Monday, November 15, 2010

Tamil movie with Obama as 'hero'

CHENNAI: Barack Obama may not be aware of it but he is making his movie debut with a Tamil film.

Obama is the hero of a fictional village in Tamil Nadu and has two songs based on him. His presence is shown in the movie via cutouts and posters.

Journalist-turned-filmmaker Janaki Viswanathan's medium budget movie 'Om Obama' is the story of Kedarpalayam village and the relationship the hamlet believes it shares with Obama.

"The village believes that it has contributed to Obama becoming President and he in turn bailed them out of an economic crisis. There are lot of sub plots including romance and grass roots politics," Viswanathan said.

Truckers protest against bad roads in N Chennai

CHENNAI: Several drivers of container-laden trucks in north Chennai on Sunday parked their vehicles on the sides of roads leading to Chennai Port, protesting against the poor maintenance of Ennore-Manali Road and Ponneri-Panchetty Road.

The protest is said to have been triggered by the assault on a truck driver by members of the public in Manali on Saturday after he tried to overtake a lorry.

The agitating drivers said improper maintenance of roads often led to quarrels between them and the general public many times and that the authorities should immediately take steps to address their grievances.

Tension in Raja's hometown

PERAMBALUR: Unrest prevailed in Perambalur, the hometown of Union communications minister A Raja, after a poster war broke out between the DMK and AIADMK over the spectrum allocation controversy.

Perambalur, about 280 km from Chennai, has started facing the heat of the political storm around Raja as DMK men walked along the road near the new bus stand on Sunday afternoon brandishing logs. Women panicked and watched in shock as the men shouting derogatory slogans against AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa, who has been stridently demanding Raja's ouster, started tearing the flex boards erected by AIADMK men.

An AIADMK youth was also attacked by a mob of DMK men. This led to AIADMK mobilizing its cadres at its district office to retaliate, but they gave up even as their rivals started blocking the road and burning an effigy of Jayalalithaa.

For the people of Perambalur, the spectrum scandal was something much removed from their daily life, but the day's events came as a shock. Locals found it distressing that the police stood by as mute witnesses as agitators went on a rampage pulling down flex boards and blocking the road. "I don't know about spectrum or whether Raja is corrupt. But are all other politicians clean? I don't think he should resign," said Ramalinga Chettiar, a fruit vendor.

"For a politician synonymous with DMK in Perambalur for more than a decade and an icon for dalits here, Raja should quit to prove his integrity," said a lecturer in a private college.

M Pari, DMK union secretary alleged that AIADMK men engaged in "mischievous propaganda" to tarnish Raja's image. "Police should arrest those behind the posters stuck all over the town,'' he said. However, AIADMK men claimed that their posters were only in retaliation for another set of posters pasted by DMK men slamming Jayalalithaa for "corruption". The AIADMK posters demanded that Raja resign.

This is the second incident that has rocked the town in the last few days over Raja. A few days ago, a group of DMK men pelted stones into a hall where the AIADMK was holding a meeting. "The DMK could not digest the success of our campaign to send telegrams en masse to President of India. Our demand is fair. How can a person facing such an allegation continue as minister?" asked K Devaraj, a former MLA.

CPM disapproves of Jaya's support offer to UPA

Chennai: Tamil Nadu CPI(M) unit on Sunday disapproved of Jayalalithaa's offer to support UPA if the DMK withdrew its support in the event of Telecom Minister A Raja being sacked over 2G spectrum, saying the AIADMK chief's move will not serve the cause of public. 

A resolution adopted at an executive committee meeting of CPI-M here said AIADMK had joined hands with Left parties and participated in a nationwide bandh on April 27 and also on July 5 against the Centre on price rise issue and the offer of support to UPA "goes against the stand already taken by it".

The AIADMK's offer of support to UPA would not help in safeguarding the interest of the public, it said. The CPI-M would continue its fight against the UPA "independently and in coordination with Left and Janata Dal (Secular)," state unit General Secretary G Ramakrishnan said in a statement here.

