Friday May 30 2008 15:25
At last, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi decided to let his ‘tainted’ colleague Poongothai leave his cabinet. He was just out of hospital and plunged himself into work with full gusto on May 20 when Poongothai was relieved of her ministerial responsibilities. Poongothai, on her part, might also have felt relieved. For, in her two-year stint as minister, she did not prove herself to be a thoroughbred politician. In fact, she wasn’t one. Otherwise, she would not have done so well as a minister.
One of her achievements – if it is the right phrase – was bringing in a welfare board for transgenders in the state, which can be called a revolutionary step. Besides that, she was accessible to the media and seemed to knew what she was doing – traits that cannot be attributed to every minister in the state. Her ignominious exit raises a couple of questions.
One, does the DMK have a tradition of purging ministers or party functionaries exposed of some wrongdoing?
Two, why was Poongothai made a minister in the first place? As a daughter of Aladi Aruna, a veteran politician of Dravidian extraction and a popular face in southern Tamil Nadu, she had kept herself out of the murky political waters, practicing as a doctor. So, why was she suddenly given a seat to contest the Assembly elections in 2006?
To get a proper perspective of Poongothai’s induction into politics and the cabinet, one needs to take note of something that happened as soon as she put in her papers: There was a buzz down south that Appavu, another DMK MLA, would be replacing her. Why were the people speculating that it will be Appavu, who is not a woman or a doctor or has any qualification comparable to Poongothai? If he and Poonothai have anything in common, it is their caste.
So, was Poongothai picked because of her caste?
Of course, no one will come out and say ‘yes.’ But no one can deny that Aladi Aruna, a well-read man in his own right, enjoyed popularity among the people of his own caste down south.
Since caste is a bad word, let us forget it and dwell upon the other question: How many people has the DMK dumped so far for graft or anything close to that?
No one can deny that Poongothai’s telephone call – that was played to the media by Subramanian Swamy – was inappropriate. But what about T R Baalu? Well, Baalu is there – wherever he is in the Central government and the party – not because of his caste.
Perhaps that explains the different yardsticks.
Also read the related stories
Poongothai resigns; CM ashamed
Thursday May 15 2008 09:55 IST
K N Arun & T Muruganandham
CHENNAI: SOCIAL Welfare Minister Poongothai Aladi Aruna on Wednesday resigned after she was caught on tape requesting the state director of vigilance and anti-corruption to go slow on the investigation into a corruption charge against one of her cousins.
She handed over her resignation to Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, who later told the State Assembly that it was yet to be accepted and was still under consideration. The copies of the CD containing the telephonic conversation between Poongothai and DVAC chief SK Upadhyaya had been released to the media two days ago by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy.
In the CD, Poongathai is heard pleading on behalf of her cousin Jawahar, an executive engineer in the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, and asking the DVAC chief to ensure that the investigation is not intense and if possible transfer the case back to TNEB for a departmental enquiry.
In her resignation letter , she said, "I had no intention of using my position as a minister to interfere with the investigation. I had only requested the Vigilance chief to consider it as a request. However, I now realise that even doing that is a mistake. To atone for that, I am resigning from the cabinet as a minister."
Informing the Assembly about Poongothai's resignation, Karunanidhi said, "I feel ashamed that a minister has attempted to protect a relative. This is not acceptable."
He was responding to the issue raised by deputy leader of Opposition O Panneerselvam, who demanded that the minister come forward and atone for her breach of conduct. Poongothai has become the first casualty of an illegal phone tapping scandal reported by media. This was followed by a report on the taped version of a conversation between the Chief Secretary LK Tripathy and Upadhyaya on the Kodanadu Estate case relating to Jayalalithaa.
Though opposition parties demanded his resignation, Karunanidhi had referred the Tripathy-Upadhyaya phone tap case to a inquiry commission headed by a retired Madras High Court Judge P Shanmugam.
Karunanidhi told the Assembly that the government was considering the option of referring the Poongothai- Upadhyaya tape to the Shanmugam Commission.
The New Indian Express
Also read the related stories in Dinamani:
T.R.Baalu Vs. S.K.Upadhyay: TN Govt. twin stand