Bangalore / Chennai: As national elections approach, Tamil Nadu’s ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or DMK looks set to project a united front with party chief M Karunanidhi ending a year-long feud between family members that threatened to work to the advantage of rival parties.
On Monday, Karunandhi met his grandnephews Dayanidhi Maran and Kalanidhi Maran with whom he had severed ties in May 2007 after a fall-out over a report published in Dinakaran, a Tamil daily which Kalanidhi runs. The row also cost Dayanidhi Maran his post as union minister for communications and Information Technology. The DMK is an ally of the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, and the Congress supports the DMK’s coalition government in Tamil Nadu, of which Karunanidhi is chief minister.
“Definetely, it will help the party to put (up) a united face,” said Vayalar Ravi, minister for overseas Indians and the Congress party co-ordinator for Tamil Nadu.
The re-union could ease friction between the Marans and Karunanidhi’s sons M.K.Azhagiri and M.K.Stalin which started when the Dinakaran published surveys of their popularity — something Karunanidhi did not approve of, and which led to attacks on the newspaper’s offices in Madurai allegedly by Azhagiri’s supporters in which three employees lost their lives.
The surveys had claimed that around 70% of people wanted M K Stalin, the younger of the siblings, as Karunanidhi’s successor, while only 2% voted in favour of M K Azhagiri. Another survey had ranked Dayanidhi Maran ahead of other union ministers from Tamil Nadu such as P. Chidambaram, T R Baalu and Anbumani Ramadoss.
“Its not going to add vote to the DMK’s kitty per se, but it would definitely improve the party’s image,” said N.Sathiya Moorthy, director of the Chennai chapter of Observer Research Foundation, a policy think tank. “A stage had come where family feuds had left a bad taste in the mouth of the voter. That feeling may come to an end.”
More importantly, analysts see the DMK benefitting from the considerable media clout that Kalanidhi Maran possesses. He is a promoter of Sun TV Network Ltd., which airs Sun TV, the oldest and popular television channel in Tamil Nadu and a slew of channels in other languages.
Sun TV’s stock gained 12.25%, or Rs16.20 at the Bombay Stock Exchange to close at Rs142.30 at the end of trading on Tuesday.
Sun TV was seen as the mouthpiece of DMK till the family feud changed it all. While the DMK launched its own channel called ‘Kalaignar TV’ some three months after the split, the government also launched its own multi-systems operator (MSO), Arasu Cable TV Corporation Ltd to take on the Maran-owned cable network Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV). The two firms are now locked in a dispute with the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal.
A DMK party member, who asked not to be named said: “This (re-union) will put an end to all those problems.”
G.V.L.Narasimha Rao, managing director of the Delhi-based consultancy firm, Development and Research Services Pvt.Ltd., and a Mint columnist said that the DMK might have feared that the Maran brothers would join its rivals. “This is an acknowledgement of Marans’ media clout.”
“Sun TV has been campaigning for the opposition parties (and) that adds to the problem for the ruling party,” said Cho Ramaswamy, a Chennai-based political commentator and editor of the Tamil magazine Thughlak.
However, Sathiya Moorthy says that it remains to be seen if Dayanidhi Maran would again fill in the role he had played as the party’s pointsman in Delhi, and in election campaigns. “Between now and elections, family patch up should not be merely a photo opportunity,” he added.