JUST IN CASE

The dis­pro­por­tion­ate as­sets case against Mu­layam gives Congress a tool to in­dulge in ‘friendly black­mail’

India Today - - NATION - By Priya Sah­gal

A re­served judg­ment in a nineyear-old case of dis­pro­por­tion­ate as­sets against Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav hangs like the prover­bial sword over the Sa­ma­jwadi Party ( SP) chief. A re­quest by the Cen­tral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion ( CBI) to “pro­ceed fur­ther” against him is also pend­ing be­fore the Supreme Court. Mu­layam knows that at a time when the Congress is scout­ing for pli­ant al­lies, this could be ef­fec­tive lever­age to en­sure his sup­port to the UPA Gov­ern­ment.

In 2003, a public in­ter­est lit­i­ga­tion was filed in the Supreme Court against Mu­layam and his fam­ily by Vish­wanath Chaturvedi, a mem­ber of the Congress-af­fil­i­ated In­dian Na­tional Trade Union Congress and the party’s can­di­date from Haider­garh dur­ing the 2002 Ut­tar Pradesh Assem­bly polls. How­ever, once the court or­dered a CBI en­quiry against the Ya­dav clan, the case took on po­lit­i­cal rather than le­gal im­pli­ca­tions. First, in Oc­to­ber 2007, CBI asked the court’s per­mis­sion to pro­ceed in its in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Two months later, it wanted to with­draw its ap­pli­ca­tion. In July 2007, SP had bailed out the UPA Gov­ern­ment on the nu­clear deal. But two years later, when re­la­tions be­tween the two par­ties soured, CBI once again re­vived its ear­lier plea to in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther. “CBI has be­come an in­stru­ment to save the Gov­ern­ment,” says Chaturvedi, adding, “I can’t tell you how much the Congress has trou­bled me.”

Mu­layam would agree for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. He told the Supreme Court through a re­view pe­ti­tion filed on March 15, 2007, “CBI is mainly con­trolled by the home min­is­ter and presently there is a coali­tion Gov­ern­ment with the Congress as the ma­jor party. CBI will act as a hand- maiden to the Congress.”

Un­for­tu­nately for Mu­layam, the Congress is still in power at the Cen­tre, head­ing an­other coali­tion. But this time, it needs the SP chief’s sup­port for sur­vival not just in Par­lia­ment but also for the pres­i­den­tial and vice-pres­i­den­tial elec­tions due in July. UPA does not have enough num­bers to en­sure a win for its can­di­dates. It needs the sup­port of SP’S 68,768-strong elec­toral col­lege. What must be wor­ry­ing Mu­layam is whether the Congress will use ‘friendly black­mail’ to en­sure this sup­port.

Chaturvedi also re­veals how a se­nior Congress Cab­i­net min­is­ter in UPA 1 bro­kered a meet­ing be­tween him and then SP gen­eral sec­re­tary Amar Singh in Novem­ber 2007, where Singh asked him to drop the case. Chaturvedi claims an­other Cab­i­net min­is­ter, Sriprakash Jaiswal, later ac­cused him of try­ing to break the then Congress- SP al­liance by go­ing ahead with the case ( see box).

De­spite its stun­ning win in the re­cent Ut­tar Pradesh Assem­bly elec­tions, SP is care­ful not to an­tag­o­nise the UPA Gov­ern­ment. When UPA ally Ma­mata Ban­er­jee walked out of Par­lia­ment dur­ing the vote on amend­ments against the pres­i­den­tial ad­dress in March, it was SP and Mayawati’s Bahu­jan Samaj Party which bailed the Gov­ern­ment out. Mayawati, too, has a case of dis­pro­por­tion­ate as­sets pend­ing against her. Her plea against quash­ing crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings against her in the case is slated to come up in the Supreme Court on May 1.

The case against Mu­layam is not slated to come up any­time soon. But as a Congress gen­eral sec­re­tary said with a smile, soon af­ter the Ut­tar Pradesh poll re­sults rolled out in March 2012, “We have ways to en­sure Mu­layam’s sup­port at the Cen­tre.” The smile not­with­stand­ing, he wasn’t jok­ing.

AP PHOTO

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