The 2G spectrum scam claimed its second big victim on Thursday with textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran quitting the union cabinet.
This came a day after the CBI told Supreme Court that Maran, as telecom minister in 2006, "forced" telecom promoter C Sivasankaran to sell his stake in Chennai-based Aircel to Malaysia-based Maxis, owned by a friend of the Maran family, thereby enabling Maxis to be eligible for highly valued spectrum licences.Maran, 44, handed his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after a cabinet meeting, following a word with his grand-uncle and DMK chief M Karunanidhi.
There was no official word on the resignation and Maran, too, did not speak to the media.
In Chennai, Karunanidhi said the DMK would stand by him. The party position was that nothing "concrete" had been established by the CBI and no case filed.
Pointing out that none from the UPA, neither the PM nor Sonia Gandhi, had called him, Karunanidhi said the media was ruling the country and it could defame anyone.
"Dayanidhi Maran is no exception," he said.
Asked if he'd written to Singh seeking Maran's removal in exchange for the inclusion of former union minister TR Baalu and some others in the proposed cabinet reshuffle, he shot back, "It is your imagination."
It's now the third wicket down for the DMK with the spectrum scandal claiming former telecom minister A Raja, Rajya Sabha MP and Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi and now Maran. The first two are currently in Tihar jail.
Maran's exit raises fresh questions on the Congress-DMK ties, already strained by the Raja and Kanimozhi episodes. DMK leaders expect Karunanidhi to clear the air when the party's general council meets on July 23.
For now, Karunanidhi's primary concern, DMK insiders said, is to ensure the early release of Kanimozhi.
The opposition parties, especially the J Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK, which were vociferous in their demand for Maran's ouster, said it was long overdue. Terming the development as "the end of the DMK", the Tamil Nadu chief minister said the Prime Minister ought to have made Maran resign long ago.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, "Why does the PM delay the removal of corrupt members of his team? Initially, efforts are made to defend them. When all routes are exhausted, action is taken."
Inputs from HT Correspondent, Chennai