It’s wake-up time for BJP

The PNB scam am­ply re­veals that, how­ever ded­i­cated the chowki­dar is, it will be well-nigh im­pos­si­ble to ar­rest the deep rot in the func­tion­ing of cor­rupt sys­tem.

Alive - - Contents - by KV Venu­gopal

It was not noth­ing new when the CBI ar­rested Karti Chi­dambaram, a busi­ness­man and son of the former Union Fi­nance Min­is­ter P. Chi­dambaram. The In­ves­ti­ga­tion agency is claim­ing to be hav­ing valid doc­u­ments in the al­leged bribe that Kar­tik had made to the INX Me­dia own­ers In­dranil Mukherjee and Peter Mukherjee, with the ap­proval of For­eign Ex­change Pro­mo­tion Board, al­legedly ap­proved by his fa­ther dur­ing his ten­ure in the pre­vi­ous Congress-led United Pro­gres­sive Al­liance Govern­ment led by Man­mo­han Singh. Most im­por­tantly, the CBI has traced some Be­nami doc­u­ments from the per­sonal com­puter of Chi­dambaram’s son, where Karti had a Willed Deed over three of his be­nami hold­ers. In­ter­est­ingly, the politi­cians nor­mally do not keep their be­nami trans­ac­tions on record and al­most all the po­lit­i­cal par­ties are care­ful in not wash­ing their dirty-linen in pub­lic. The cor­po­rate sec­tor and the ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions are also not ex­cep­tions in this re­gard, as it is an open se­cret that many of the schools and col­leges are run with the bless­ings of many

in­dus­tri­al­ists and po­lit­i­cal per­son­al­i­ties in var­i­ous parts of the na­tion.

Be­ing a busi­ness­man, Karti should have been aware of the ad­verse im­pli­ca­tions that will cause him dis­com­fort, if he ex­poses his be­nami trans­ac­tions openly to the CBI au­thor­i­ties. But, in the ac­cused case, he was not in­clined to be­lieve his be­nami hold­ers with­out any writ­ten doc­u­ment. Even though the gen­eral pre­sump­tion is that the CBI is al­ways ex­pected to per­form, as per the whims and fan­cies of any rul­ing party at the Cen­tre, the wrong-do­ers are care­ful in not pro­vid­ing ad­e­quate footage to them with valid and proven-doc­u­ments that ex­pose their cor­rup­tion. In most of the cases, the CBI ends up with lit­tle clue about the be­nami trans­ac­tions, in spite of vig­or­ous searches for hours to­gether.

Po­lit­i­cal vendetta!

In Karti’s case, ei­ther he had taken his fa­ther’s po­lit­i­cal pop­u­lar­ity for granted, con­sid­er­ing Chi­dambaram’s per­sonal rap­port with the present Union Fi­nance Min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley and some other BJP lead­ers, or was un­der the im­pres­sion that it was al­ways safe to ac­cuse the rul­ing party as “act­ing with po­lit­i­cal vendetta.” It is ex­actly the lat­ter, which both the fa­ther and son chose, to cre­ate an im­pres­sion that the 47-yearold Karti had been ha­rassed by the present govern­ment at the Cen­tre to set­tle their po­lit­i­cal score with the former Union Fi­nance Min­is­ter. No won­der, Karti has re­port­edly stopped co­op­er­at­ing with the CBI of­fi­cials in dis­charg­ing their du­ties with clin­i­cal ef­fi­ciency.

