New Delhi: Move over A Raja; it's time for Dayanidhi Maran to face the 2G fire. With Raja's role in the 2G scam being investigated by the CBI and the former Telecom Minister lodged in Tihar jail, the BJP today trained its guns on his predecessor. The immediate provocation came from a cover-story done by news magazine Tehelka which questioned the circumstances in which Maran granted a licence to Aircel in 2007.
The BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "Now we are asking very specific questions from Mr Dayanidhi Maran. Is it a fact that Maxis Communications has invested substantial amount in the family-owned company of Dayanidhi Maran - the Sun TV of Sun Direct? Secondly, was this investment done before Maxis Communication purchased Aircel or thereafter? And if it is true, is it not a case of direct conflict of interest? Because we need to know that the entire power to determine the price of spectrum was taken out of the purview of GoM upon the insistence of Dayanidhi Maran when he was the Telecom Minister. And we would like Mr Dayanidhi Maran to reply to these very specific questions which we are raising today, a reply to which is important in national interest."
The allegation against Dayanidhi Maran is that Aircel, previously denied a telecom licence for over two years, was finally given one only when its owners changed hands to Malaysia-based Maxis. The charge is that Mr Maran cleared the decks only after a sister company of Maxis invested Rs. 675 crore in the Maran-owned Sun TV, which the BJP calls a conflict of interest.
The DMK leader has rubbished the charges. Sending a legal notice to Tehellka, Maran calls the charges "blatantly concocted". In a statement, released through his lawyers, the Textile Minister said, "The reports published in the magazine are totally false, defamatory, derogatory and has been published with a malafide intention and ulterior motive. He has no shareholding or interest in any form in Sun-Direct TV and it is a separate legal entity and it is no way connected with its business transactions."
The bad news for Mr Maran, however, is that the Congress appears to have all but abandoned him.
"If Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran has been asked a few questions, he's in the best position to answer them. But I must mention here that the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) is doing its job. It will examine all issues including the telecom policy through the years," Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
The government appointed Justice Shivraj Patil Committee too has said in its report that the initial delay in giving the licences to Aircel was vague and irrelevant. CBI sources say the Aircel deal is already part of their preliminary enquiry into the grant of licences between 2001 and 2007, and any criminality on Maran's part was yet to be established.
NDTV would like to inform our readers and viewers that the sister group of Maxis, South Asia Entertainment Holdings Limited is an investor in NDTV Lifestyle Holdings.