Reacting to reports that Maran as telecom minister in UPA-1 allegedly coerced the promoter of cellular service provider Aircel to sell out to Malaysian company Maxis, BJP said the minister as well as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh owed an explanation. BJP spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad also underlined the allegation that a subsidiary of Maxis, Astro All Asia Network, invested Rs 830 crore in Sun Direct TV -- Maran's family concern -- soon after the Aircel-Maxis deal to demand an explanation from the textiles minister.
With the principal Opposition raising the pitch on alleged corruption by DMK ministers and stressing that the PM kept defending A Raja, another DMK nominee to have handled the telecom ministry, even after CBI had launched investigations against him, Congress distanced itself from the controversy over Maran. "If a question has been asked of Dayanidhi Maran, he is the best person to answer it," the Congress spokesperson said.
Maran has denied the charge and has slapped a legal suit against publications that levelled the charge. His legal counsel said that C Sivasankaran, promoter of Aircel, wanted to sell his company since 2004. He also said Maran had no share holding or interest in any form in Sun Direct TV and was in no way connected with any of its business transactions.
BJP was undeterred by the legal notices sent by Maran. "He should clarify, is there a conflict of interest here or not." The party added that the PM clarify his position on the issue. "As you all know, the authority of determining pricing of spectrum was taken out of the purview of group of ministers at Maran's instance," Prasad said. He also emphasized that the PM kept defending Raja even after CBI had started probing the 2G scam.
The allegation against Maran comes at a time when government and Congress are seeking to buffer themselves from the 2G spectrum scam by stressing that there was no interference with CBI's investigations. There is already a fear that the effort may be undercut by Raja and other 2G spectrum scam accused by saying that the former telecom minister had kept the PM and his principal secretary T K A Nair in the loop. The allegation against Maran may only add to the worry, also because of the indication that the BJP is planning to highlight the coincidence that Aircel's application for Unified Access Service Licence and spectrum was cleared after it was acquired by Maxis.
BJP sees DMK as the weak link in the UPA's flank and wants to use it to keep up the pressure. "Why is it that the companies belonging to DMK leaders -- be it Kalaignar TV or Sun TV – are embroiled in allegations of corruption," Prasad asked.