It is not un­usual for any Op­po­si­tion leader to play such a gim­mick and to the gallery, though the sus­pi­cion gains ground that the Cen­tre need not have de­layed the pro­ceed­ings in­or­di­nately. How­ever, the renowned econ­o­mist, po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor and me­dia writer S. Gu­ru­murthy says that he has been ex­pos­ing the murky deals of Karti for a long time and has even pub­lished some in-depth write-ups in the ‘New In­dian Ex­press’ about the be­nami trans­ac­tions of the ac­cused, with Karti hold­ing not less than 90 com­pa­nies. Im­por­tantly, Gu­ru­murthy even wrote an ar­ti­cle in 2005 in the New In­dian Ex­press, ti­tled, “Mr Chi­dambaram, will you sue me now”. Ac­cord­ing to Gu­ru­murthy, Chi­dambaram did not dare to chal­lenge him in the court, as that would have ex­posed him and his son in the atro­cious deal. He also de­fended the govern­ment led by the Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, stat­ing that the BJP govern­ment at the Cen­tre can­not be blamed for the un­due de­lay in ini­ti­at­ing ac­tion against Karti, as it is the Court that gave the of­fender enough time, keep­ing his re­quests on flimsy grounds and de­layed the ac­tion of the CBI.

Sources in the po­lit­i­cal cir­cle ask, even if one agrees Gu­ru­murthy’s de­fence of the Modi govern­ment and the CBI and for squarely blam­ing the ju­di­ciary for the con­sid­er­able de­lay in ini­ti­at­ing ac­tion against

Karti, is it not time for the

In Karti’s case, ei­ther he had taken his fa­ther’s po­lit­i­cal pop­u­lar­ity for granted, con­sid­er­ing Chi­dambaram’s per­sonal rap­port with the present Union Fi­nance Min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley and some other BJP lead­ers, or was un­der the im­pres­sion that it was al­ways safe to ac­cuse the rul­ing party as “act­ing with po­lit­i­cal vendetta.”

govern­ment to cre­ate a sit­u­a­tion for the CBI to re­main in­de­pen­dent in its in­ves­ti­ga­tions, as know­ingly or un­know­ingly, a lurk­ing sus­pi­cion has been cre­ated that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion agency is ex­pected to wilt un­der pres­sure when it comes to the crunch, in spite of the of­fi­cials con­cerned per­form­ing to their best in nab­bing the bul­lies? They are per­haps right, as dur­ing the UPA gov­er­nance, the then Op­po­si­tion BJP had ac­cused the CBI of its par­ti­san at­ti­tude and the present govern­ment at the Cen­tre ap­pears to be do­ing vicev­ersa. This prob­lem has been con­fronting the na­tion right from the ten­ure of Indira Gandhi, when she be­came the Prime Min­is­ter in 1966.

Not de­fend­ing

The in­ten­tion here is not to de­fend both Chi­dambaram and Karti in the mis­deeds that oc­curred dur­ing the pre­vi­ous Congress regime. The moot point how­ever is, how come renowned busi­ness mag­nets like Ni­rav Modi and Vijay Mallya could es­cape from the wrath of the present govern­ment, even though the Modi govern­ment is not sick and tired of claim­ing that the as­sets of the duo will be at­tached, if they fail to co­op­er­ate with the En­force­ment Direc­torate and the CBI. Though, due credit should be given to the govern­ment for tak­ing steps to nab the de­fault­ers, the time has come for the Prime Min­is­ter and his team to bring them to In­dia on ex­tra­di­tion ground. Some po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors also took ex­cep­tion to the

temer­ity of Ni­rav Modi in com­ment­ing that he is not an­swer­able to the CBI or any other In­dian agency, as the deal that the govern­ment probe is en­tirely his money. Mallya, too, adopted a sim­i­lar strat­egy, al­beit diplo­mat­i­cally, by dodg­ing the govern­ment and killing the time with some or other ex­cuses.

The govern­ment is aware that the time and tide waits for none and jus­tice de­layed is jus­tice de­nied. How­ever, the mil­lion dol­lar ques­tion, ac­cord­ing to op­po­si­tion par­ties and the govern­ment crit­ics, how long will it post­pone such sen­si­tive is­sues, con­sid­er­ing the grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion? The de­lay in the govern­ment ac­tion also cre­ates sus­pi­cion among a sec­tion of peo­ple, as on the one hand, it is stern in deal­ing with the mis­de­meanor of Kar­tik, but, on the other hand, it is cre­at­ing a room for doubt that the progress that it has made in the case of Ni­rav Modi and Mallya has been lack­lus­ter so far. Gu­ru­murthy would, how­ever, has­ten to add that Kar­tik case is more com­pli­cated and it can­not be com­pared with the mis­deeds of Ni­rav Modi.

