigh of relief, as the Supreme Court accepted his plea for reinstating his anticipatory bail on 12 August. The apex court will next hear the case on 14 September.

CBI puts Maran in hot water

Maran was granted six weeks' anticipatory bail by the Madras High Court on 30 June, after his counsel submitted that he would cooperate with the investigation by the CBI into the case of an illegal telephone exchange set up in his house when he was the telecom minister.

The CBI subsequently filed a plea in the Madras High Court, asking for his anticipatory bail to be cancelled, as he did not answer questions convincingly during the investigation.

Justice S Vaidyanathan of the Madras High Court ruled in favour of the CBI on 10 August, asking the younger Maran to surrender within three days.

The case pertains to allegations that 300 illegal telephone lines transmitted high speed data from Maran's Boat Club residence in Chennai to the offices of his elder brother Kalanithi Maran's Sun TV network. The CBI has alleged a loss of Rs 1.7 crore to the exchequer.

Impact on Tamil Nadu politics

Despite the latest twist in Maran's case, Tamil Nadu politics, it appears, is on the boil. Top leaders from both the state's political behemoths, the DMK and the AIADMK, are twisting in the throes of various cases of corruption and misuse of power.

Within the DMK itself, former Union Telecom Minister A Raja and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi are standing trial in the alleged Rs 1.76 lakh crore 2G scam, which is being heard in a special court in Delhi. The case is nearing completion after a four-year long trial, and closing arguments are on.

Other leaders of the DMK face various charges in the state - land grabbing, disproportionate assets and other corruption-related charges.

The DMK's arch rival, the ruling AIADMK, is not immune to this either.

An illegal telephone exchange at Maran's Chennai home cost the exchequer Rs 1.7 crore, according to the CBI

A 19-year-old case of disproportionate assets has come back to haunt Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, despite an acquittal in May 2015, following a conviction and jail sentence in September 2014.

The Karnataka government, which is the prosecuting agency, has filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court, asking it to overturn the acquittal granted by the Karnataka High Court in May, citing arithmetic errors and doubling errors in the judgement.

The Supreme Court has sent a notice to Jayalalithaa and two other accused in the case. Within the next month-and-a half, the trial is expected to begin.

Smaller players are also in trouble. The Pattali Makkal Katchi's (PMK) chief ministerial candidate, former Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, also faces CBI cases.

The Congress, discredited at the national level on the issue of corruption, has to face the electorate with major allegations against key leaders in the state, like P Chidambaram.

"It is a 'melting point' situation for Tamil Nadu politics," said Gnani Sankaran, a political analyst. "We have to wait for a few months for things to evolve and take shape on all fronts."

Politics of vengeance

Tamil Nadu goes to polls in early 2016. An ailing Jayalalithaa, hampered further by the case in the apex court; a nonagenarian DMK chief M Karunanidhi and his discredited family - all these things point to a crisis within the state's politics.

Experts feel that politics of vengeance have led to the current stasis in the state and the country's politics.

"It is not just Tamil Nadu politics. The entire Indian politics is in a crisis - corruption, secularism and caste are the three crises in the country," opined C Lakshmanan, political analyst and assistant professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies in Chennai.

"We have lost out the entire political process due to a lack of principled and ideological politics. It is purely politics of clinging on to power by all parties. Politics of vengeance is the order of the day."

It is this crisis that some smaller players in the state, like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are trying to take advantage of.

"There is definitely a vacuum in the politics of the state," BJP's state president Tamilisai Soundararajan told Catch.

"All major parties and their leaders are facing serious charges. The people do not believe in these leaders anymore. I believe the people of Tamil Nadu will bring about a silent revolution in the state," she said.

Whether the BJP's strategy will work in a state where it has virtually no presence, remains to be seen in 2016.

First published: 12 August 2015, 3:08 IST
Sandhya Ravishankar @sandhyaravishan

Sandhya Ravishankar spends her time sniffing out stories from the Southern part of the country. She is an independent journalist based in Chennai.