Opposition parties on Friday demanded that Telecom Minister A Raja be sacked to allow a fair probe into the alleged corruption in spectrum allocation, as CBI continued searches in offices of the ministry and mobile operators.
But the Congress appeared to be in no mood to seek action against Raja, a DMK MP, saying that the FIR does not name him.
"The spectrum allocation scam runs into thousands of crores of rupees. This is the first time that the CBI has raided the offices of a minister. There is no reason -- moral, ethical or political -- for him to continue as Communications Minister," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
The CBI on Friday searched 19 premises, including offices of 10 telecom companies and those of the Department of Telecom. The agency had on Thursday searched the Sanchar Bhavan, which houses the Telecom Ministry, in connection with alleged irregularities in allocation of spectrum, or radio waves, for 2G mobile telephony to new operators.
"In the interest of having a fair probe, it is essential that the Minister not continue in office," the CPI-M's Central Committee said in a statement, adding that it was shocked by Raja's insistence that he would continue in office.
Raja had yesterday ruled out stepping down, saying nowhere the CBI has pointed to his involvement.
"All decisions on spectrum licensing have been taken in accordance with procedures laid down by Trai and in consultation with the Prime Minister," he had said.
"The Minister cannot evade his responsibility and involvement in the matter when all his explanations for adopting the 'first come, first serve' policy have proved baseless," the CPI-M said.
The CBI is probing allegations of connivance of ministry officials with private companies in allocation of spectrum, which may have caused a loss of Rs 22,000 crore to government.
CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said his party wanted fixing accountability in the issue. "We want those responsible to be brought to book for the massive loss of revenue and adequate steps should be taken to recover the lost revenue," he said.
BJP's Prasad said his party wants Raja to be sacked forthwith by the Prime Minister and CBI should be given a free hand in the investigations.
He said if Raja continues as minister "there were apprehensions that he may create impediments in the investigation".
However, Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said: "Since the FIR names only officials, the question of propriety does not arise...CBI has registered a case against some officials and the whole matter is still under investigation."
Asked if the allegations had sullied the image of the UPA and whether the Congress was defending its ally DMK, Tewari said: "I have nothing to add to what I said...The matter of propriety only rests there (those named in FIR)".