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Since 1st March, 1999
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MP in corporate quicksand
- Nirupam quits after allegation of Reliance-Mahajan link

Mumbai, March 9: Sanjay Nirupam, the Shiv Sena MP who has a penchant for triggering controversies, resigned from the party in the wake of his demand to probe allotment of shares in Reliance Infocomm, now in the middle of a row between the Ambani brothers.

Nirupam will be resigning his Rajya Sabha membership also.

The resignation became known after a meeting with party chief Bal Thackeray in the afternoon. Party sources said Thackeray had taken a dim view of Nirupam's attack on BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, linking him to the share allotment, and asked him to quit as MP.

There were reports earlier that Nirupam was going to raise the issue of allocation of shares in Reliance Infocomm, about which Anil Ambani's camp has been asking questions in its battle against Mukesh.

'The media reports gave the impression that I was to name Mahajan in Parliament, which prompted him to ask the Thackerays to stop me from doing so,' Nirupam said today.

In an exclusive interview to STAR News later, Nirupam said: 'Bal Thackeray accused me of taking money from Anil Ambani.'

'I am neither a friend of Anil nor an enemy of Mukesh,' he added.

Some two weeks ago, the BJP's Maharashtra unit had strongly protested against his demand for a probe into the role of Mahajan and his relations in the Reliance Infocomm allotment.

'Bal Thackeray, Uddhav Thackeray called me asking me to withdraw my comments about Pramod Mahajan,' Nirupam told the TV channel.

Officially, the party would not comment.

The Sena leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Narayan Rane, said the party had asked Nirupam to quit as MP, but he was not aware of the exact reasons.

Nirupam flew to Delhi later and will meet Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, to resign his post as an MP, at least a year before expiry of his term.

'I had resigned from the party as I was unable to carry out the orders issued by the Shiv Sena leadership. There were differences between us on certain issues and it was not possible for me to obey the orders,' he said.

The link to Mahajan in the Reliance Infocomm case has been alleged as part of a complicated deal. Run by Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Infocomm gave 1 crore shares ' valued at Rs 500 crore ' at a price of Re 1 each to three little known companies owned by three couples in Delhi.

A person named Ashish Deora is the common connection, in various ways, to the three. The allegation was that he was the beneficiary of the shares because of his link to Mahajan, who had served as communications minister in the Vajpayee government.

In the TV interview, Nirupam said: 'The telecom ministry of the NDA government took decisions which favoured a particular company.'

Deora sits at the helm in IOL Broadband (formerly Indiaonline Network) and Global e-Secure. The three companies ' Fairever Traders, Prerna Auto and Softnet ' were later transferred to Mumbai. Fairever's office was on the same premises as Global's.

Deora's connection to Mahajan's family has been alleged as Indiaonline, as it was known at the time, had paid Rs 5 crore to Integral Productions, a company in which Mahajan's wife Rekha and his son Rahul were majority owners, in the first quarter of 2001. Integral owed government-owned broadcaster Prasar Bharati Rs 6 crore.

V. Ramanand Rao, the future son-in-law of Mahajan, was a director of Indiaonline.

Some time ago, denying Mahajan's link to the share allotment, Reliance Infocomm announced that in December 2004 the three companies had returned the shares given as compensation for helping Reliance obtain permissions for right of way for its telephone cables.

The official reason cited for cancelling the allotments was non-performance of contract.

This is not the first time Nirupam has stirred a hornet's nest. In 2001, he created a storm by alleging in Parliament that the Prime Minister's Office ' A.B. Vajpayee was in power then ' had a role to play in a scam in the United Trust of India, which had been asked to provide funds to certain companies.

He had got away with a reprimand from Thackeray at the time.

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