The changes

The Union Govern­ment claims that it has in­tro­duced strin­gent amend­ments to the Be­nami Prop­erty Act. For in­stance, it in­tro­duced In­sol­vency and Bank­ruptcy Code to book the bul­lies. But, will the govern­ment be bold enough to im­ple­ment the tough laws that it pro­poses, as its dras­tic ac­tion would render the ad­min­is­tra­tors and in­sti­tu­tions re­dun­dant dur­ing the course of time? Some bank­ing of­fi­cials, known for their hon­esty and in­tegrity ask, what pre­vented the govern­ment from in­sti­tut­ing ‘Lok­pal Act’ dur­ing their on­go­ing ten­ure? They are quite right, as their opin­ion im­ply that CBI, termed as a “caged par­rot” dur­ing the UPA regime, is yet to emerge as a free bird. For ex­am­ple, the present govern­ment strongly rec­om­mended the ap­point­ment of a Gu­jarat IPS of­fi­cer as spe­cial di­rec­tor, de­spite the mount­ing com­plaints of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties against him, proves be­yond doubt that our cur­rent po­lit­i­cal sys­tem is not ex­pected to cre­ate an in­de­pen­dent fed­eral po­lice, known for its im­par­tial­ity.

The in­formed sources aver that elec­tion fund­ing, with­out an iota of doubt, is the root-cause of po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion, and un­for­tu­nately, there is no ceil­ing for mak­ing do­na­tion to po­lit­i­cal par­ties. This ideally suits the cap­tains of in­dus­tries and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, as a large num­ber of them take ad­van­tage of this lu­cra­tive of­fer to favour the par­ties of their choice. Lit­tle won­der, they re­main in the good books of both the rul­ing and op­po­si­tion par­ties. Though the govern­ment has been lauded by a sec­tion of in­dus­tri­al­ists for its im­ple­men­ta­tion of de­mon­eti­sa­tion and GST

Act, apart from its de­ci­sion to cor­ner the tax-evaders, the cor­po­rate sec­tor was also im­mensely pleased by the govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to pro­vide tax-ex­emp­tion to the peo­ple, who do­nate for po­lit­i­cal par­ties, rang­ing from Rs 2,000 to the max­i­mum ex­tent pos­si­ble. An in­di­vid­ual can be rest as­sured that his or her name will not be dis­closed by the govern­ment at any cost. It is per­plex­ing to note that af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of de­mon­eti­sa­tion, not less than 100 po­lit­i­cal par­ties had been formed, and fun­nily, most of them, with­out af­fil­i­a­tions. The Govern­ment, in a way, has pro­vided easy am­mu­ni­tion for the wealthy peo­ple to avoid pay­ing their in­come tax, as long as they do not fail to please the po­lit­i­cal mas­ters. Adding salt to the wound, the govern­ment’s

The moot point how­ever is, how come renowned busi­ness mag­nets like Ni­rav Modi and Vijay Mallya could es­cape from the wrath of the present govern­ment, even though the Modi govern­ment is not sick and tired of claim­ing that the as­sets of the duo will be at­tached, if they fail to co­op­er­ate with the En­force­ment Direc­torate and the CBI.

de­ci­sion to in­tro­duce elec­toral bonds has back­fired now, as it is be­ing chal­lenged in court. More­over, it has failed to ad­dress the core is­sue of pro­mot­ing trans­parency in fund­ing.

Like an old wine in the new bot­tle, the new law would not pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for the pub­lic to know about the ex­act fund­ing de­tails of the busi­ness peo­ple and re­source-ori­ented in­di­vid­u­als.

