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Why Karunanidhi can’t ditch ‘Spectrum Raja’

delhi Updated: May 06, 2010 00:10 IST
Shekhar Iyer
Shekhar Iyer
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

When DMK chief M. Karunanidhi invoked the Dalit card to brush off the demand for Telecom Minister Andimuthu Raja’s resignation, no one in the DMK expected him to act otherwise — even if controversies relating to the 2G spectrum allocations were hitting the ceiling.

“Spectrum Raja”, as he has been nicknamed by his AIADMK rivals, knew Karunanidhi had to defend him.

Since he became a MP in 1996 and a Union Minister in 1999, Raja (47) learnt early on what ticked in the DMK.

Do exactly as told by the party boss, Raja often told close friends. “That’s the way you stay close to the DMK patriarch, and out of the rivalry involving his sons, M. K. Alagiri and M. K. Stalin”. The other ‘golden’ rule, Raja learnt, was to ensuring that “you contribute more for the party than for yourself”.

Between 2004 and 2009, Raja’s contribution to the DMK coffers was more than that of T.R. Baalu, Transport Minister in UPA-I, who couldn't make it to UPA-II Cabinet, recalled a party insider.

Unlike Baalu, Raja did exactly what the party said and his contribution for the DMK's treasury for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls impressed Karunanidhi, another DMK official said.

Whether it was destiny or fortuitous circumstances, like Baalu, Raja got close to Karunanidhi’s second wife, Rajathi and their daughter, Kanimozhi. They seemed to be quite impressed with his sense of “business promotion”.

So when Dayanidhi Maran was forced to quit as telecom minister in April 2007, Raja fit right in.

Karunanidhi was livid that Dayanidhi and brother Kalanidhi had become too ambitious, holding popularity contests against Alagiri in their newspaper, whose office was burnt down.

Raja did not take charge of the telecom ministry alone. Kanimozhi was to remain his "guide". He was focused.

His alleged underselling of the 2G spectrum (a designated part of the airwaves for use by mobile phone operators), which caused a loss of Rs 22,466 crore as per the CBI's estimate, surfaced.

Reversing Maran’s decisions, Raja did not auction the spectrum, but sold it on a first-come-first serve basis. It was not at 2007 prices but at the 2001 price of Rs 1,650 crore.

Whether it was directive from the Prime Minister or the TRAI, Raja did not see any hurdle in violating any rule. In October 2009, when the CBI registered cases against "unknown" telecom officials and raided his ministry for causing loss to the exchequer, he was unruffled. He said the PM was in the know of all his decisions.

Raja knew what he learnt as a lawyer in Perambulur, that his Dalit background was strong enough to dissuade anyone to mess with him.

Furore in Lok Sabha

The Lok Sabha was adjourned on Wednesday as AIADMK members created uproar waving newspapers carrying reports of an alleged scam in allocation of 2G spectrum and demanded the resignation of Telecom Minister Minister A. Raja.

The AIADMK members rushed to the well displaying copies of the newspaper soon after Speaker Meira Kumar called for Question Hour.

Left members also joined the members in the well demanding an apology from Trinamool Congress member Sudip Bandopadhyay for his remarks against CPI(M) member Basudeb Acharia.

Kumar's repeated appeals to allow Question Hour to continue went unheeded.

PTI, New Delhi