- The Decline and Fall of the DMK Empir
Courtesy: SS Mani, Kalakad
Jaya all set to dismantle DMK financial empire in Tamil Nadu
On May 14, within 24 hours of J. Jayalalithaa's majestic victory over the DMK and Congress, T.R. Baalu, shipping and road transport minister in the UPA II cabinet, wrote a seven-page letter to party head, M. Karunanidhi, saying he had had enough. He wanted to retire. He had watched his party leadership abandon his colleague, A. Raja, in the 2G case without remorse. And he knew that the future was going to get worse with Jayalalithaa in charge of Tamil Nadu.
Union Chemicals and Fertiliser Minister, M.K. Azhagiri, Karunanidhi's son from his second wife Dayalu Ammal, has already expressed fears of a backlash. As one of the architects of the DMK financial empire, he should know. A skein of scandal stretches across a DMK domain that extends from controversial real estate deals to liquor licence contracts to universities.
In Chennai, the city's new police commissioner, J.K. Tripathy, installed on Jayalalithaa's first day in office, has already told his officers to investigate the following:
Alleged building violations in Chennai's Gopalapuram area where 50 multi-storeyed apartments are, directly or indirectly, owned by Karunanidhi's family members and top DMK leaders. The cost of the buildings is estimated at a little over Rs 10,000 crore.
The source of cash that CBI and ED officials claim was used by members of the DMK family to procure at least 35 plots across the state during 2006-11.
Real estate deals worth over Rs 15,000 crore brokered by Raja Shankar, a top Chennai-based realtor close to former deputy CM M.K. Stalin.
Cash reserves of Kalaignar tv, a channel started by DMK in 2007, that is facing charges of illegal gratification of Rs 200 crore from db Realty related to the 2G scam. Investigators want to know how Dayalu Ammal and Kanimozhi, founding directors of the channel, contributed Rs 8 crore of the Rs 10 crore seed money.
The case of Sadiq Batcha, former Union telecommunications minister A. Raja's aide, who allegedly committed suicide on March 16. Dr V. Deckel, the Chennai-based physician who conducted Batcha's autopsy, has expressed doubts over the cause of his death. Investments made by Greenhouse Developers, a real estate company started by Batcha and his friends, will also be probed.
Charges of discrepancies in the state SEZ plan at Kottyvakkam where different prices were detected by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for the same plot of land offered to various companies. CAG mentioned the discrepancies in its report submitted to the state government two years ago.
DMK's link with Coimbatore-based Santiago Martin, India's illegal lottery king, and whether the party had lobbied with the Centre to get the controversial Myanmarese national permission to start online lotteries in India in partnership with arms agents.
Assets of DMK's transport minister, K.N. Nehru, and the means by which he acquired a coal mine in Indonesia and a diamond mine in Botswana.
Generous donations made to Tamil Maiyam, an NGO run by Kanimozhi, a week before the 2G auction in January 2008. Tata Teleservices and Reliance Capital are among those who have donated Rs 25 lakh each. The others were Unitech and Indiabulls (Rs 50 lakh each) and Sistema Shyam TeleServices (Rs 10 lakh). There will also be an investigation into whether an estimated Rs 500 crore was spent by various units of the state government on contracts for the NGO to organise government functions such as music festivals and dance recitals during the five years of dmk rule. The AIADMK will also probe liquor licences issued by the previous government. The DMK had issued five licences to start distilleries, four of which went to people with party connections. While Baalu is a director in one company, Kalaignar tv ceo Sarath Kumar has a stake in another. The fifth licence went to a person who got it only after the Madras High Court's intervention.
DMK leaders have been in damage control mode from the time the 2G scam tentacles threatened the party's ruling coterie. In January, the state government removed mention of Tamil Maiyam from the advertisement for the Chennai Sangamam festival. The move followed a public interest writ petition by advocate P. Pugalenthi, seeking to restrain the state government from associating itself with Tamil Maiyam after the ngo was raided by the CBI on September 30, 2010, in connection with the 2G spectrum case.
In Chennai, veteran film director Thangar Bachchan has submitted a detailed note to Jayalalithaa, explaining how several noted producers found it difficult to produce films during the last regime due to DMKs monopoly over distribution.
"It will be easy to show the DMK-filmmaker nexus and probe the irregularities," says award-winning Tamil writer Sudhangan, indicating how the Karunanidhi clan worked closely with a network of bureaucrats, ministers and party functionaries, rewarding when they had to and withholding permission when needed.
Consider the case of as many as six ministers who opened engineering colleges across the state over the last five years. Each college has over 300 students and a campus spread over three acres. Former agriculture minister Veerapandi S. Arumugam started the vsa group of educational institutions at Salem and named his son Raja chairman. Former transport minister Nehru owns Trichy Care Engineering College in the name of Narayana Educational Trust, run by his wife Shantha and brother Ravichandran. "Nehru is being probed for charges of distributing cash to voters on the eve of the election," says a Chennai police official. Former food minister E.V. Velu is the founding chairman of Arunai Engineering College in Tiruvannamalai.
