The DMK appeared set to suspend former telecom minister A Raja from the party following his arrest by the CBI on Wednesday for his role in the 2G-spectrum allocation scam.
With assembly elections due in Tamil Nadu in May, it desperately needs to limit the damage to the party’s image caused by the arrest.
DMK sources, however, also said the arrest would not impact their alliance with the Congress. “This will in no way change the DMK’s equation with the Congress for the assembly elections,” said one of them.
Yet the party is aware that dumping an important Dalit leader like Raja will have other repercussions. There is bound to be disquiet among the state’s Dalits, leading to erosion of support for the DMK in this community.
A section of DMK cadres are also unhappy over the party “washing its hands off” Raja, a man “who had only worked for the DMK’s first family and the party”, as a senior leader put it.
Indeed, responses to Raja’s arrest within Karunanidhi’s own family have also been widely divergent, DMK sources said. Karunanidhi’s two sons, union minister MK Alagiri and Tamil Nadu deputy chief minister MK Stalin – are both said to be ‘happy’ that the suspense over Raja is over.
Alagiri, in particular, is known to have been opposed to Raja, and had accused him of having brought a ‘bad name’ to the DMK by his involvement in the spectrum scam. He particularly resented Raja’s proximity to his father’s second wife, Rajathi Ammal and her daughter Kanimozhi.
In contrast, Kanimozhi was ‘watching the situation’, said sources. If the CBI made more arrests, especially those of people close to Raja and Kanimozhi, the rift within the Karunanidhi family could intensify, sources said.
A senior party leader, requesting anonymity, said pressure would now mount on Karunanidhi from both Alagiri and Stalin to distance the party from Raja.
“Some action like stripping Raja of the party post of propaganda secretary that he holds may be considered,” said another leader.
Officially the DMK had no comment to make. Karunanidhi, cornered by newsmen while leaving the state secretariat, refused to say anything.
The DMK office bore a deserted look all day.
Raja’s arrest comes on the eve of a crucial meeting of the DMK’s general council on Thursday, called to brief party leaders of the details of Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi’s discussions on seat sharing in the coming polls with Sonia Gandhi in Delhi on Monday.
DMK sources said Karunanidhi had been given hints of Raja’s impending arrest while he was in the Capital.