V. Jayanth

The actor to begin his campaign for AIADMK on Thursday

CHENNAI: There is more to it than meets the eye. For a month now, the rumour mills had been busy churning out reports about actor-politician Sarath Kumar's exit from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and entry into the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

More than his exit plans, the focus was on what his wife, Radhika, would do. With many of her television serials locked with the Sun TV group, would she follow her husband?

That stage is now past. Both have met Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and become primary members of the AIADMK. Ms. Jayalalithaa herself told the couple: "You have come a bit too late."

Quid pro quo

The implication seems to be that until the elections are complete, there can be no quid pro quo for their joining the party. Future plans could be discussed after the May 8 elections, and perhaps its outcome too.

The question is: Why did Sarath Kumar quit the DMK? Two main reasons he has advanced are: 1) He was humiliated in the party and 2) His community (Nadars) felt neglected or let down, especially because the DMK did not do much to save the Tamilnadu Mercantile Bank, a community institution.

He was a member of the Rajya Sabha and his term will end in a couple of months. What is more, in keeping with the current trend, he also pointed the finger at the "family" for his woes.

It took a while for Radhika Sarath Kumar to make up her mind. For her it was not just politics. Her serials on the Sun TV network, with its international reach, were doing "pretty well."

Industry sources say one episode could fetch up to Rs. 2 lakhs, which was split among Sun TV, Radaan TV and the agency that was getting advertisement slots. There was enough money in it for all of them. Why would she want to spoil the commercial success of her own venture and take a risk? Will it make commercial sense to switch over to Jaya TV? Both stars want some time before they can speak their minds. While Sarath Kumar is expected to jump into the campaign in the Nadar heartland around Tirunelveli, Radhika will have to sort out her future plans and the fate of the serials. It will be as much her decision as that of the private television network.

Community card

The couple blaming their joining the AIADMK on the "family'' should cause some heartburns. If Sarath Kumar left for filmi reasons as many others have done arguing that the Jayalalithaa regime has done more to the industry and saved it from the DVD-VCD menace, the DMK leadership may not mind. But he has played the community card, and the Nadars are an influential and networked lot. At a time when the elections seem so delicately balanced, the DMK does not want to lose the support of any community. And Sarath Kumar begins his campaign for the AIADMK on Thursday from Chennai.

Hence, DMK president M. Karunanidhi has taken pains to craft a three-page statement on what the party has done for the Nadars, and how the successive Governments he headed had honoured their leaders from the late Kamaraj and S.P. Adhitanar to the more recent leaders such as K.P. Kandasamy and Aladi Aruna.

He even mentioned that Venkatesa Pannaiyar's widow Radhika Selvi was elected on the DMK ticket in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. Sarath Kumar was not taken into the DMK Ministry during 1996-2001 because, like MGR, he was still active in films and had to fulfil those commitments. That being the case, Mr. Karunanidhi finds no merit in the charge that the community felt let down.

As for Radaan TV's future, Radhika Sarath Kumar seems to have ambitious plans of expansion, even outside the country. In that case, there could still have been a "conflict of interest" with the Sun group.

Maybe after the elections, she can also firm up her plans.