The CPI(M) had contested the last Lok Sabha elections in the state in alliance with the AIADMK. 

Jayalalithaa in an open offer to Congress last week asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to sack Raja with a promise of "unconditional" support of 18 MPs if the DMK withdrew its support to the government.

On the 2G spectrum controversy, Ramakrishnan said the CPI-M continued to seek the resignation of Raja or his sacking by the Prime Minister.

Jaya storms Alagiri Nadu

Jaya storms Alagiri Nadu Launching a no-holds-barred attack on Union minister and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's son M K Alagiri, AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa on Monday accused him of running a parallel government in the state, with Madurai as its centre.

"There are two governments in Tamil Nadu. One in Chennai headed by M Karunanidhi as Chief Minister and his son M K Stalin as Deputy Chief Minister. The other for south Tamil Nadu with Alagiri as chief minister," she told a massive rally in Madurai, considered Alagiri's bastion.

Addressing the keenly watched rally in the backdrop of AIADMK's claim that Jayalalithaa had received a series of threats to her life if she stepped into Madurai, she said she would not be cowed down by such intimidating tactics.

"Is Madurai Alagiri's ancestral property? I am not going to be cowed down by these threats. Issuing repeated threats only proves someone is afraid of us," she said after she arrived here in a bullet proof vehicle, with nearly 1,000 AIADMK men trained in martial arts and calling themselves 'black cats' throwing a security ring around her.

2G scam: Kapil Sibal likely to get Telecom portfolio, say sources

New Delhi:  Kapil Sibal, currently Minister for Human Resources Development, is likely to be asked to take additional charge of the Telecom Ministry. A Raja resigned as Telecom Minister last night after a glut of accusations over his alleged corruption and pivotal role in the 2G scam.

Last week, Sibal was given additional charge of Science and Technology after Prithviraj Chavan was moved to Maharashtra as the chief minister following Ashok Chavan's dismissal on the grounds of misusing his office to corner apartments for his family in a building that was meant to house war widows and defence veterans.

It's not yet clear whether the Telecom portfolio will be handled temporarily by Sibal till a larger cabinet reshuffle takes shape.

The DMK- which had till last evening resisted Raja's exit - may not be entirely pleased with the Telecom portfolio not being assigned to another DMK leader. After Raja resigned, both the Congress and the DMK have stressed that their alliance remains intact, and that the DMK will continue to participate in the UPA government at the Centre.

In Parliament, the Opposition once again demanded- chanted in unison, in fact - "We want a JPC (joint parliamentary committee)." The government, however, emphatically ruled this out. "Where is the need for the PM to speak on Raja?" said Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. 

Raja was forced towards the exit door of his ministry mainly by a report of the government's auditor that was leaked last week to the media. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) was ferocious in its indictment of Raja, accusing him of costing the government close to 1.76 lakh crores. Policies that violated official guidelines and favouritism towards companies that seemed ineligible for 2G licenses were attributed directly to Raja. Till 2008, he chose to award licenses at rates determined in 2001.

Raja has stressed that his resignation should not be misread as an admission of guilt. His party, the DMK, has also maintained that it stands by him and believes he is innocent.

That crucial CAG report will, sources say, be tabled in parliament tomorrow. Mukherjee has called a lunch meeting of all parties in the hope of ending the impasse in Parliament - since the winter session began last week, the Opposition has refused to let parliament function, protesting that Raja must go, and that the government should set up a joint parliamentary committee because the CBI, which is investigating Raja, is not an impartial body and function as an extension of the government.

Dismissing that accusation, Home Minister P Chidambaram said that he CAG report will be examined, as its meant to, by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which is headed by a leader of the Opposition .

"A JPC is not needed because the 2 G scam - and the  CAG report will be studied by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is headed by  a member of the Opposition, and is therefore held to be impartial," said Chidambaram.

He PM was expected to address Parliament today on Raja's resignation and the 2G scam, but the government apparently re-thought the issue this morning. "Why should the PM speak?" asked Mukherjee. "In an attempt to turn the tables on the BJP, he referred to the Tehelka expose and said, "When George Fernandes resigned, did Vajpayee make a statement?"

