Even though union textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran protested his innocence in the scams during his tenure as telecom minister, the opposition mounted pressure on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday to drop him from the cabinet.
Singh, however, hasn’t uttered a word, so far, on Maran. The minister, who said, “I am ready to face any probe and deserve no sympathy if I have done wrong,” attended Thursday’s cabinet meeting. Later, he defended himself in Chennai: “I should be given all opportunity to explain.” He also sent a legal notice to a publication for reporting that he diverted 323 ISDN lines of BSNL to his brother, Kalanidhi’s Sun TV Network.
But the CBI indicated it would scrape up the Aircel-Maxis case and make former Aircel promoter C Shivasankaran a complainant. Shivasankaran was allegedly forced to sell out to Malaysia-based Maxis Group, close to the Marans.
According to a public lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court by a member of the lokpal bill drafting committee, Prashant Bhushan, the Maran family-owned Sun TV received a substantial investment from Maxis in the form of a 20% equity in Sun Direct TV after the Aircel deal.
Although Maran said he wasn’t even a minister when Maxis invested in Sun Direct, BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad said Maran’s alibi was “all humbug”.
Also, CBI sources said Sivasankaran had “promised” to meet their sleuths next week. “We have a case in the Aircel deal, even if Shivasankaran doesn’t come forward. But so far, he is cooperating,” said a senior CBI official.
On the diversion of BSNL lines, Maran showed a letter from BSNL in Chennai to claim he had only one line at his home.
Maran said BSNL had clarified that he had used only 1.74 lakh units from December 2006 to March 2009 out of his quota of 4.5 lakh meter call units.
He threatened Dinamani, a Tamil newspaper, with legal action and demanded unconditional apology and Rs 10 crore. The matter is also sub-judice, as AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa had made similar allegations against him in 2009.
The controversy, however, saw media conglomerate Sun TV Network and low-cost air carrier SpiceJet taking a beating on the bourses.
Sun TV plummeted by 27.90% to settle at Rs 272.10 on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). SpiceJet, owned and run by Kalanidhi Maran, also dropped by 16.06% to close at Rs 34.50.