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Chennai, June 30: 
Former Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi, his son M.K. Stalin and two Union ministers were arrested in a sweeping post-midnight crackdown that took political vendetta to new heights and put the entire Centre-state relations on uncharted territory.

While father and son were charged with corruption linked to contracts of 10 flyovers, a deal that purportedly caused a loss of Rs 12 crore to the exchequer, the Central ministers — Murasoli Maran and T.R. Baalu — were arrested for obstructing the arrest.

Ten others were arrested, including former chief secretary K.M. Nambiar and the chairman of the standing finance committee of Chennai corporation, R.S. Sridhar.

The arrest of the Union ministers has raised a constitutional question as prior sanction is required for such action. Law minister Arun Jaitley criticised the ADMK government, saying “private agenda prevailed upon rule of law”.

“We are deeply concerned with what is happening in Tamil Nadu,” Jaitley said. “We are trying to collect details and facts of the arrests,” he said, adding: “It, however, appears that private agenda has prevailed over rule of law.”

“TV visuals, showing the manner in which the former Chief Minister Karunanidhi and two central Ministers have been treated by State Police, are extremely disturbing. The fact that one of the two Union Ministers injured by police is in the hospital, reflects adversely upon general polity,” the Law Minister said.

Karunanidhi had just turned in after his usual after-dinner reading session around 1.30 am when he was jolted out of his sleep. The police were there to arrest him, months after Jayalalitha pledged to send the DMK leader and his family to jail once she was voted to power.

The men in uniform swooped down on Karunanidhi’s Oliver Road residence around 1.30 am and broke open the doors. Graphic visuals circulated by Sun TV, the channel owned by the family of DMK leader Murasoli Maran, showed the shocked 77-year-old former chief minister grabbed from behind by a stout police official and dragged by others. Karunanidhi, clad in a lungi and wearing dark glasses, was seen on television shouting, “Oh God, they are trying to murder!” as he was bundled down a staircase and into a police van.

Maran, Karunanidhi’s nephew and Union commerce minister, rushed to his uncle’s home but was bodily lifted by the policemen as he tried to prevent the arrest.

Maran was arrested tonight while he was undergoing a check-up at the intensive care unit of Apollo Hospitals. A non-bailable case was registered against him following complaints lodged by a senior police officer.

Deputy inspector-general of police (CB-CID) Mohammad Ali alleged in his complaint that Maran prevented him from discharging his duty and threatened to kill him when he had gone to arrest Karunanidhi.

Maran’s Cabinet colleague T.R. Balu, who had also rushed to the help of Karunanidhi, was arrested during the night raid itself.

While the drama was on at the former chief minister’s home, another police contingent reached Chennai Mayor Stalin’s residence at Velachery. But he was not there.

Stalin, however, turned up at the residence of the principal sessions judge Ashok Kumar this morning and surrendered, saying that he “feared for his life”. It appeared that while the police searched for the mayor at his Velachery residence, he had taken shelter at his father’s Gopalapuram home.

Stalin, remanded in judicial custody till July 10, was shifted to Madurai central prison in the afternoon. Stalin was taken by van from Chennai, where he was lodged in the Central jail along with Karunanidhi.

The judge had earlier directed that Karunanidhi be medically examined by a panel of doctors including his personal physician Dr V Gopal, but Karunanidhi was taken straight to the central prison, where he squatted in protest for about half-an-hour for not being taken to hospital.

Piqued by the criticism from political parties on the manner in which Karunanidhi was arrested, Jayalalitha tonight denied charges of police excesses on her predecessor. In a lengthy statement, she said the government had taken a perfectly correct and legal action. “On the contrary, it is Karunanidhi, Stalin and their colleagues who are constantly breaking the law,” she said.”

News of the arrest spread quickly, triggering scattered incidents of stone-throwing at buses by DMK supporters and clashes between protesters and baton-wielding police.

But the intensity of the protest did not reach the kind of frenzy it has on earlier occasions. Usually, such arrests and crackdowns on political heroes are followed by a series of self-immolation by supporters. But till late tonight, one case of self-immolation was reported. A 24-year-old DMK supporters set himself ablaze in a village in Cuddalore district.


Chennai, June 30: 
In a memoir published during his previous stint in office, M. Karunanidhi recalled the four most memorable days of his long political life. One of these was the day he first went behind bars for the cause of Tamil.

Were he to ever revise that tome today, he might add a fifth. It was the day police used brute force against him for the first time.