Weekend politics
It was a hectic weekend that saw much political activity in Delhi and Chennai. An impatient Raja told reporters at the Delhi airport that there was no question of him stepping down, but there were indications otherwise. 

In Delhi, the Congress' top rung, including the Prime Minster and Sonia Gandhi met to discuss Raja's exit.

In Chennai, Raja met with DMK chief Karunanidhi twice before heading to Delhi. At one point, seven senior Congress leaders, including Home Minister P Chidambaram were reportedly in touch with the DMK to orchestrate Raja's exit.

Government's auditor last week blamed Raja for costing the government close to Rs. 1.76 lakh crores by undervaluing 2G spectrum in 2008, and, by following unfair practices in deciding who would be awarded 2G licenses.  The Comptroller and Auditor General's report (CAG) was leaked to the media.  It is to be tabled in Parliament shortly.

TRAI to recommend penalty

•    Telecom regulator TRAI is likely to recommend huge penalty or cancellation of licences of those operators who have either failed to launch services or cover particular areas within the stipulated time. 

•    Many of them are yet to meet the roll-out obligations, or even launch the services. 

•    TRAI recommendations would include all the new licensees, who were given in January, 2008 by Raja. 

•    The TRAI Chairman is believed to have said they are working on it, the recommendations may be given soon to the government.

The Supreme Court which is monitoring the case is scheduled to hear the matter on Monday. Raja's resignation, hours ahead of that hearing, may have been stage-managed by the Government to avoid more embarrassment in court.  At an earlier hearing, the court asked why Raja had not been removed from office.


•    2G licenses issued in the year 2008 at 2001 prices
•    Raja insisted on 'first come-first served' policy
•    9 companies got licenses for nearly Rs. 10, 800 crore
•    Some firms sold partial stakes for much higher rates
•    CAG: Govt lost between Rs. 1.4 & 1.76 lakh crore 
•    CAG: Raja ignored advice of Law, Finance ministries

Congress pressure finally gets Raja scalp

The DMK leadership finally took the “painful decision to sacrifice” communications and IT minister A. Raja in order to prevent any strains in the relations with the Congress as Tamil Nadu gets ready for the state elections expected early next year, informed sources said.
Already some Congress seniors in the state, such as former Union minister E.V.K.S. Elangovan, had been openly demanding that Mr Raja should quit as IT and telecommunication minister in view of the CAG indictment and the observations made by the Supreme Court. “How can the CBI investigation into the spectrum scam be effective and pressure-free if Raja continues to captain the telecom ministry?” asked Mr Elangovan.
More importantly, the Congress leadership had indicated to DMK president and chief minister M. Karunanidhi that the Prime Minister would like to avoid any ruckus to disrupt his statement before the Parliament on Monday morning on the recent visit of US President Barack Obama and also the G-20 meet in Seoul. “The DMK was told that Raja could be brought back once the CBI clears his name in the spectrum probe,” a highly placed source said.
“It would be tough to face the coming (state) elections with Raja still in office,” said a state Congress senior. “Jayalalithaa will tear us to pieces. She has started that job already,” he said.
Since her campaign would hit the DMK more than the Congress during the crucial polls, the DMK leadership has now directed Mr Raja to step down, he reasoned. Sources said the Jaya factor had also weighed while delaying that directive as the DMK did not want it to seem like a knee-jerk response to her offer of support of “18 MPs and even more” to sustain the UPA government.
“The DMK leadership waited till the Congress asserted that the DMK is its chosen ally. Gulam Nabi Azad declared that there is no vacancy in Tamil Nadu alliance. After that, the DMK has now reciprocated by offering Mr Raja’s resignation in order to save the Congress from further embarrassment inside Parliament and outside,” said a party source.