De­mon­e­ti­za­tion

The Union govern­ment prop­a­gates that de­mon­e­ti­za­tion was meant to curb cor­rup­tion. True, there is no deny­ing the fact that a check­mate was made to hound the hoard­ers, prof­i­teers and black­mar­keters ini­tially by the In­come Tax Depart­ment, but they re­al­ized, much to their cha­grin and dis­com­fi­ture, af­ter one-and-a-half year, that the en­tire money, black money not­with­stand­ing, is back in banks with the Rs 2,000 note re­plac­ing lower de­nom­i­na­tions. Sources in the bank­ing sec­tor in­form that the banks have re­ceived back Rs 15.28 tril­lion or 99 per cent of the in­val­i­dated cur­rency within a short-span of time. In spite of all the hap­pen­ings, the govern­ment con­tin­ues to shout from rooftop that it will stream­line the sys­tem in a phased-man­ner by erad­i­cat­ing cor­rup­tion to pro­tect the hon­est de­pos­i­tors. Though the govern­ment need to be ap­plauded for re­cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion of banks, as Non-per­form­ing as­sets men­ace started crip­pling the na­tion­alised banks, with an as­sur­ance that it will leave no stone un­turned to put an end to the NPA im­broglio, but with con­stant as­sem­bly polls in var­i­ous states and the gen­eral elec­tion that takes place next year, or ear­lier, the govern­ment is not ex­pected to in­cur the wrath of the vested in­ter­ests at this point of time. Af­ter all, the harsh re­al­ity of power, if not ab­so­lute power, tempts any leader and his party. Hence, Modi and his BJP would not re­main im­mune to it. Bear­ing this in mind, the govern­ment is also keep­ing mum on the is­sue of pro­posed merger of prof­it­mak­ing and loss-mak­ing banks like Bank of In­dia and Union Bank.

Some in­sid­ers in the bank­ing sec­tor as­sert that if per­ti­nent ques­tions had been ad­dressed by the bank­ing sys­tem a few years ago, a scam like the one that we wit­nessed in the Pun­jab Na­tional Bank could have been averted. More­over, when the Prime Min­is­ter in­tro­duced de­mon­eti­sa­tion in Novem­ber 2016, cit­ing that it was a step in the right di­rec­tion, to clean up the so­ci­ety rid­dled with only 13 per cent of pur­chase money, ef­forts should have been taken by the banks to re­main an­swer­able to their func­tion­ing as­pects. It may be re­called that only last year, es­pe­cially af­ter the de­mon­eti­sa­tion pe­riod, Ni­rav Modi ob­tained a fresh se­ries of LOUs to pro­duce it be­fore the PNB. Even then it was con­sid­ered as a usual busi­ness trans­ac­tion of VIPs, to which cat­e­gory in­dus­tri­al­ists like Ni­rav Modi and Mallya be­longed to. It was still busi­ness as usual for VIPs.

In­ter­est­ingly enough, Arun Jait­ley re­cently stated, al­beit sar­cas­ti­cally, that politi­cians are ac­count­able in the ab­sence of Reg­u­la­tors, thereby, in­di­rectly ap­por­tion­ing the blame on the bank­ing reg­u­la­tor RBI for the sor­did state of af­fairs, al­though, it was be­yond doubt that RBI was tardy in its progress. How­ever, Jait­ley was not averse to giv­ing a clean chit to politi­cians at the ex­pense of RBI, which is grossly un­fair. For in­stance, the

PNB was even pre­sented with awards by the Central Vig­i­lance Com­mis­sion, is an ideal ex­am­ple of how the mis­use of sys­tem, if not power, paved way for mil­i­tat­ing against con­stant reg­u­la­tory mon­i­tor­ing of the bank that was clearly ex­posed in the cor­rup­tion scan­dal, in due course.

How­ever, the fact of the mat­ter is it not the duty of the govern­ment to ap­point in­de­pen­dent and au­tonomous in­sti­tu­tions that will have am­ple power at their dis­posal to de­mand an ex­pla­na­tion from their erring clients, in­clud­ing the VIPs, who are close to the po­lit­i­cal cor­ri­dor.

Be­com­ing in­signif­i­cance?