The manner of his arrest is the most vivid evidence needed of the rule of vendetta in Tamil Nadu politics. The 77-year-old former chief minister was literally lifted and carried into a police van. A veteran of many political battles, he promptly staged a sit-down at the gates of the prison, and then a hunger strike within, to protest his transfer from the city of Chennai to Vellore jail.

The latter is a shrewd decision to move the veteran away from a historic bastion of his party to a region and a town where he commands less in terms of public sympathy. Similarly, Chennai mayor, his son and heir apparent, M.K. Stalin is being shifted to Madurai jail.

The ruling ADMK’s objective is simple enough. It hopes to corrode the morale and break the backbone of the premier rival party in the state. Tamil Nadu is in a state of siege.

Police took preventive action in the dead of night, clamping over 1,500 activists of the DMK behind bars. The sweep this time round has been almost a comprehensive one. Of the leading veterans of the DMK, only K. Anbazhagan, now its legislative party leader, is not in custody. The timing of the arrests, late on a Friday night, also enabled the administration to keep protests under control.

Seen within the context of the state politics, it’s what follows every change of guard in Fort St George. In 1996, a triumphant Karunanidhi had ordered the arrest of Jayalalitha and her aide Sasikala Natarajan. Till today, the former makes political capital of how she was locked up with common criminals. Turn the pages of history back even further to the day she was allegedly assaulted by ruling party MLAs in the legislative Assembly in 1989.

The wheel has also turned the other way. In 1991, in the wake of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, several DMK offices were ransacked and the cadre roughed up by workers of rival parties. The winner, it seems, “stoops” at nothing.

Unlike the MGR versus Karunanidhi rivalry, there is no give and take in this political equivalent of war. One reason could be that the two men had been comrades-in-arms for long before they became adversaries. The two rivals today are from two different generations and have barely concealed contempt for one another. The two parties are also sharply polarised, each with a large following and a network of committed members across the state.

Jayalalitha has often publicly proclaimed that her rivals will pay the price for their misdeeds. Even as media attention was focused on the revamping of the police force being set out after Veerappan in the jungles on the Karnataka border, she gathered her best mind and men to strike closer home at an old adversary. Wholesale transfers of the IAS and, more important, the IPS officers set the stage for the crackdown on Friday night.

Her pace may have been set by the Supreme Court verdict expected on the July 17. Jayalalitha is not an MLA, as her nomination was not accepted by the returning officers of the four constituencies where she had filed her nomination. Though her party won a clear majority in the Assembly, it is a distinct possibility that legal hurdles to her election as an MLA will be in place till long after the six months grace period allowed anyone who is not a legislator and becomes chief minister.

Even if she were to nominate another MLA to step in a la Rabri Devi, it seems best to settle scores well in advance. An opposition party in disarray may find it tougher to mount public protests. At least, this seems to be the calculation behind the timing of the arrests.

The NDA government at the Centre has also been drawn into the thick of the battle of regional titans. In doing so, the chief minister will play on regional sentiments as the person with the guts to stand up to the rulers in New Delhi.

Nothing else can account for the way in which Union commerce and industry minister Murasoli Maran and Union environment minister T.R. Baalu, too, were manhandled.

In an interesting twist to Centre-state relations, for the first time in history, two Union ministers have been assaulted and taken into custody by the state police.

Resolving the issue will take all the energy that Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his allies can command. His regional allies will have to break with their instinctive sympathy with a state government to come to the aid of an embattled ally. Given the recent strains in the ties with the Samata Party, the DMK’s dozen Lok Sabha MPs have become even more vital to the Prime Minister.

He also draws on a long political association with Karunanidhi. In 1975-76, Tamil Nadu was safe haven for opposition party activists during the Emergency. This continued until the DMK ministry was dismissed and several key leaders taken into custody. The police high-handedness this week has brought back memories of older battles as law minister Arun Jaitley was quick to point out.

The swing of the electoral pendulum in the southern state’s politics goes from one extreme to another. Battles for a cause have given way to a politics of vendetta.

Members of the political class are not exempt from the high-handedness of men in uniform. Whoever has the stick hopes to strike a harder blow when they have the chance.


New Delhi, June 30: 
Faced with a rebellion that some are interpreting as virtually a declaration of independence from the Union of India by Jayalalitha, a shaken Centre was tonight groping for a constitutional response to what is perhaps the biggest challenge to its authority.

Unable to find one, the Centre decided to send a stiff directive to the silent Tamil Nadu Governor, Fatima Beevi, to submit a report on the developments in the state by 9 am tomorrow, after which the Union Cabinet will meet to discuss the options available to deal with Jayalalitha.

