India Politics
Sun setting over Sun media and the Marans?
May 12, 2007 - 12:52:09 PM

Chennai, May 12 - The violence in Madurai in which three people were killed seems to have heralded the eclipse of the Sun media group with the ruling DMK Friday night entrusting live telecast of its most important function in recent times to the relatively minor Raj Television.

DMK president and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi is supposed to be 'very angry with the Marans' and their newspaper Dinakaran for publishing poll results that said people liked his younger son Stalin more than the elder Azhagiri, resulting in an attack on the Madurai edition of Dinakaran by Azhagiri supporters on Wednesday.

The papers here have been full of stories of how Dayanidhi Maran, Union IT and Telecommunications minister, who is constantly seen with the DMK patriarch, especially when Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are visiting, was conspicuously absent from the grand function Friday night to felicitate Karunanidhi for his 50 years as legislator.

Karunanidhi, 84, had, it is learnt, asked the Maran brothers to come and see him in an effort to make peace, but they are yet to respond.

And now, it's the 'MuKas - vs the Marans', and freedom of the press to publish is pitted against the political future of a union minister.

One local paper even quotes political analyst Cho Ramaswamy to say: 'The Congress is being nice to him only to please Karunanidhi and the moment Sonia realises he has become persona non grata with his grandpa, he could be dumped in Delhi.'

The paper comments, '... it remains to be seen how Dayanidhi's future shapes up in the UPA -'.

Speculation over Maran being dropped from the Manmohan Singh cabinet follows Karunanidhi's own statements on the floor of the assembly that it was the Dinakaran's publishing of poll surveys that had caused the Madurai incident.

On Friday, Karunanidhi demonstrated why blood is thicker than water, when after the felicitation, the brothers Azhagiri and Stalin walked out hand in hand surrounded by the entire family - a clear signal to thousands watching that the DMK could live without the Sun TV group.

And what of the Maran brothers?

Before May 2004, no one had heard of Dayanidhi Maran, younger son of the late DMK ideologue Murasoli Maran.

The senior Maran was Karunanidhi's elder sister's son.

From then to now, Dayanidhi is a few years older and wiser, in the process acquiring names such as 'Tamil Nadu's investment minister' and 'DMK pointsman', becoming hugely popular with the booming IT industry's honchos.

Maran, the bespectacled Kumbakonam born rising politiciain, entered the Lok Sabha elected from the Chennai central constituency.

He is a local, graduating in economics from Loyola College, Chennai. He also did a stint at Harvard University to attend business management programmes.

According to the DMK, it was Karunanidhi who made Murasoli Maran what he had been and also his sons.

Sun's corporate office in Chennai is located in the DMK headquarter premises. At any point of time, 47 percent of TV viewers in the south watch Sun stations.

According to the Marans, the DMK used the Sun media to the hilt.

The Sun media group is Dayanidhi's elder brother Kalanidhi's hard work. A commerce graduate from the Madras University, Kalanidhi went to the University of Scranton, USA to study MBA.

Returning to India he set up Sun TV in the early '90s. The group has 14 regional channels, two FM stations, and the popular Kungumam magazine and Dinakaran paper. Sun has clearance to start direct-to-home operations and has overseas business. The market value of just five of its television channels was last year pegged at over Rs.90 billion.

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