Former rural industries and animal husbandry minister Pongalur Palanichamy's daughter Vidhya Gokul manages the Vijayalakshmi Palanichamy Charitable Trust that runs the Kalaignar Karunanidhi Institute of Technology in Coimbatore. mrk Engineering College and mrk College of Arts and Sciences are run by mrk Educational Trust in Katturmannarkoil. The college is chaired by Kadiravan, son of former health minister Panneerselvam and the trust managed by his uncle Deivasigamani. Ex-law and Prison minister Duraimurugan's son Kadir Anand manages Kingston Engineering College and Arts College in Vellore while former higher education minister K. Ponmudy's sons Gowtham Sigamani and Ashok Sigamani manage the siga college of Management, SIGA Teacher Training Institute and Surya Engineering College in Villupuram.
Sources claim Azhagiri also wanted to start the Daya Engineering College in Tirumangalam but the project got stuck because the proposed site includes four hectares of wetland, with local villagers protesting that their land was acquired forcefully. Officials in Chennai say the state government will probe violations in such land deals.
"The DMK has mastered the art of turning everything illegal into legal. It will not be difficult to track such irregularities, says noted Tamil writer Cho Ramaswamy. Cho, a Jayalalithaa sympathiser, was honoured with a front-row seat at her swearing-in ceremony.
Consider the case of a land offered in 2008 to Jeniffer Jaffar, the daughter of additional director general of intelligence Jaffar Sait for Rs 1 crore under the government's discretionary quota. The property was later transferred to Jaffar's wife Parvin Jaffar. The Tamil Nadu Housing Board cancelled the original allotment, adjusted the money paid by Jennifer to her mother's name. Sait has now commissioned a builder to construct a multi-storeyed complex with 12 flats, each to be sold for more than Rs 1 crore. Durga Shankar, son of former ias officer Rajamanikam, an influential functionary in Karunanidhi's office, was also allotted land worth Rs 10 crore from the same quota.
In Delhi, CBI officials probing K. Shanmuganathan, director of Shangkalpam Industries, said they have enough evidence of hawala transactions against the Kuala Lumpur- based businessman said to be close to the DMK family. The CBI has also gathered evidence that proves Shanmuganathan's Rs 2.5-crore deal for purchasing the huge 525-acre Windsor Estate in Ooty from the state government in 2006 was virtually a steal. Documents accessed by India Today show the land was offered to him at one tenth the market price.
Jayalalithaa will let such facts speak for themselves, and put an active law machinery on the fast track. She had vowed in the summer of 2007 to wipe out DMK from the political sphere of Tamil Nadu after the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority threatened to demolish the AIADMK headquarters. The DMK, which filed numerous cases of corruption against her in the past-she was once jailed for 25 days in 2000-is in serious trouble.
The trouble between the two dates back to 1996.
When it came to power in 1996, dmk ensnared Jayalalithaa in a series of corruption cases that related to her time in power between 1991 and 1996. She was jailed in December 1996 for her involvement in the tansi land case -Jayalalithaa and her aide Sasikala were alleged to have bought under-priced government land for private use. She was eventually acquitted by the Madras High Court in 2001.
Back in power in 2001, Jayalalithaa declared a full-fledged war against the DMK. The police picked up Karunanidhi in the middle of the night, drove him to a cid lockup in Chennai and detained him along with his son Stalin, the then Union commerce minister Murasoli Maran, the then environment and forests minister T.R. Baalu and 20 journalists. The DMK-controlled Sun tv played visuals of the arrest even as Jayalalithaa went to Guruvayoor to donate an elephant after the incident. It caused widespread outrage across the state.
Multiple cases are pending in various courts against the two leaders. Besides the tansi land case, Jayalalithaa is also involved in the Pleasant Stay Hotel case for violating rules to construct a seven-storey hotel in Kodaikanal and the colour tv case where she was alleged to have taken a bribe for purchasing 40,000 colour tv sets for distribution to panchayats. Besides, there is also the Rs 66.65 crore disproportionate wealth case. Jayalalithaa, on the other hand, wants to revive 36-year-old Emergency-era cases of corruption against Karunanidhi, despite legal advisers telling her these are "weak". She arrested Karunanidhi and Stalin in the flyover scam in 2001. Maran and Baalu were also detained. This time, however, no one is expecting any outrageous decisions from Jayalalithaa. Half of her work is already done, thanks to investigations done by agencies probing the cash flow in the 2G spectrum case. The rest will be even easier because the DMK family is cash-rich but out of power.
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