Raja should face law, says BJP

Describing it as a “shameful thing” if Union communications and IT minister A. Raja, allegedly involved in the 2G spectrum scam, was allowed to resign, the state unit of the BJP has asked the UPA government to act tough and sack him from the Cabinet, even as it ruled out an alliance with the DMK.
“It will be a shameful thing if Raja is allowed to resign. He should be dismissed, chargesheeted, arrested and the law allowed to take its course,” party president Pon Radhakrishanan said on Sunday.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the party’s district presidents’ meet here on Sunday on the proposed Thamarai Yatra on November 19, Mr Radhakrishanan said Mr Raja’s continuance in the Cabinet only indicates that the Congress and DMK are hand in glove in shielding the tainted Union minister. Ruling out any poll ties with the DMK for the Assembly elections, he said his party would support parties that come together to unseat the DMK.

Jaya flays DMK on cement

AIADMK general secretary J. Jayalalithaa flayed the state government for failing to stabilise the spiralling prices of construction material, saying it had adversely affected people.
“About 25 lakh construction workers have been affected due to the steep increase in the prices and the construction activity has virtually stopped,” she claimed on Sunday. She said there was no justification in the escalation, as the cost of raw material for cement and bricks had not increased.
While the prices are under check in neighbouring states, only in Tamil Nadu have the prices of cement, bricks, sand, iron increased on an unprecedented scale over the past two months, she added.
“The cost of bricks, sold for Rs 3.5 each, and hollow bricks that used to cost Rs 11 each, has doubled. A tonne of steel which was Rs 32,000 has increased to Rs 40,000; a unit of gravel has increased from Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,500 and cement bags sold for Rs 145 each earlier are now being sold for Rs 300,” she said.
She alleged that the prices rose due to a cartel formed by cement manufacturers and because the “DMK encouraged smuggling and hoarding.” Her party would stage an agitation in Karur on November 16.

DMK wants a cabinet post -- in lieu of Raja

Chennai, Nov 15 : A day after its A. Raja quit the cabinet over corruption charges, Tamil Nadu's ruling DMK insisted one of its other MPs should be inducted into Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government.

A senior DMK leader told IANS that the DMK-Congress arrangement was that it would get seven ministerial positions in the government - three cabinet ministers and four ministers of state.

"We will continue to insist on that," the leader said on the condition of anonymity.

After Raja's resignation, the communication and IT portfolio was taken over by Manmohan Singh. There is no indication how long he will hold it or who will get it -- and when.

After he resigned Sunday night over the 2G spectrum controversy, Raja maintained he had done no wrong. He said he was quitting so that the opposition allows parliament to function normally.

The DMK source said no discussion took place between the DMK and Congress over Raja's portfolio before he put in his papers.

"We have not discussed the issue. Raja was asked to resign so that parliament functions smoothly as the opposition has been blackmailing the government," the DMK leader said.

In 2009 when Manmohan Singh formed his govenment, the DMK demanded that its T.R. Baalu and Kanimozhi be included in the cabinet. The Congress declined.

Baalu, who was the shipping minister in UPA-I, was not offered any cabinet berth in 2009.

Asked if the DMK would retain the telecom portfolio, the DMK leader said: "Why not?"

The source added: "If the Supreme Court gives a clean chit to Raja, then the DMK will demand reinstatement of Raja in his earlier position."

Will the Raja episode affect the DMK's fortunes in Tamil Nadu's electoral battles, DMK leader Baalu told IANS: "There will be no impact at the state level."

Jaya demands arrest of Raja, JPC/CBI probe into spectrum scam

Chennai, Nov 15 : The AIADMK today joined the Opposition chorus for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probeinto the spectrum scam and demanded the arrest of former Union Telecom Minister A Raja on the issue.

Upping her ante, AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalithaa in a statement here demanded that Mr Raja should be charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act and arrested and tried for perpetrating the biggest scam in the history of mankind.

Taking credit for his resignation, Ms Jayalalithaa welcomed it, but said it does not signal the end of ''the mother of all scams.'' ''It is only the beginning. The Indian Government has lost an unprecedented Rs 1,76,379 core. Raja and persons and institutions close to him, have gained out of the shady deals. All these issues have to be investigated threadbare,'' she added.

