It would be stretching the point to say that textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran has made a virtue of necessity by submitting his resignation following the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) virtual indictment of his role in the 2G scam. There was nothing virtuous about the way he went when it became certain that he would be axed for his role in the transfer of a Chennai-based company Aircel to a Malaysian company Maxis when he was telecom minister. The rewards for forcing Aircel to sell out came in the form, it is alleged, of massive investment from the Malaysian firm for Sun TV owned by Kalanidhi Maran, his brother. With this, the roster of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) heavyweights who have bitten the dust in the 2G scam is growing.
The alliance between the DMK and the UPA will come under even greater strain now, though with its poor showing in the assembly elections, the former is no longer in any position to call the shots. The UPA has earned some brownie points with what is being seen as its impartiality in investigating those in its government and its allies. This could be seen as a bid to prop up its reputation that has taken a serious beating with all the scams which have surfaced. But, with the powerful Maran brothers humbled, one more hurdle in a future alliance between the UPA and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) has fallen. True that the mercurial AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa is not exactly a model of probity in public life, but compared to the extent of corruption which seems to have surfaced in the DMK ranks, her alleged misdeeds seem a mere bagatelle. While many say that the CBI is but an arm of the government, the fact that it has pursued crucial allies will send out a signal that there is only so much arm-twisting regional parties can do in order to get their own way with the Centre. It will be clear now that being an alliance partner does not offer the protection it once did, especially on the issue of corruption which has become a political hot potato.
The spotlight will now turn to Kalanidhi Maran, the recipient of the investment, the more uncharitable could call it a bribe, made in return for his brother’s largesse. While it is too early for a realignment of alliances, Ms Jayalalithaa will no doubt feel vindicated at Mr Maran’s exit since this is what she had demanded as soon as she came to power this time. It is possible that she will interpret this as a sign that the UPA could be changing horses mid-stream. But the UPA still may not be sure that this is the horse it can bet on after its last experience in the race.