New Delhi: Corruption is back on the national agenda once again, coincidentally just ahead of declaration of elections to five state assemblies.

A heated debate in Parliament where All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (AIADMK) and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) sought an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the Aircel-Maxis deal set the stage for it.

During the debate over corruption in the Lok Sabha, several Members of Parliament (MPs) of AIADMK, the BJD and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) targeted former finance minister P. Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidambaram for his alleged involvement in the multi-crore corruption scandal.

Karti Chidambaram declined to comment.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power on the promise of unearthing black money, but his government was doing precious little to bring to book those behind the Aircel-Maxis deal, which has deep roots in the infamous 2G scam—the biggest in independent India," said T.J. Venkatesh, member of parliament of AIADMK and a political rival of the Congress in Tamil Nadu.

Venkatesh alleged two former ministers and members of Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) were involved in the scam. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan prevented Venkatesh from naming the former ministers.

Sensing an opportunity to isolate the Congress which so far has led a united opposition to target the government over the suicide of Hyderabad Central University (HCU) student Rohith Vemula and the row in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the government agreed to the demand raised by AIADMK and BJD leaders for a debate on the Aircel-Maxis corruption scandal.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley clarified in the Lok Sabha that the government was committed to absolute probity. “It is incorrect to say that government is going slow on the investigations. If in any scam, any person is found connected or cornered, no one will be spared. We have no holy cows to protect. All I can say is whatever action is to be taken under law, will be taken," said the finance minister.

The Aircel-Maxis case is tied to allegations that then telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran forced Aircel owner C. Sivasankaran to transfer his ownership to Maxis in 2006. The Malaysian company invested in Kalanithi Maran’s Sun Direct, the direct-to-home TV arm of his Sun TV Network Ltd.

“No FIR has been lodged yet in the Aircel-Maxis deal and CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) have not filed a charge sheet so far, despite the fact that the money laundering trail in the deal has allegedly spread to 14 countries, including British Virgin Islands. The government has said that it will take the case to logical conclusion and I expect it to do that. Congress party had defended all the former UPA ministers, so it will not be surprising to see it defend P. Chidambaram and his son," said Bhartruhari Mahtab, a senior leader of the BJD who initiated the debate in Parliament.

Earlier on Wednesday, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi politically attacked the NDA.

“The work done by the UPA has made us all proud. We conducted Panchayat elections, created self-help groups, which generated employment. We had broken the back of insurgency in Kashmir completely. And what did the prime minister do? He decided to have a cup of tea with Nawaz Sharif without any vision," Gandhi said.

Political analysts feel that the repeated confrontations between the treasury and the opposition was distracting Parliament.

“Is the government and opposition serious about ending corruption or do they only want to discuss the issue? People expect concrete steps from parliamentarians to bring an end to corruption and not just debates and discussion to level charges against each other. This confrontation between NDA and opposition is hijacking the legislative agenda of the Parliament," said A.K. Verma, a Kanpur-based political analyst and political science professor at Christ Church College.

PTI and Anuja of Mint contributed to the story.

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