Breaking News: Is Maran arm-twisting Tatas?

The NewIndPress.Com website (part of Dinamani's group) is questioning Dayanithi Maran's apparent arm-twisting tactics with the Tatas.

MDMK leader Vaiko’s allegation that Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran has been pressurising, even threatening, Mr Ratan Tata virtually to hand over Tata DTH [Direct to Home] project to his family may end up as more than just an allegation by a political rival during an election campaign.Inquiries by this website's newspaper lead to the conclusion that Dayanidhi Maran has a lot to explain which he seems not inclined to.

The case that is emerging against Dayanidhi Maran is briefly this. The Tata group is in alliance with the global giant Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV for the Direct to Home [DTH] TV project. DTH broadcast carries the connectivity to TV at home without any cable through a set top box that sits on the TV. The value of this project runs into thousands of crores.

The Tatas presently hold 80 per cent of the project and Murdoch 20 per cent. The Maran family has acquired a DTH license. But there is a rider to that. Under its terms the Sun TV cannot hold more than 20 per cent like the Star TV cannot hold more than 20 per cent in the Tata Sky project. It has to find a partner for 80 per cent and also investment of thousands of crores!

Since the future belongs to DTH,Sun TV desperately needs to own DTH connectivity. That is why the Maran brothers, both Kalanidhi who runs Sun TV, and Dayanidhi who runs the ministry that is directly involved in DTH business, seem to have got interested in the Tata-Murdoch project.

This website's newspaper inquiries reveal that Kalanidhi Maran telephoned the Tata group chairman Ratan Tata and asked for a meeting. In the meeting he sought 33 per cent share in the Tata-Star DTH project with management rights. He demanded that Sun TV be given the shares at par, regardless of the real value.

This meant he not only wanted partnership but also at a huge concession. He also demanded to be included as promoter along with Tata and Murdoch.Shocked by the brazen demand, Ratan Tata told him that it was Tatas’ project and they had no intention of parting with it to anyone. It was then that Dayanidhi Maran intervened.

Dayanidhi had meetings with Ratan Tata in which he began pressing him to part with the project. This seems to have intensified the struggle. Dayanidhi also contacted Rupert Murdoch himself and asked for 33 percent partnership, which the shocked global media baron politely declined.

Meanwhile, meetings took place in which the Marans began claiming that the executives of Tatas and Star TV and also Murdoch and his assistant at Hong Kong had accepted to give 33 percent partnership to Sun TV. These claims later reportedly proved to be false.

When Tata and Murdoch refused to oblige Dayanidhi and Tata wrote a letter to him saying that shares could not be given, Dayanidhi got upset. He reportedly threatened Tata that he would finish off their telecom project and subsequently his office promptly began withholding all normal clearances to Tata Telecom.

The minister ought to have known that since the telecom sector was beset by cutthroat competition, the withholding of ministerial approvals would impose huge costs and losses on Tata Telecom.

A tamil version of the article has appeared in today's Dinamani . Expect to see this issue being picked up in a big way by Vai.Ko and others during the election campaign.

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