Exit Maran, and beyond

The resignation of Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran from the Union Cabinet on account of his actions as Telecom Minister between May 2004 and May 2007 has clearly been brought about by the pressure of circumstances rather than by any inclination on the part of the United Progressive Alliance government to do right. This belated exit has come a day after the Central Bureau of Investigation told the Supreme Court of India that there was “prima facie material to suggest that there was an element of coercion by the former Telecom Minister in Aircel selling its shares to a Malaysian telecom company.” The CBI has also submitted that Mr. Maran sat on Aircel's licence application for months until the company came under the control of a new and favoured owner. That this exit from the Cabinet could be delayed until the country's premier investigative agency formally informed the Supreme Court that Mr. Maran was under investigation proves yet again that the UPA government has fallen into the habit of covering up allegations of corruption — as WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange commented in an interview to The Hindu. Controversy after controversy, scandal after scandal, scam after scam has demonstrated that the government maintains an amoral silence or sticks to convenient inaction or argument in the face of material or circumstantial evidence of wrongdoing for as long as it is legally possible and politically expedient.

The onus is now on the investigative agency to act speedily in uncovering the whole sequence of events relating to Aircel's purchase by the Maxis Group, including the rationale and timing of policy changes such as raising the FDI limit in the telecom sector to 74 per cent; Mr. Maran's insistence on spectrum pricing remaining with his Ministry rather than being brought under a Group of Ministers; and his allocation of mobile phone licences for a throwaway price to Aircel after its promoter C. Sivasankaran was coerced into selling it to the Maxis group. The agency is also reported to be investigating whether this involved a quid pro quo, as the same Malaysian group invested substantially in the direct-to-home and FM radio businesses of the Sun TV group owned by Mr. Maran's elder brother, Kalanithi Maran. All these aspects, and not just the role of Mr. Maran as Telecom Minister, must be thoroughly investigated. It is now clear that 2G spectrum allocation is India's biggest ever corruption scandal not only in terms of the mind-boggling sums involved — but also in the devious ways in which policy and personal interests coalesced. Elementary issues signalling a conflict of interest were deliberately ignored. Can there be the slightest doubt that this government, which is headed by a Prime Minister whose personal financial probity is undisputed but which has earned a reputation for unrivalled corruption, has much to answer for?

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 2:13:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/exit-maran-and-beyond/article2208333.ece

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