How they sought to en­trap Jaya Jaitly in a fake sting

Her book bares the con­spir­acy to put a tight lid on the Te­helka plot.

The Sunday Guardian - - World -

In­dian politi­cians rarely write mem­oirs. And the few who do, of­fer such a sani­tised ver­sion of men and mat­ters that it makes a very dull read­ing. Whether the ret­i­cence to tell it as it was stems from an anx­i­ety not to step on toes or from con­cerns that truth-telling in turn might leave them scarred as well when the vic­tim of­fers his own ver­sion, is hard to say, but there is no deny­ing the paucity of good po­lit­i­cal au­to­bi­ogra­phies. L. K. Ad­vani and Pranab Mukher­jee, tall lead­ers in their own right, have of­fered their mem­oirs, but, if you think, th­ese con­tained any hith­erto un­known nuggets of in­for­ma­tion, clearly you do not care to keep your­self abreast of cur­rent af­fairs. A fully var­nished ac­count of re­cent but his­tor­i­cal events does not a great au­to­bi­og­ra­phy make.

How­ever, Jaya Jaitly, a one­time pres­i­dent of the now de­funct Sa­mata Party, has most pleas­antly sur­prised us with her mem­oirs, a wel­come ex­cep­tion that proves the gen­eral rule about po­lit­i­cal au­to­bi­ogra­phies. Her Life Among The Scor­pi­ons: Mem­oirs Of A Woman In In­dian Pol­i­tics is all the more rel­e­vant be­cause for the first time it spot­lights the rot­ten­ness of the polity and a section of the mer­ce­nary me­dia al­ways ready and will­ing to sell it­self to the low­est bid­der.

That a woman with an up­per mid­dle class up­bring­ing and a fine education, with friends and rel­a­tives in se­nior po­si­tions in the rul­ing es­tab­lish­ment, who had done laud­able work for the up­lift of the hith­erto ne­glected hand­i­crafts and tribal ar­ti­sans, chose to en­ter pol­i­tics, ought to have been a mat­ter of cel­e­bra­tion, given how few women there are in pol­i­tics. In­stead, she be­came an eyesore not only for some of her own party col­leagues, but for all oth­ers be­cause she was un­will­ing to play pol­i­tics of in­trigue and ma­nip­u­la­tion and, above all, un­ready to soil her hands with filthy lu­cre.

For us the value of her book lies in its reaf­fir­ma­tion of what we have said and writ­ten all along, that the so-called Te­helka sting op­er­a­tion was a grand con­spir­acy mas­ter­minded by a cou­ple of high-pro­file dalals in or­der to desta­bilise the A.B. Va­j­payee gov­ern­ment. Th­ese dalals roped in Tarun Te­j­pal. The rest of the rot­ten­ness is re­cent his­tory any­way. But Jaitly brings it out lu­cidly and force­fully in her mem­oirs. De­fence Min­is­ter Ge­orge Fer­nan­des, a life-long critic of the Gandhi fam­ily and its close friend, the Ital­ian wheeler-dealer, Ot­tavio Qu­at­troc­chi, was the main tar­get, be­cause he kept an open house and was per­son­ally squeaky clean. Jaitly, the Sa­mata Party pres­i­dent, be­came a col­lat­eral vic­tim.

The con­spir­acy was en- couraged by the pow­er­ful fix­ers who were ren­dered job­less by the Va­j­payee gov­ern­ment. Con­trary to the false claim that the money for the sting op­er­a­tion—in­clud­ing for sup­ply­ing pros­ti­tutes—had come from his old school friend, one Shankar Sharma, a share bro­ker, Jaitly pro­vides ev­i­dence that Rs 6 crores came through for­eign chan­nels and was only routed through Sharma for it to be given to Te­j­pal for im­ple­ment­ing the plot.

Then BJP pres­i­dent Ban­garu Lax­man, a sim­ple­ton, was eas­ily trapped, but Jaitly, the tar­get of the dalals who had bankrolled the con­spir­acy, was no fool. Though she was the pres­i­dent of the Sa­mata Party at the time, she did not han­dle the party’s fi­nances. But the sting- op­er­a­tors thrust a small packet in the hand of a vis­i­tor whose name they did not even know. The vis­i­tor, an old so­cial­ist from Ra­jasthan, had come to meet Fer­nan­des. Later, it was claimed that Jaitly ac­cepted money on be­half of the De­fence Min­is­ter. And the tapes were ap­par­ently used to try and achieve the in­tended po­lit­i­cal ef­fect by the mer­ce­nary Te­helka bosses.

Mean­while, Sharma, the share bro­ker, had short-sold in the be­lief that the Te­helka rev­e­la­tions would desta­bilise the Va­j­payee gov­ern­ment. Years later, the mar­ket reg­u­la­tor, the Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Board of In­dia, would black­list Sharma, ban­ning him from mar­ket op­er­a­tions. The Supreme Court up­held the ban. It is a re­flec­tion on the fi­nan­cial me­dia that in spite of this proven crooked­ness, Sharma reg­u­larly holds forth in print and on var­i­ous TV chan­nels on the state of the econ­omy. Maybe such mar­ket play­ers know bet­ter than oth­ers.

( Later, when the UPA re­turned to power, So­nia Gandhi per­son­ally di­rected Finance Min­is­ter P. Chi­dambaram to ac­cord Sharma the VIP treat­ment, and re­move all the re­stric­tions the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment had put on his un­holy mar­ket op­er­a­tions. And Te­j­pal in a let­ter to So­ni­aji would beg her with folded hands that she should also re­lease Priyanka Beti for the ser­vice of the na­tion. Touché!)

Still, stay­ing on the fake sting op­er­a­tion, the most damn­ing part in Jaitly’s book is how the Congress party sub­verted the func­tion­ing of the Com­mis­sion of In­quiry headed by a widely re­spected for­mer judge of the Supreme Court. Just when it was about to re­veal the en­trap­ment con- spiracy and the doc­tor­ing of the tapes, its fi­nanc­ing, var­i­ous false claims made by Te­j­pal, a Congress lawyer hu­mil­i­ated a self-re­spect­ing head of the in­quiry com­mis­sion, forc­ing him to quit in a huff. This is ex­actly what the Te­helka back­ers wanted be­cause the truth would have shamed them all.

Mean­while, if you still want to know how easy it was to clas­sify Te­j­pal’s jour­nal­ism, re­mem­ber that he had given a clean chit to the Ruias of the now bank­rupt Es­sar group, the main ac­cused in the 2G scam, in a cover story done by an­other mes­siah-jour­nal­ist, Ashish Khetan. It turned out that the Ruias had paid Rs 3 crore to the Te­j­pal-run tamasha in Goa, yes, the same where he was caught al­legedly mo­lest­ing a jour­nal­ist col­league, for the said clean chit in the 2G scam.

To sum, if you have to read the mem­oirs of a politi­cian, read Jaitly’s. Her in­trin­sic de­cency and up­bring­ing made her un­fit for this dirty business. The few women we have in pol­i­tics, bar an hon­ourable ex­cep­tion or two, have to hang on to the coat­tails of their male men­tors. Or they in­vari­ably fail to rise to the top—un­less, of course, you be­long to the Congress’s roy­alty res­i­dent at 10 Jan­path.

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