June 05, 2020
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“Raja is only a pawn. The kingpins have to be brought to book,” Amma charges, delving deeper into the Karunanidhi clan’s get rich scheme

Chennai Corner

Leave of absence
AIADMK chief J Jayalalitha last attended the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly on Januay 11, 2010 and spoke on the motion of thanks to the Governor’s address. It’s no secret that she barely shows up in the TN legislative assembly when she is not CM and Karunanidhi is a stranger to the house when she is the CM. That’s not news. But what made news this week was that a resolution was passed by a voice vote to grant Jayalalitha leave of absence on medical grounds. And since the AIADMK does not have the numbers although its members can shout loudly in the service of their “puratchi thalaivi”, she needed help. She apparently got it because the speaker said a “majority” supported her resolution implying that even her best baiter, CM Karunaidhi, signalled to his MLAs to support the resolution. Was he being generous after she has been petty enough to take a vow never to enter the new assembly which was inaugurated last March? But he has nothing to lose now that he has already checkmated her. After her statement that she would be sworn in as CM in Fort St George and not the new Assembly complex, he scrambled to get the august hall converted into the Classical Tamil library.

The reason she needed Karunanidhi’s help was so she could avoid disqualification for staying away continuously for 60 days. The deadline in her case ends a day before the last day of the current budget session that falls on February 13. Now, she does not ever have to go back to the assembly at least before the election because this was the last session. She hopes to come back as CM when the house meets again, but Karunanidhi must be sniggering and saying: “If wishes were horses...”

Illness no bar for politics
But her illness did not stop her from putting out a long statement using Subramanyam Swamy’s demand in court that Karunanidhi be named as a co-accused in the Spectrum case. Swamy had named former telecom minister A Raja, who has been arrested, as an accused. “I fully back Subramanian Swamy’s demand in court,” she said. When it comes to attacking Karunanidhi, she stops at nothing, even bringing Swamy, a sworn enemy, on board. When someone else shares her one point agenda that Karunanidhi must go then all is fair in her war.

In this case, Swamy only buttressed what she has been saying: that Raja alone could not swallow the Rs 1.76 lakh crores that the CAG says was scammed in 2G. “Raja is only a pawn. The kingpins have to be brought to book,” says her latest statement. 

According to her if all agencies involved in the Spectrum scam probe (the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax Department) did their duty diligently, then Karunanidhi’s family including his second wife, Rajathi ammal, and daughter, Kanimozhi, would be arrested. “The staunch defence put up by Karunanidhi of Raja’s murky deals is itself a clear indication that he was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the scam.”

Incidentally, Kalaignar TV (launched by the Karunanidhi family in 2008 as a rival to Sun TV when the CM was embroiled in a feud with the Maran brothers) had blacked out the arrest of Raja. She tells us why. DB Realty, a Mumbai-based real estate firm and one of the beneficiaries of the 2G spectrum allocation, had transferred funds to Kalaignar TV. Her statement says Karunanidhi’s wife Dayalu Ammal holds 60 per cent shares and Kanimozhi, holds 20 per cent shares in Kalaignar TV. By connecting the dots, her theory is that Dayalu had put in the money from the Rs 600 crore that Dayanidhi Maran had allegedly given her in return for a cabinet berth (source: Niira Radia tapes). In reaction to that disclosure, Karunanidhi has scoffed saying how could a “grandmother” ask her grandson for money. For the record, Maran is Karunanidhi’s grand-nephew.

Get rich quick
Delving deeper into the Karunanidhi clan’s get rich scheme, Jayalalitha asks you to infer Rajathi’s financial status from the new found wealth of her her “domestic servants”. 

According to her, Saravanan, a sweeper in Royal Enterprises (a furniture showroom in Chennai owned by Rajathi) became her manager later. In that capacity he was involved in the sale of Voltas land on Anna Salai to a Malaysian. Rajathi and Kanimozhi have reacted to this earlier, saying Saravanan was a former employee. In other words, they were not accountable for his deeds. But Jayalalitha is relentless. Her statement says Daniel Samuel, an AC mechanic, was servicing ACs in Rajathi’s new home in CIT Colony in Chennai, but he owns a fleet of BMWs today.

There’s more, says Jayalalitha. Westgage Logistics, a shipping company jointly owned by Kanimozhi and her mother Rajathi; several educational institutions bought under benami names; and a Rs 4,000-crore five-star hotel chain that is coming up “in south India again” under benami names were all newly accumulated assets from the Spectrum proceeds.

And finally here’s the kicker. Genex Exim, a Chennai-based company registered with a share-capital of just Rs1 lakh, had 5.7 per cent shares worth Rs 380 crore in Swan Telecom (now Etisalat DB), one of the beneficiaries of Raja’s telecom largesse. Genex, says the statement, now belongs to the son of Syed Salahuddin of the ETA Group of companies, Dubai. The ETA Group got the contract to construct the new Assembly-cum-Secretariat complex as well as Anna Memorial Library at Kotturpuram. Do the math on what she is getting at!