This could happen only if an unhindered CBI investigation was supplemented by a JPC probe which would update Parliament on the entire issue, Ms Jayalalithaa said.

''The money trail has to be traced and every single person who has gained out of this scam should be made accountable and proceeded against,'' she said, adding the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax Department should also get into the act.

Jayalalithaa demands detailed probe into 2G spectrum scam

jayalalitha-1Chennai, Nov 15 : AIADMK general secretary J. Jayalalithaa Monday said A. Raja's resignation as union telecom minister in connection with the 2G spectrum scam would be just 'symbolic tokenism' if it was not followed up with a detailed probe.

She also termed as disturbing and a cause of concern that the official version of the resignation does not say Prime MinisterManmohan Singh insisted on Raja's resignation. Raja, who resigned Sunday, hails from DMK, the archrival of AIADMK in Tamil Nadu.

"...the official version put out is that the DMK leader M. Karunanidhi asked Raja to resign only because parliament was being stalled every day on his account, and that he wanted parliament to function without disruption, and that Raja was innocent of any wrongdoing," she said in a statement here.

She said the resignation does not signal the end of "the mother of all scams. It is only the beginning. The government of India has lost an unprecedented Rs.176,379 crores (USD 39 billion)".

Alleging that Raja and people and institutions close to him have gained out of the shady deals, she demanded an unhindered probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) supplemented by a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe which would update the parliament on the entire issue.

"Further, Raja himself should be charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act and be arrested and tried for perpetrating the biggest scam in the history of mankind," she said.

She said the money trail has to be traced and every single person who has gained out of this scam should be made accountable and should be proceeded against.

"The Enforcement Directorate and the income tax department will also have to get into the act. Only then will justice be done. Only then can the resignation be considered genuine and not just symbolic tokenism," Jayalalithaa added.

Terming the resignation as overdue she said it " not a case of scaling the moral high ground. Raja had been mocking at all constitutional institutions, including the office of the prime minister, the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the Delhi High Court, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and even the Supreme Court of India".

Claiming a victory for Indian people, democracy and media freedom, she said: "Raja's resignation came after a virtual avalanche of public opinion was mobilised following my recent interview to the Times Now TV news channel and the millions of telegrams that have swamped Rashtrapati Bhavan from all over the country after I called upon the citizens of India to register their sense of outrage and demand Raja's dismissal."

Jaya welcomes Raja's resignation, says 'Its not end of scam'

Chennai, Nov 15 : AIADMK General Secretary and Leader of the Opposition in Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly J Jayalalitha today welcomed the resignation of A Raja of the DMK as Union Minister of Telecommunications.

In a press releasehere, Ms Jayalalitha, who is in Kodandu, said, Raja's resignation was not ''a case of scaling the moral high ground.'' She alleged that Raja had been mocking at all Constitutional institutions, including the Office of the Prime Minister, the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the Delhi High Court, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and even the SupremeCourt.

''In fact, even till yesterday morning both Raja and DMK president M Karunanidhi had held that no impropriety had taken place, though the whole world knows that the Government of India has wrongfully been deprived of all of Rs 1,76,379 crore, while these worthies had wrongfully gained substantially by adopting a faulty policy for the sale of 2G spectrum licences to hand-picked organizations,'' she charged.

2G scam: Opposition parties demand parliamentary probe

Chennai, Nov 15 : Tasting victory with the resignation of Communications and IT Minister A.Raja over the 2G spectrum allotment scam, opposition parties in Tamil Nadu Sunday demanded a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe.

Speaking to IANS, AIADMK's Deputy Parliamentary Leader V. Maitreyan said: "Raja's resignation is not an end, it is only a beginning. Cases should be registered against Raja under the Prevention of Corruption Act and a JPC probe should be conducted."

According to him, Raja's resignation is a victory for parliamentary democracy.

"It is a victory for the sustained crusade of AIADMK general secretary J.Jayalalithaa against the spectrum mega scam and probity in public life," he said.

