Wily nephews' dinner gives Karunanidhi a digestion problem

Wily nephews' dinner gives Karunanidhi a digestion problem

Raja, rani, joker

 This sudden development seems to have impinged on the intra-family politics of the ruling DMK as well in Chennai.

Sources close to the DMK told Deccan Herald over phone on Tuesday that Kalanidhi Maran had hosted a dinner at a five-star hotel in Chennai  on Sunday night even as a shaken Raja was heading towards the prime minister’s residence in New Delhi to hand in his papers.

Though Raja has been reiterating his “innocence” in the entire affair and is backed by both Karunanidhi and his daughter Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha member, the Chennai dinner attended by both Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin and his bête noire and Union Fertiliser Minister M K Alagiri, has raised eyebrows.

Sources pointed out that the dinner thrown by the Maran brothers – the younger Maran, former telecom minister Dayanidhi, was also present – was purely a “family function” and had been arranged much earlier.

“It should not be read as a move by a major section of the family using Raja’s resignation as a ruse to isolate and run down Kanimozhi’s ascendancy in the party,” argued the Maran brothers camp.

Raja’s protestations have tried to involve Dayanidhi Maran himself as he was “one of his predecessors in the same post”.

While the brothers’ sympathies for Stalin are well known - he was one of those who played a key role in November 2008 to patch up the feud between the former and Karunanidhi’s immediate family, what set tongues wagging was Alagiri flying down from Madurai to join that dinner.

Sources point out that though the faceoff between Alagiri and the Maran brothers lingers ever since the attack on the latter’s newspaper office (Dinakaran) in Madurai in May 2007, this family get-together was in the run-up to the November 18 marriage of Alagiri’s son, Durai Dayanidhi in Madurai. “It may have even been a “mehndi” function and nothing much should be read into it,” stressed family sources.

Countering speculation

Moreover, Kanimozhi is herself a strong admirer of Alagiri and is also appreciative of Stalin, they argue, to counter speculation that the dinner was an attempt to isolate Kanimozhi. Sources said: “you can’t say it is dinner diplomacy; the fact is Dayanidhi Maran is also eyeing the telecom portfolio.”

All these rapid developments have subdued the DMK patriarch. Karunanidhi who was scheduled to speak at a function in Chennai on Tuesday to mark the 150th year celebrations of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), but chose to keep away from it. Karunanidhi instead went to Mamallapuram and returned to Chennai only at dusk. His speech was read out by Stalin in which the DMK leader took a potshot at the CAG coming out with incomplete reports on serious issues without mentioning the latest 2G-Spectrum allocation scam. 

Sources say the party leadership is not too pleased at HRD Minister Kapil Sibal being given additional charge of the telecom portfolio till a formal Cabinet reshuffle. But the move is more a technical necessity, as “when Parliament is in session it is usually not the practice to swear in new ministers,” explains a DMK MP.

“Since the prime minister cannot be saddled with the task of having to reply to questions during question hour, Sibal has been given additional charge,” the MP said, adding, the DMK did not expect him to hold the portfolio for long as Sibal already has “heavy portfolios on his hands”.

The DMK also does not wish to protest as Sibal had played a crucial role as the party’s lawyer before the Election Commission when rebel leader Vaiko had challenged the party’s symbol and flag after the formation of the MDMK in 1993. Karunanidhi himself has acknowledged Sibal’s role which enabled the DMK to retain its original bi-colour flag and “rising sun” symbol. The political suspense continues.

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