New Delhi: It's becoming increasingly likely, say government sources, that DMK leader Dayanidhi Maran will have to quit as Textiles Minister.
Mr Maran is being scrutinized for his role in the telecom scam that's reported to be India's largest-ever swindle. A P Singh, who heads the CBI which is investigating the scam, briefed a parliamentary committee today on the status of his agency's investigations. Last evening, when asked about Mr Maran's case, the Prime Minister said that the CBI had been asked to do its job "without fear of favour." His remarks came after his office received a detailed report from the CBI on different charges against the Textiles Minister.
C Sivasankaran, who owned telecom Aircel, testified to the CBI yesterday that when Mr Maran was Communications Minister in 2005, he pressured Mr Sivasankaran to sell his company to a Malaysia-based entrepreneur named T Anandakrishnan, who is known to be close to the minister and his brother, Kalanidhi. Mr Sivasankaran says that Mr Maran's office made it clear that he would not be granted licenses crucial for the expansion of his business. However, after he sold his company to Mr Anandakrishanan, Aircel received 14 licenses for mobile networks. A few months later, a subsidiary of Mr Anandakrishnan's company invested close to 800 cores in Sun TV, owned by Kalanidhi Maran. The CBI is determining whether this was a trade-off for the telecom licenses that were granted to Aircel.
"I felt strangulated by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT)," Mr Sivasankaran has testified in his statement to the CBI. Mr Maran told reporters last evening that there was no truth to the allegations against him. "Nobody can force anyone to sell business. I have never had to force anyone. If anyone felt they were being forced, they could have gone to court," the minister rebutted.
In its dossier to the Prime Minister, the CBI has also reportedly confirmed that when Mr Maran was Communications Minister, he had close to 300 telephone lines set up at his home in Chennai's boat Club area. These lines were allegedly made available at no cost to the Sun TV office and were used for transferring video and other data. Mr Maran last week said these charges were incorrect.