Echoing similar views, Communist Party of India-Marxist MP T.K.Rangarajan said: "Raja's resignation is good and is a correct decision by the party. Raja says he is innocent but his innocence should be proved. There should be a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the spectrum scam. Government has to come out with proper answer."

Raja's stint as telecom minister mired in controversy (Profile)

Chennai, Nov 15 : A. Raja, who quit the union cabinet late Sunday as the communications and IT minister over the 2G scam allocation row, entered the Lok Sabha in 2009 for the fourth time in succession since 1996.

A triple degree holder (B.Sc, BL and ML), this time around, shifted to the cool climes of the Nilgiris reserved constituency as his home Perambalur seat was deserved in the delimitation exercise.

Though he had been minister of state for rural development and health and family welfare and the cabinet minister for environment and forests, his stint as the cabinet minister for communications and information technology was mired in the spectrum allocation controversy.

It is said this made the Congress bit reluctant to induct into the government again in 2009. But with the tough posturing of DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, the Congress had to change its mind.

According to DMK sources, Raja got a ministerial berth at the centre in 1999 on the recommendation of Murasoli Maran, who was impressed by the intellectual capability of the young advocate.

Later Karunanidhi too got impressed with Raja.

Raja is one of the trustees of the trust that would run the hospital to be set up at Karunanidhi's Gopalapuram residence after his and his wife Dayalu Ammal's lifetime.

A poet by himself, Raja has published a collection of Tamil poems.

Married to M.A. Parameswari, he has one daughter.

Raja resigns on Karunanidhi's advice

Chennai, Nov 14 : With a view to prevent stalling of Parliament session tomorrow by the Opposition parties, the DMK High Command tonight asked its MP and Union Telecom Minister A Raja to resign in the wake of his alleged involvement in the multicrore 2G spectrum allotment scam.

On his arrival in NewDelhi from Chennai today, Mr Raja, facing mounting criticism, drove straight to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence and submitted his resignation.

A communique from the DMK party headquarters 'Anna Arivalayam' here said DMK President and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi would issue a detailed statement on Mr Raja's resignation issue. The communique said the DMK High Command's instruction to Raja to step down came in the wake of mounting criticisms and pressure from the Opposition parties.

The Opposition parties had also announced that they would stall the Parliament session tomorrow on the Raja issue.

Based on the DMK High Command's direction, Mr Raja has been asked to put in his papers tonight itslef, the communique said.

As soon as he landed in New Delhi after two rounds of talks with Mr Karunanidhi in Chennai, Mr Raja drove straight to the PrimeMinister's residence to tender his resignation.

The DMK communique said it did not want the functioning of Parliament session to discuss and solve people's problems, to be disrupted.

The DMK communique said that to facilitate smooth functioning of Parliament session tomorrow, the party High Command had advised Mr Raja to put in his papers tonight itself. Mr Raja's resignation was the result of some Opposition parties disrupting the functioning of Parliament, eventhough he had only been following the policy laid down by the then Union government since 1999 for the allotment of 2G spectrum, the DMK communique said.

Later, in a seperate statement, Mr Karunanidhi, without naming anyone, flayed the Opposition parties of conspiring to force Mr Raja to resign. He said the DMK High Command had advised Mr Raja to tender his resignation in order to protect the sanctity of Parliamentary democracy as shown by Dravidian stalwarts like former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister C N Annadurai.

He also criticised the Opposition parties for not accepting Mr Raja's clarification that he was only implementing the policy laid down by the then Union (NDA) government in 1999 in the allociation of spectrum.

They had adamantly been demanding the resignation of Mr Raja and stalling the Parliament session. They had also conspired to stall the functioning of the UPA government at the Centre, Mr Karunanidhi alleged.

Raja asked to resign: DMK

Chennai, Nov 14 : Tamil Nadu's ruling DMK party said Sunday night it had asked Communications and IT Minister A. Raja to resign from the cabinet so as to allow parliament to function normally.

The DMK said in a statement here that some opposition parties had been targeting Raja over the 2G spectrum controversy and stalled parliament proceedings.

The DMK said it had asked Raja to put in his papers so that parliament is able to function democratically.