Noted Tamil film actor and DMK's Rajya Sabha member, R Sarath Kumar, today resigned from the primary membership of the party. He alleged that his "hard work" was only being "ridiculed" by others in the party, and that he was not given due respect and importance.
The actor said he had sent his resignation letter in his own handwriting to party president M Karunanidhi.
Sarath has not revealed his mind as to the future course of action regarding his Rajya Sabha membership.
Chennaionlne, in an exclusive report on April 5, had indicated that Sarath Kumar was unhappy over continuance in the DMK and that he was contemplating resignation from the party. There are still some doubts as to whether he would actually cross over to the AIADMK as he could forfeit his membership under the anti-defection law.
However, sources in the AIADMK said he would meet Chief Minister and AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa on Tuesday when a decision would be taken on formally joining the AIADMK.
Chennaionline had already indicated that Sarat Kumar would oppose the DMK-led front in the Assembly elections and that he would campaign against the front's candidates.
Rumours had been doing the rounds in the last month or so that Sarath is considering a change in his political affiliation. Swinging from one extreme to another is not new for Sarath. In his early days as an actor, he was considered to be close to AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa. She even consented to launch a film project of his.
However, Sarath's proximity to Jayalalithaa landed him in deep trouble when the film 'Nattamai', which was still running in Tamil Nadu theatres, was aired by Jayalalithaa's TV channel, using a pneumatic tape, which Sarat gave her for personal viewing at her residence. What the understanding between Jayalalithaa and Sarat was we will never know. However, this caused a furore in the film industry as the producer R B Choudhury threatened action against Sarat for misusing a tape given to him for personal viewing. An embarrassed Sarat explained that he was taken by surprise and that he never expected Jayalalithaa to give it to the channel for telecast. Industry sources said Sarat should have known better as there was no need for a pneumatic tape if one wanted to merely see a film. When the request came for a pneumatic tape, Sarat should have guessed that it could be used by their TV channel.
Sarath fell out with the Jayalalithaa camp as charges and counter-charges were made. He later joined the DMK, unsuccessfully contested for the Lok Sabha once on the DMK ticket before being rewarded with a Rajya Sabha seat.
However, his relationship with the DMK has been uneasy as the party has not taken kindly to various demands being put forth by his friends, said to be on his behalf. For instance, Sarath has been demanding a Union Minister's post for quite some time. The State has 13 ministers from the DMK-led DPA front. The various Nadar groups in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu have also been making a lot of noise about the Nadar community being ignored in the Union Cabinet -- this is being seen as a subtle move on behalf of Sarat Kumar's fans and friends since he belongs to the Nadar community.
A Nadar businessman in the Congress party is also said to have urged Congress leaders to accept a proposition that Sarat would join their party. In return, he should be given a ministerial berth at the Centre. However, a senior Congress leader in Delhi reportedly tipped off the DMK about this attempt, which was said to have been nipped in the bud by Sonia Gandhi as she did not want any misunderstanding with the DMK.
Friction had cropped up a few years ago when the AIADMK put up Radha Ravi, the brother of Sarath's wife, actress Radhika, as the candidate for the Saidapet by-election. Sarat decided that he would not campaign against Radha Ravi as he belonged to the film industry, and that he did not want actors to be at loggerheads. The DMK did not take kindly to this decision and felt that the real reason was that Sarath didn't want to campaign against his brother-in-law. Advertisements regarding the public issue launched by Radaan International, Radhika's company which is a production house, appeared in Namadhu MGR, the AIADMK's party organ. This raised more eyebrows in the DMK camp. An open letter to Sarat Kumar, published in a section of the press, against Sarath Kumar's "opportunism" widened cracks. However, mediators bridged the gap and things seemed okay again, when Radhika was given more prime spots on Sun TV, owned by Kalanidhi Maran, son of Murasoli Maran, Karunanidhi's nephew.
Recently, statements have begun to appear on behalf of Sarath's fans that he should not work for the DMK-led front.
Karunanidhi, asked recently about rumours regarding Sarath, said in characteristic style, that they were only rumours. He denied that Sarath was not given due respect. He was always treated with great respect by leaders and cadres of the DMK, Karunanidhi said, adding that he was also given importance at the recent Tiruchi conference.
Karunanidhi also said it was not true that the Sarath fans' association had demanded four seats for its members. He said the party had received a letter from Sarat fans' association seeking only the Tirunelveli seat for a member of the association but added that the DMK could not provide the seat as the district unit's office-bearers had by consensus recommended the name of the city unit's secretary.
Adding a new dimension to the Sarath issue this time are the differences on the domestic front about his future course of action, and party sources say that Radhika will not support any action by Sarath or his fans against the DMK-led front in the May 8 Assembly elections. Rumours are doing the rounds that Sarath could face domestic problems all over again in his career if he takes an anti-DMK stand. A divorce is not a new situation for him. On her part, Radhika may campaign for the DMK-led combine in the elections.
Sarath Kumar is at the crossroads, both on the political and the domestic fronts.
As chennaionline indicated, the DMK was mentally prepared to see the exit of Sarath Kumar and had launched its own plans to rope in film stars. Anticipating the Sarath move, the DMK took actor-director Bhagyaraj, whom MGR had publicly announced as his film world heir, into its fold. Bhagyaraj has announced a long campaign schedule for the DMK-led front.