New Delhi: Hours after Dayanidhi Maran resigned as Union Minister in Delhi, the head of his party, M Karunanidhi blamed the media for defaming the former minister. Mr Karunanidhi, who is Mr Maran's grand-uncle, said the DMK will stand by Mr Maran, who is being investigated for misusing his office when he was Telecom Minister, and of orchestrating a telecom deal that saw his family's business benefitting by nearly 800 crores.
Mr Maran resigned during a ten-minute-long meeting with the Prime Minister at his residence in Delhi this afternoon. He arrived there in a car without the laal batti or red beacon used by ministers and VIPs. This morning, Mr Maran pointedly attended a cabinet meeting. No reference was made to the CBI's statement declaration in court yesterday that it has evidence against him in the telecom scam.
Mr Karunanidhi denied that he had been consulted by either Sonia Gandhi or the Prime Minister about Mr Maran's exit. He also disputed media reports that said he had shared a list of candidates with the PM for replacements for Mr Maran. It's widely expected that DMK leader TR Baalu will join the cabinet as part of the party's "quota" of ministers.
After Mr Maran left the cabinet meeting today, the Prime Minister met with senior Congress leaders like Pranab Mukherjee, Kapil Sibal, Veerappa Moily and Attorney General GE Vahanvati. They discussed the case that the CBI is building against Mr Maran. It's at this session, sources say, that Mr Maran's exit became a finality.
Maran being investigated for "friend and family plan"
Mr Karunanidhi may have expressed his support for Mr Maran today, but sources close to him say that the DMK chief has over the past few days been distancing himself from Mr Maran. When reporters recently asked him about the allegations against his grand-nephew, Mr Karunanidhi said that Mr Maran could defend himself.
Mr Maran's stature as a political liability was considerably expanded yesterday after the CBI said it had "preliminary evidence" against him in the telecom scam, which also cost the DMK's A Raja his job as Telecom Minister and landed him in Tihar Jail.
Mr Maran was Telecom Minister from 2004 to 2007. Mr Raja succeeded him. Both their tenures, according to the CBI, were littered with financial malpractices. (2G scam: Evidence against Dayanidhi Maran, Essar, says CBI in court)
The last few weeks have witnessed an accelerated investigation by the CBI on accusations that Mr Maran misused his office as Telecom Minister and followed a Friend and Family plan.
C Sivasankaran, who owned Aircel, testified to the CBI that he was denied critical licences by Mr Maran till he finally agreed to sell his company to Maxis, an empire headquartered in Malaysia and owned by T Anandakrishnan. The CBI said yesterday that Mr Sivasankaran's allegations do not appear baseless. And that the minister ignored "unanimous" consent from other telecom officials to deliberately delay the licenses Mr Sivasankaran needed. Once Maxis bought the company, the licenses appeared. And Mr Anandakrishnan pumped close to Rs. 800 crores into Sun TV, owned by Mr Maran's brother. Determining whether this was a quid pro quo is part of the CBI's assignment.
Multiple aspects of the telecom scam have turned the country's biggest swindle into a gaping wound for the DMK. First, Mr Raja, a massively popular Dalit leader known for his proximity to Mr Karunanidhi's family, was sent to jail in February on charges of conspiracy and cheating. In May, Mr Karunanidhi's daughter, Kanimozhi, was arrested for conspiring with Mr Raja to accept a kickback from a telecom company. And in the midst of this, the DMK suffered a humiliating defeat in the Tamil Nadu elections. Mr Karunanidhi was voted out as Chief Minister.
Maran should have been dismissed earlier: Opposition
The BJP and Jayalalithaa both dismissed Mr Maran's resignation as a much-delayed consequence. The BJP's Rajiv Pratap Rudy said that the Prime Minister has been so tolerant of ministers accused of corruption that it is as if he is saying, "Look 7 Race Course Road falls in way to Tihar Jail, so if you are going there, or there is a chargesheet, come and have a cup of coffee with me and then submit your resignation and go to Tihar Jail." (Read: PM may as well invite chargesheeted ministers for coffee: BJP)
Jayalalithaa, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, said, "Whatever complaints have been received against Kalanidhi Maran (Dayanidhi Maran's older brother and media baron) will be acted upon with all seriousness." The Tamil Nadu CM also said that, "The end of DMK has already been decided by them (the Maran brothers)." (Read: Marans have ensured end of DMK: Jayalalithaa)