CRIME is being politicised. This is a new trend in allegations made by the opposition, especially the Congress. Some 39 raids carried out by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram are dubbed as political vendetta. It is very difficult to verify whether what the opposition says is correct or not. On the other hand, former chief minister of Bihar Lalu Prasad Yadav also says that he was being dragged into the cattle fodder scam because he is against the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has defended the charge on the plea that the new technology which digitalises everything will show the extent of the person or party’s criminality. But the time taken to prove the guilt is so much that the taint stays in the minds of people whether or not it is subsequently proved. Violence has also come to be introduced. The norms of democracy, where choice is made peacefully, are also violated deliberately. The system comes under pressure increasingly from different directions and in different ways. The very governance is questioned.
Early this year, the Enforcement Directorate has issued show cause notice to Vasan Health Care and its promoters, the Advantage Strategic Consulting, and its directors, besides Karti Chidambaram, in connection with alleged foreign exchange rule violations involving about Rs. 2,100 crore. Notice was also served on the foreign investors, seeking their response to allegations of multiple Foreign Exchange Management Act contraventions, according to the Directorate. The ED is probing into foreign investments in the Chennai-based Vasan Health Care, both in the primary and secondary market. It had reportedly got investments from one of the largest venture capital firms, Sequoia, and West Bridge, based in Mauritius, and also through the investment arms of global firm GIC-Singapore. Chidambaram and his son would be seen culpable if the government were to lay before the public the proof it possessed. Leaks here or there only deepen the charge that it was all politically motivated. The Congress defence that it was a vendetta would carry weight if it were to support its denial with documents which the party has “retained” at the time when it was in power. Lalu Yadav’s outcry that he was being fixed because he was anti-BJP might well be true. But he has been punished in the fodder scam. It does not behoove him to say that he was a political victim even in the face of the court’s indictment of being guilty. It has come to light that even his family members are involved.
The common man is confused because he finds both sides trading charges with vehemence. Had there been a Lokpal (ombudsman), as was the decision at one time, things would have been different. The Lokpal machinery—one can draw the lesson from the state Lokpal in Karnataka—keeps records of those who tend to indulge in corruption. Political squabbles did not allow such a machinery to be constituted. Otherwise, transparent governance would have been possible. It would have also meant the participation of people themselves. Yet the outburst of Lalu Yadav is not misplaced. The ruling BJP is bringing in the soft version of Hindutva in the country. This is the undoing of the polity which was our target when we were in the midst of struggle for independence. Regretfully, allegations of corruption against him cast a shadow on his fight against for secularism.
The Congress would do well for its image to hold an internal inquiry about the charge of corruption on the Chidambaram clan. The Gandhis’ personal involvement in the case of National Herald, a daily founded by Jawaharlal Nehru, is baffling. As the case stands, Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi are accused of cheating and breach of trust and are out on bail. Together, they reportedly have 76 percent of the share, Young India Private Limited controls 38 percent of the share and the remaining 24 percent is held by their trusted party and family loyalists Motilal Vora, Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey and Sam Pitradoa.
The original charge against them, as filed by BJP’s Subramanian Swamy, is that they used dubious means to acquire Associated Journalists Limited, which owned National Herald. The crux of the charge is that National Herald may have been a defunct print media outlet but it had real estate assets worth over Rs 2,000 crore in prime areas of important cities across India and the Gandhis, with the allegiance of some other Congress leaders, allegedly gained control over all the properties illegally.
The problem for the Congress is only increasing by the day. Take the timing of the Delhi High Court order. It could not have been worse for the Congress party. The court, which upheld the trial court order, to allow the IT Department to investigate Sonia and Rahul in the National Herald is yet another setback to the Congress party’s first family. The family is faced with the ignominy of losing a case in higher court which concerns the Nehru-Gandhi family. Now, as per court order, once the IT Department begins its investigation and starts scrutinizing the books, no one can be sure what it would lead to and what additional matters it could unearth, especially now when the Narendra Modi government is going strong.
Above all, the HC verdict has come at a time when Congress strategists are trying hard to put Sonia on the forefront, to stitch some kind of opposition unity for the coming presidential election, and since she was leading the consultation process with the regional opposition leaders, the Congress president is being positioned as the leader of a hypothetical UPA 3. Parliament should intervene more often because here all parties can see the political crime committed by one amongst them. And they should cooperate to spot out the guilty and punish the person and the party. Democracy will thereby thrive and assure the people that the system itself throws up the guilty and sees to that the individual or the party does not go scot-free.
—The writer is a veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human rights activist and author.