It’s raining moolah
Despite what Jayalalitha alleges, the DMK says it needs public funds to help it fight the upcoming election. Karunanidhi kickstarted the drive last month by donating Rs 11 lakh soon after a meeting of party leaders. His son and deputy CM Stalin gave one lakh. So did finance minister Anbazhagan and law minister Durai Murugan. Ministers like Nehru, Arumugam and Panneerselvam gave Rs 5 lakh from their respective party units. The grand total after the two-hour meeting was Rs 44 lakhs. There’s nothing like swirling allegations that the opposition is emphasizing upon to prompt Karunanidhi to try and send a message that he has to wave a begging bowl to fight an election. Back in 2006 for the assembly poll and 2009 for the Lok Sabha elections, it was another story. The DMK was reluctant to mobilize funds thinking the party would get a bad name.

While the DMK was trying hard to show its coffers needed helping hands, at the AIADMK headquarters, its leaders did back flips to show that they have deep pockets. And coughing up moolah was one way of genuflecting before their reigning deity. Even O Paneerselvam, former CM who is now the party treasurer, headquarters secretary KA Sengottaiayan, and others came up with Rs 10,000 each to file applications on behalf of Jayalalitha to contest the elections. Some functionaries even filed papers in her name for up to five constituencies including Andipatti, Tirupur South, Gobi, Karur, Royapuram and Saidapet, reflecting that the AIADMK might be out of power but some of its leaders still have deep pockets. By the day’s end, papers were filed in Jayalalitha’s name for 27 constituencies.

Sword and the crown
Speaking of deep pockets, DMK’s South Chennai district secretary J Anbazhagam is swimming in the stuff. He presented a sword and a crown made of gold worth Rs 30 lakh at the DMK’s general council meeting on February 3. Eat your heart out, Mayawati.

It’s no classified secret that politicians get rich. But it took one’s breath away when Kamaraj, a member of the Thiruneer Panchayat, outbid the frenetic bidding by DMK cadre and became the owner of the crown and the sword that Karunanidhi auctioned on February 9. He paid a cool Rs 55 lakh, almost double what Anbazhagan had coughed up. Kamaraj is believed to be the nephew of S Jagathrakshakan, union minister of state for information and broadcasting, who had controversy dogging him over his string of educational institutions. Incidentally, the minister is very close to the CM.

Defaulting Soundarya
While politicians don’t mind showing off their riches, you find some individuals in Kollywood are very dodgy when it comes to money. For instance, Soundarya Rajnikanth, the daughter of the superstar, and Latha Rajnikanth, his wife. And that is a real pity because Rajnikanth has the reputation of being honourable to the extent that he even pays producers back if his film is a dud at the box office.

It took a bailable warrant as a result of a court case that prompted mother and daughter to pay back Rs 20 lakh out of court to Sumerchand Bafna, proprietor of Swastic Finance Corporation. Bafna had told the court that he had lent Rs 20 lakh to Ochre Studios, run by Lata and Soundarya, for business development in August 2009. Two cheques of Rs 10 lakh each which they issued to him on December 1 last year had bounced. Bafna then went to 23rd Metropolitan Magistrate’s court and the judge, K. Ravi, while admitting the complaint on January 6, issued summons to Latha and Soundarya to appear before the court on February 9. When the two did not appear in court, a bailable warrant was issued. But their lawyer met the plaintiff’s lawyer and a demand draft was issued.

Last April again a compromise was reached between NAPC Properties and Soundarya after the company MD, Varun Manian, went to the Madras high court accusing her of not returning Rs 2.3 crore. The richer you are the more brazen you get, apparently.

Countdown begins
“In the last assembly election, there were approximately 40 candidates for each of the 234 constituencies in the state. But this year we expect upto 80,” said a leader. The cadre is enthused that the AIADMK will come back to power. While the DMK is yet to stitch up its alliance with the Congress (much drama is expected because there will be a tug of war over seat sharing), the AIADMK is on more sure footing and most of its allies which includes the left have pockets of influence and will be allocated those seats. The word is that MDMK’s Vaiko is jealous of Vijaykant’s clout when it comes to seats and is reportedly sulking. But the reality is that the DMDK got 8.38 per cent and 10.10 per cent in 2006 assembly and 2009 Lok Sabha respectively after contesting alone in comparison to MDMK’s 5.98 per cent and 3.68 per cent while fighting as part of the AIADMK alliance The DMDK is almost in the bag although there will be a tussle for seats.

As to the PMK, it's turning out to be persona non grata now that Karunanidhi has outed Congress President Sonia Gandhi by saying publicly that she felt Ramadoss was an “unreliable” ally. It’s likely that the crafty Karunanidhi was shooting from Sonia’s shoulder so that he can get away by giving the PMK just 20 seats. Ramadoss might think the 2.5 crore Vanniyars are his trump card, but at the moment, neither the DMK nor the Congress appear to be impressed.

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