Monday, November 15, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Defiant, doughty dalit who rose in DMK ranks

Defiant, doughty dalit who rose in DMK ranks

Radha Venkatesan & V Mayilvaganan, TNN, Nov 15, 2010, 04.41am IST

He zips through the bumpy roads of his picturesque Nilgiris
constituency in a sleek Pajero, but Andimuthu Raja does not even own
an old Ambassador car. The Union communications and information
technology minister — he is now called 'spectrum' Raja in Tamil Nadu —
may face allegations of having caused a loss of Rs 1.77 lakh crore to
the nation, but he and his wife don't even own a car and together,
their assets add up to just Rs 1.4 crore, according to his last
affidavit to the Election Commission presented less than a year ago.

His concrete house in Velur village in Perambalur district of central
Tamil Nadu is a modest structure with a thatched verandah. Only a
small poster and few residents in the village are reminders of the
fact that Raja once grew up in this modest house and rode a Lambretta
as a struggling lawyer and an aspiring Dravidian politician.

Even as the DMK's dalit face braves the biggest storm of his
three-decade-long political career, his family and supporters have
rallied around him. "He will come out of it. He is very courageous,"
says his elder sister Vijayambal, a retired government school
headmistress, sitting in their ancestral house.

Indeed, that defines Raja — a defiant, doughty dalit. In Tamil Nadu's
politics, which is dominated by backward class leaders, Raja is the
lone dalit in the last few decades to have moved from the rural
backwoods all the way to Delhi. In DMK, political graphs soar not just
through proximity to the first family, but also by oratorical skills
and an intellectual veneer. "Raja's advantage is that he is a
well-read dalit, who can communicate both in Tamil and English, which
few DMK leaders can," points out a senior party leader. "When
Karunanidhi's family wanted a trusted man in Delhi, outside of the
Maran clan, the affable Raja was a natural choice."

Ironically, 47-year-old Raja's meteoric rise began due to his rapport
with the late Murasoli Maran, nephew of CM M Karunanidhi. Raja was
always at the bedside of the senior Maran in his last days in
hospital. But two years ago, equations in the DMK changed dramatically
and Raja replaced Dayanidhi Maran (Murasoli Maran's son) as IT
minister. Indeed, it was the Maran-owned Sun TV channel which focused
on the spectrum 2G scandal. Dayanidhi made a comeback into DMK on the
eve of the 2009 parliamentary elections, but Raja managed to retain
the powerful IT ministry because of support from Karunanidhi's wife
Rajathi Ammal (Kanimozhi's mother). When Raja's pocketborough
Perambulur was dereserved, Karunanidhi immediately provided him a safe
berth in the Nilgiris constituency in the 2009 elections.

Raja maintains close ties with Karunanidhi's son and heir-apparent M K
Stalin too.

(With inputs from Shantha Thiagarajan from Ooty)


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