Andimuthu Raja, a cabinet minister representing the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam or DMK, a regional ally in the Congress-led Union coalition government, who will replace outgoing communications and technology minister Dayanidhi Maran, may be a loyal party worker, but could be ill-suited for the job, analysts said.
Raja, the cabinet minister for environment and forests, will be replaced by another minister representing DMK, S. Reghupathy, who is currently the minister of state for personnel in the home ministry. Reghupathy will be minister of state for enviroment and forests, with the cabinet portfolio being held by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Abdul Kalam’s office said.
An analyst said Raja’s personality was as low-profile as Maran was high-profile. “Raja is a very non-controversial choice,” Krishna Ananth, a Chennai-based independent political analyst and columnist said. “He is someone whose dedication to the party cannot be questioned, but at the same time, is a low-profile person, unlike the outgoing minister. He would be the ideal candidate if they wanted someone they could move back to the original portfolio after a while,” Ananth added.
After the juggling of ministerial berths, DMK has one minister less than it used to have before Maran’s exit, leaving the option open for the party to bring in a new cabinet minister. “Since the vacancy is of the cabinet level, Raja’s appointment can be a temporary one and the party may soon bring in a new face after moving Raja back to the environment ministry,” Ananth predicted.
A third-time member of the Lok Sabha, Raja represents the Perambalur constituency in southern Tamil Nadu.
“Raja is not expected to have any strong views on the sector,” said N. Bhaskara Rao, chairman of the Centre of Media Studies, a policy research group in New Delhi.
Dayanidhi Maran quit on Sunday after DMK asked him to explain why he should not be expelled from the party. His exit came in the wake of a raging controversy after Dinakaran, the newspaper controlled by his brother Kalanidhi Maran, published an opinion poll that gave low approval ratings to M.K. Azhagiri, the elder son of DMK president and Tamil Nadu chief minister K. Karunanidhi. The opinion poll sparked off violence, resulting in the death of three people as alleged Azhagiri supporters attacked Dinakaran offices.
Raja will inherit many half-done projects from Maran, such as drawing up the guidelines for the introduction of next generation mobile services and wireless broadband, besides plans to cut tariffs further in a market that already has the lowest call rates and is the fastest growing in the world.
A lawyer by profession, Raja has written a book on democracy and composes poems in Tamil.
Shailendra Bhatnagar and Bibhudatta Pradhan of Bloomberg contributed to this story.