Indian Decade

2G Scam Gets Worse for Govt

Reports on the quizzing of C Sivasankaran over the 2G spectrum scam will have made uncomfortable reading for the govt.

The coalition government must be used to tackling crises now. Still, a particularly lethal political bomb is waiting to explode in its face. After Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev, a third and more dangerous political crisis is fast developing for the government: allegations of corruption and coercion against DMK leader and union Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran as part of the 2G spectrum scam.

India’s premier investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), is understood to have asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s permission to arrest Maran after its daylong questioning of Aircel founder and original promoter C Sivasankaran on June 6. During questioning, Sivasankaran reportedly said Maran had forced him to sell Aircel to Malaysian telecom firm Maxis. The CBI has recorded Sivasankaran’s entire statement on camera.

Sivasankaran has given details of the Rs 800 crore ($180 million) ‘bribe’ to Dayanidhi’s brother Kalanidhi Maran and the Sun TV companies owned by the Maran family. Sivasankaran’s testimony to the CBI is said to be explosive and highly incriminating for Dayanidhi Maran as Sivasankaran is understood to have given details of five more scams involving Dayanidhi that the media so far unaware of. The CBI is expected to use Sivasankaran as a star witness in the case against Maran.

The development could create massive political fallout and has the potential to rock the United Progressive Alliance government’s boat more violently than any other crisis in recent times. After A Raja and Kanimozhi, Maran is the third DMK leader to be named in the 2G spectrum scam, and he now faces the spectre of arrest. The Congress is well aware that Maran’s arrest may prove to be the last straw on the camel’s back and DMK supremo M Karunanidhi, already miffed over her daughter Kanimozhi’s arrest, may withdraw support from the UPA 2 government.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

The government’s hands are tied and it can’t choreograph the CBI investigations into the 2G scam. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, is scheduled to have the next hearing on the case on July 6 when the CBI will be submitting a status report. On July 13, the parliament’s six-week-long Monsoon Session is also scheduled to begin. In the current volatile political landscape, the government can’t afford to lose allies and make itself vulnerable when it’s already in the grip of a pincer attack from Anna Hazare and Ramdev.

For his part, Maran has stoutly denied Sivasankaran’s allegation that he forced him to sell Aircel to Maxis. He reportedly said: ‘Sivasankaran is a multi-billionaire, no one can force him to sell stake. I have never forced anyone to do business with me. He could have gone to court.’ However, in the wake of Sivasankaran’s statement before the CBI, the prime minister would have no option but to seek Dayanidhi Maran’s resignation — or drop him from his cabinet if he doesn’t resign.