It is be­ing felt that the Right to In­for­ma­tion Act is vir­tu­ally pal­ing into in­signif­i­cance. For in­stance, Sev­eral RTI to the Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fice goes in vain. The sit­u­a­tion was sim­i­lar to what the peo­ple wit­nessed dur­ing the UPA govern­ment. It is not un­usual to notice that de­tails sought over the na­ture of CVC ap­point­ment, were unan­swered by the of­fi­cials con­cerned. The govern­ment also did not find it es­sen­tial to re­ply to RTIs ask­ing for names of loan de­fault­ers. For ex­am­ple, two years ago, af­ter al­leged “en­counter deaths” of eight SIMI ac­tivists in West Ben­gal, the min­is­ter Kiren Ri­jiju, while ad­dress­ing a press conference, said in his own inim­itable style that the peo­ple must stop the habit of in­dulging in doubts and pos­ing ques­tions, as ac­cord­ing to the min­is­ter con­cerned, this does not au­gur well for our cul­ture. Dur­ing the ten­ure of the UPA, the Na­tion­al­ist Congress Party pres­i­dent and the then Union Agri­cul­ture min­is­ter Sharad Pawar, put his foot down, when an­other cabi­net min­is­ter, Lalit Makhan wanted to in­tro­duce RTI in Board of Con­trol for Cricket in In­dia. The then Congress govern­ment did not in­ter­fere, as that would have amounted to an­tag­o­nis­ing Pawar and risk­ing the sta­bil­ity of the govern­ment.

No doubt

There is no sec­ond thought that In­dia’s in­ter­ests are best served, if the govern­ment bothers to en­sure that in­sti­tu­tions like CVC and RTI are al­lowed to be func­tioned in­de­pen­dently and manned by em­ploy­ees with hon­esty, and in­tegrity, apart from per­se­ver­ance. It is these in­sti­tu­tions that the peo­ple would ad­dress as chowki­dars, (se­cu­rity guards) and not the one claimed by Modi be­fore the 2014 Lok Sabha elec­tions that he would func­tion as a “chowki­dar”, sim­i­lar to his sub­se­quent ut­ter­ances of “min­i­mum govern­ment and max­i­mum gov­er­nance”, af­ter he took the man­tle on his shoul­der. As the PNB scam un­folds, the Prime Min­is­ter’s ar­dent sup­port­ers would de­fend him by stat­ing that it would not be fair to blame him for a multi-crore scam in one branch of a na­tion­alised bank, as the adage re­minds us that ‘one swal­low does not make a sum­mer’.

The PNB scam am­ply re­veals that, how­ever ded­i­cated the chowki­dar is, it will be well-nigh-im­pos­si­ble for him to ar­rest the deep rot in the func­tion­ing of the bank­ing sys­tem. To cite an ex­am­ple, all 20 na­tion­alised banks, in­clud­ing PNB, do not have a work­man or an of­fi­cer-di­rec­tor to fa­cil­i­tate the process. Im­por­tantly, this manda­tory watch­dog post has been ly­ing va­cant for quite some time. For in­stance, a chowki­dar alone in Mum­bai PNB of­fice can­not over­see the hap­pen­ings in the of­fices of Delhi, Kolkata and Chen­nai. The time has come to strengthen the an­ti­cor­rup­tion in­sti­tu­tions at ev­ery level in a sys­tem­atic and or­ches­trated man­ner, as the pub­lic cyn­i­cism about cor­rup­tion per­co­lat­ing deep down the cor­ri­dor, is grow­ing, as the day pro­gresses.

All said and done, it is high time for the Modi govern­ment to wake-up be­fore as­sess­ing the prosand-cons of the sit­u­a­tion.

It is be­ing felt that the Right to In­for­ma­tion Act is vir­tu­ally pal­ing into in­signif­i­cance. For in­stance, Sev­eral RTI to the Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fice goes in vain. The sit­u­a­tion was sim­i­lar to what the peo­ple wit­nessed dur­ing the UPA govern­ment.

Former Fi­nance Min­is­ter P Chi­dambaram fac­ing a tough task as anad­vo­cate to save his son.

When will the Modi govern­ment bring back ab­scon­der Vijay Mallyain the court of jus­tice?

When Ni­rav Modi will be nabbed?

Is BJP's time fin­ished to rule In­dia for an­other ten­ure!

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