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Aircel-Maxis case: Dayanidhi Maran's acquittal is major setback for CBI, ED; but will it resurrect the politician?

Ever since he had to quit the Manmohan Singh cabinet in July 2011, Dayanidhi Maran, most believed was within kissing distance of the Tihar. He was an accused in the Aircel-Maxis case as well as the BSNL illegal exchange case in which he was accused of misusing ministerial powers by giving 323 phone connections to his family-owned Sun TV network. On 2 February, when the Special CBI court acquitted him and his brother Kalanidhi Maran in the Aircel-Maxis case, Dayanidhi must have felt a huge burden off his shoulder.

The 2G case, in which Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi and DMK nominee in the cabinet, A Raja went to jail, played a huge part in ruining the DMK brand. It led to the party being described as 'Delhi Money for Karunanidhi' and contributed to the humiliating defeat in the 2011 Tamil Nadu Assembly election and 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The perception that gained ground was that the DMK leaders in Delhi were out to make a killing. The verdict, which though is now being challenged in the Supreme court by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), will be the first step towards repairing the image.

The verdict is a huge setback for the CBI and the ED, that had all along claimed it had a watertight case against Dayanidhi Maran. Its allegation was that Maran as Union Telecom minister arm-twisted the promoter of cellular service provider Aircel to sell out to Malaysian Telecom company Maxis, which in turn invested Rs 599 crore in Kalanidhi Maran's business. Aircel then got 14 spectrum licenses in 2006. The ED had alleged a scam of over Rs 700 crore.

Dayanidhi Maran. Reuters

Dayanidhi Maran. Reuters

But Judge OP Saini questioned the very premise of the argument by ruling that the minister was not responsible for delays on file movement. And that Maran raised questions only because he was of a suspicious bent of mind and not a conspiratorial one.

What will this mean for Dayanidhi Maran, who has been in the political wilderness for the last five years? He contested the 2014 elections from Chennai Central but lost. He had won from the same seat by handsome margins in 2004 and 2009.

It's not that the Marans are not used to turbulent weather. In 2007, after Dinakaran, a publication they owned, published a survey on who will be the DMK supremo after Karunanidhi and the results were unflattering to his elder son MK Alagiri, all hell broke loose. The fallout with the DMK patriarch led to the brothers being banished from his courts at CIT colony and Gopalapuram. Karunanidhi was so miffed with his grand nephews that he snatched the plum Telecom ministry portfolio from Dayanidhi and gave it to Raja and immediately executed a plan to launch a rival rising sun in Kalaignar TV. The bitter fruits of that rushed Kalaignar TV project led to Kanimozhi spending time inside Tihar jail.

It is to be noted that even when Maran was facing the heat, MK Stalin unlike his father, never gave up on the brothers. Unlike Alagiri, who had a tempestuous relationship with the Marans, Stalin made use of Kalanidhi Maran's impressive television production facilities to help rebrand himself ahead of the 2016 assembly polls. Stalin recognises the corporate style of functioning that the Marans bring to the table and the DMK working president likes to blend that with realpolitik on the ground. But a bigger role for Dayanidhi in the DMK perhaps will have to wait till he is out of the woods in the telephone exchange case.

Legally, the Karunanidhi family will hope that the 2G case follows the precedent set by this verdict. Stalin realises that the corruption taint remains a setback for the party, even if it is politically better placed after Jayalalithaa's demise.

Should Kanimozhi also get a legal reprieve, it could also result in a significant alteration of political dynamics in Tamil Nadu. The Congress for reasons best known to Rahul Gandhi is moving closer to the AIADMK under Sasikala even though the BJP is trying to remote control the government by having a direct line to chief minister O Panneerselvam. But if it looks like Stalin will do much better than the AIADMK in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the DMK first family gets a clean chit from the courts by then, the BJP could look to do business with Stalin to reap a rich harvest of seats from Tamil Nadu.

Updated Date: Feb 03, 2017 14:41 PM

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