Maran will be dropped if probe points finger

Maran will be dropped if probe points finger

Maran will be dropped if probe points finger

Media revelations about Maran are turning into a ticklish issue for the Congress and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is planning to restructure the cabinet soon and give it a clean new look, a Congress leader, who declined to be identified, told IANS.

Disregarding the resignation demands, Maran attended the cabinet meeting Thursday. He has been denying the allegations as baseless and served notice on media organisations which published the initial stories.

"The Congress will not drag the issue as it happened with Raja (A. Raja). The moment the probe agency or the court raises a small finger against Maran, the party will signal him to quit," the Congress leader said.

Sources say the DMK leadership has asked Maran to "stay on" and attend the cabinet meetings and official functions.

According to them, the party fears that it will be pushed to the corner if Maran resigns in a hurry.

Already, two of its influential leaders - former communications minister A. Raja and Rajya Sabha MP and party supremo M. Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi - are in Tihar Jail in connection with the 2G spectrum scam. Maran was communications minister from 2004 to 2007 in the UPA I government before Raja.

As Maran tries to put up a defence and Congress tries to avoid any comment, opposition parties - DMK's arch rival AIADMK, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties - have been raising the decibel for his resignation.

Maran has to battle his case on several fronts - the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which has begun preliminary probe into his alleged role in the 2G spectrum scam, the Supreme Court where the civil society groups have filed petitions, media revelations and the opposition onslaught.

The main allegation, initially revealed by Tehelka magazine and followed up in several other reports, is that Maran forced C. Sivasankaran, owner of Aircel, to sell the telecom company to Maran's Malaysia-based friend T. Ananda Krishnan in 2006.

The reports allege that Maran deliberately delayed issuing spectrum licenses to Aircel's sister concern, Dishnet Wireless, when it was owned by Sivasankaran. He issued the licenses soon after it changed hands to Ananda Krishnan who owns Maxis.

Within four months of the spectrum allocation, Astro - a sister company of Maxis - got cabinet nod to buy Rs.675 crore equity in Sun Direct DTH, a company owned by Maran's brother Kalanidhi Maran and family, the reports have pointed out.

On June 6, Sivasankaran in his statement to the CBI reiterated the charge that he was forced to sell the company. Maran denied the allegation saying Sivasankaran was keen on selling the company.

The CBI is likely to complete the initial probe in the allegations against Maran in two to three weeks and file a report, sources said. If it finds substance in the allegations, Maran is likely to be questioned. This can lead to a new cases against him.

Maran has been on the backfoot after fresh media reports surfaced regarding his involvement. Though he filed defamation cases against Tehelka and the New Indian Express for the initial reports, he has not initiated any action against several Delhi-based newspapers and TV channels which have carried details of the scam, sources said.

On the political front, the chorus for his resignation is gaining momentum. "Maran should resign at the earliest. Otherwise, he will be forced to go the Raja way," BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said.

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja said that the "complicity of Maran in a bigger scam than of A. Raja is unfolding day by day." He should quit, he demanded.
The opposition parties will demand Maran's resignation in the coming monsoon session, if he does not resign by then, Janata Dal-United general secretary Javed Raza said.

Trouble is brewing for Maran on another front: the joint parliamentary committee(JPC) on 2G spectrum will be summoning him soon. "We are calling all former telecommunication ministers, that includes Maran," JPC chief P.C. Chacko told IANS.

As the clouds gather against Maran, the Congress is cautiously watching the scenario. So far, the party had left it to the besieged DMK minister to defend himself.

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