Politics ought to have been in Kalanithi's blood. Murasoli Maran, the former Union minister and nephew of M Karunanidhi of DMK, was his father. When Murasoli Maran died on November 23, 2003, Karunanidhi had wept bitterly at losing his "conscience keeper". In the 2004 general elections, Karunanidhi offered the DMK ticket for Chennai Central constituency to Kalanithi. According to Kalanithi's friends, by then he had got full time into business and therefore turned down the offer. The ticket then went to Dayanidhi. (He won and became the telecom minister in the Manmohan Singh cabinet.) "I have no inclination or interest in entering politics; I only observe politics," Kalanithi had told Outlook in 2000. A family friend says Kalanithi chooses not to speak on politics even at the dining table. The strike at Loyola, he insists, was the last overtly political act on his part.
That may not be entirely true. On June 29, 2001, the Tamil Nadu police had arrested Karunanidhi well past midnight. He was bodily lifted from his house and carried out. The clip, played ad nauseam on Sun TV over the next few days, led to a groundswell of popular sentiment against the AIADMK government. In 2007, Dinakaran, a newspaper owned by the Sun group, published the results of what it said was a state-wide survey projecting Karunanidhi's younger son, Stalin, as the likely heir to Karunanidhi, with 70 per cent of the respondents supporting him, while older son Alagiri got 2 per cent.
Enraged Alagiri supporters vandalised the Dinakaran offices. The Marans were on shaky ground. Dayanidhi had to step down as telecom minister. (Andimuthu Raja was his replacement.) Not satisfied with that, DMK launched Kalaignar TV to rival Sun TV. Sharad Kumar, a former Sun employee, was hired to run it. And Arasu Cable Corporation was formed to take on the Kalanithi-owned Sumangali Cable Vision. The Marans patched up with their grand-uncle only before the 2009 general elections. It is believed that Stalin, who has been close to the brothers, and Selvi, Karunanidhi's daughter, brought about the reconciliation. Dayanidhi again got the DMK ticket for Chennai Central, won and became the textile minister.