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Indian minister in telecom probe offers to quit

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July 7, 2011, 2:40 p.m. |

In this June 14, 2006 file photo, Indian Communications and Information Technology Minister Dayanidhi Maran arrives for a press conference in New Delhi, India.
© AP

NEW DELHI (AP) — An Indian government minister offered to resign Thursday after investigators said they were probing his alleged involvement in a telecommunications scandal, media reports said. The allegations against Dayanidhi Maran further tarnished the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which has been battered by a second telecoms scandal and other high-profile corruption cases.

Dayanidhi Maran told Singh he would resign after the Central Bureau of Investigation said it was investigating accusations he used his authority when he was telecommunications minister to coerce a telecom company owner to sell to a Malaysia-based corporation, according to the Press Trust of India news agency and television news channels.

Muthu Kumar, a spokesman in the prime minister's office, declined to discuss the contents of Maran's meeting with the prime minister.

The resignation was not officially announced.

Maran is the current textiles minister after leaving the telecommunications ministry in 2007.

CBI officials told India's top court Wednesday that Maran prevented the company, Aircel, from obtaining crucial cellphone spectrum licenses until it was sold to Maxis Communication, the Economic Times newspaper reported.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, a spokesman for the main Hindu nationalist opposition party, demanded Maran's immediate resignation.

Prosecutors earlier charged another former telecommunications minister, Andimuthu Raja, with fraud and forgery in a separate scandal related to the 2008 sale of cellular licenses.

That sale, conducted on a first-come, first-served basis, netted India only 124 billion rupees ($2.7 billion), causing the government to lose as much as $36 billion in potential revenue, according to the state auditor general.

Both Raja and Maran belong to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam, a powerful regional party that lost recent state elections in Tamil Nadu in the wake of the scandal.

The party is a coalition partner of Singh's government in New Delhi.

Maran attended a Cabinet meeting Thursday, but was not available for comment.
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