“Seat sharing is also an issue,” DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi had blurted out in an unguarded moment a day after his party threatened to pull out six union ministers from the UPA because the talks with the Congress over constituency allocation for the polls had broken down.
That was when a TV reporter in Chennai had ventured to ask Karunanidhi, 85, whether the DMK was forced to adopt an extreme path because of the Congress’s demand for more seats.
Karunanidhi’s remark had come to be seen as an ominous sign for the course of the CBI probe into the 2G scam. Was the crisis related to the DMK’s first family’s problems following the CBI’s pursuit of money trail in respect of the scam?
Anyone who knows Kalaignar can’t believe a seasoned leader like him could trigger the crisis by accusing the Congress of being “unreasonable” in seat-sharing talks and take the government to the brink.
Significantly, the standoff began last Saturday, when newspapers were full of reports of about the CBI imminently seeking to quiz Karunanidhi’s daughter and MP Kanimozhi in connection with the alleged pay-offs to the DMK’s first family-owned Kalaignar TV channel from the ill-gotten gains of the 2G scam.
As the crisis lingered, the buzz grew stronger. Did Karunanidhi’s unstated wish list include a demand that the CBI should not question his daughter till the TN polls were over on April 13? The act of the CBI quizzing Kanimozhi would have damaged the DMK’s prospects.
The Congress sources dismissed the talk, saying the Supreme Court and not the Centre was monitoring the case.
DMK senior leader TR Baalu said “if we wanted to influence the probe, we would had done it when A Raja was made to resign (as telecom minister) or arrested” Besides, the government would not like to expose itself to any censure in this regard.
Now the issue is whether the CBI will question Kanimozhi. She holds a 20% stake in Kalaignar TV, which allegedly got R214 crore from Mumbai-based Cineyug Films. The CBI claimed the funds came from the DB group of Shahid Balwa, who is in jail. Etisalat DB was one of the main beneficiaries in the scam.
The proof of the pudding should come in the next few days. The CBI has to show before March 31 its draft charge sheet to the Supreme Court, before filing it in the designated court. Not without design, as the political crisis began, AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa had charged that the CBI had given enough time to Karunanidhi to “work out escape strategies”.