A meeting of the NDA this evening chaired by the Prime Minister also decided to despatch a three-member team headed by its convenor, George Fernandes, to make an “independent” assessment of the situation. The report is expected by Sunday evening.

The Centre was apparently deeply exercised that the chief minister refused to take a call from Atal Bihari Vajpayee early this morning after he was woken up by a phone call from Union environment minister T.R. Baalu, who reportedly went “hysterical” over M. Karunanidhi’s arrest.

PMO sources said a “livid” Vajpayee immediately phoned Jayalalitha to seek an explanation, but she refused to come on line. The Prime Minister was forced to speak to the chief secretary, who was asked to submit a report on the various incidents, including the alleged assault on Baalu and Union commerce minister Murasoli Maran. Neither the Governor nor the chief secretary have done so.

However, Jayalalitha said in Chennai she had not received any telephone call from the PMO. “The Prime Minister did not mention that he would like to speak to me. If he really desired to do so, I was readily available and could have been contacted over telephone at any time,” she said in a statement.

Government sources said a beleaguered Vajpayee called the NDA’s “trouble-shooter”, Fernandes, who was in Guwahati, and asked him to take the first flight back to Delhi to convene a meeting. He also apprised the President about the developments.

Jayalalitha’s action in first arresting Karunanidhi and then the two Central ministers, without bothering to inform the Centre, was best summed up by Arun Jaitley who said: “Each of the facts I have mentioned is a serious violation of constitutional guarantees and, therefore, to restore constitutional norms the Centre will have to decide what action is required to be taken in this matter.”

But Jaitley, himself a leading lawyer, seemed unsure if the arrest of Central ministers by a state government amounted to flouting the Constitution.

Queried on whether a state government had the powers to arrest Union ministers, he said: “We have to consider the circumstances under which these actions have been taken. If, without any basis, the government has enabled its police to reach the Union ministers’ houses with no case under investigation against them and, subsequently, created a situation in which the two ministers were arrested and assaulted, it is a serious violation of federal polity and defiance of legislative authority.”

Asked what action the Centre could then take against Jayalalitha in this matter, he said: “There are remedies for various violations under the law.”

However, despite the apparent tough talk, government sources admitted that their hands were virtually tied while considering the possibility of imposing Central rule.

“The last step just cannot be the first,” said sources when asked if enforcing Article 356 was an option. As in the case of Bihar, the fear was the ordinance may not pass muster in the Rajya Sabha, where the NDA is still in a minority.


Chennai, June 30: 
The Chennai crackdown has become a test case for television’s right to beam news and views with Sun TV opposing the police order to stop telecasts of DMK president M. Karunanidhi’s arrest at his residence. “If Sun TV continues the telecast, action would be taken against it in accordance with the law,” city police commissioner K. Muthukaruppan said in an order after noting that the continuance of the telecast would disturb public tranquillity.

He said Sun TV was telecasting the news item on the arrest of Karunanidhi in a twisted manner. The commissioner said the clipping deliberately twisted facts and the telecast gave the impression that Karunanidhi was “beaten up, roughed up and dragged, which is utterly false”.

Sun TV was also telecasting the alleged views of the public criticising the arrest in such a way as to incite violence and disturb public tranquillity, the commissioner said. He was passing the order under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, which prohibits the telecast of a programme that was likely to promote enmity, hatred or ill-will among religions, racial, linguistic or regional groups or castes or likely to disturb public tranquillity, he added.

However, Sun TV, owned by Murasoli Maran’s son, Kalanidhi, said the telecast was within the ambit of Article 19, which guaranteed the fundamental right of speech. A Sun TV press release said the order amounted to stifling the freedom of press and prevention of dissemination of information, which had enormous democratic and civil rights’ significance. The release added that the network had been singled out for punitive measures though other channels had been telecasting the same footage.

Muthukaruppan’s questioning of Sun TV’s telecast of the people’s opinion showed intolerance and utter disdain for the freedom of the press, it said. The commissioner of police, whose duty was to uphold the Constitution of India, had become a violator himself, it added.

Sun TV today requested Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to order CRPF protection for it.




Maximum:29.5°C (-4)
Minimum:26.2°C (0)


10.6 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 97%,
Minimum: 79%


One or two spells of light to moderate rain in some parts of the city and its neighbourhood
Sunrise: 4.58 am
Sunset: 6.22 pm

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