Arvind Kejriwal and AAP captured power in the name of an anti-corruption movement, but face serious graft charges.
NEW DELHI: Recently, eight Opposition parties have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging misuse of central agencies to target members of the Opposition, days after the arrest of AAP leader Manish Sisodia in an alleged liquor scam case. It appears that India has transitioned “from being a democracy to an autocracy”, read the letter signed by the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), National Conference, NCP, Shiv Sena (UBT) and Samajwadi Party, apart from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). In the same way, Congress, DMK and Marxwadi Communist leaders also alleged misuse of investigation agencies by the government.
The question arises in my mind: Is it the first time happening or are these parties unhappy as they are not successful in pressurizing the government and ruling leaders to stop investigations or weaken the cases for courts to punish their own corrupt leaders?
One can recall a few interesting cases and experiences of the past. I was covering CBI since 1972 and did a long interview with D. Sen, the Director CBI around 1974, with a 8-page cover story for a prominent Hindi weekly. Those days it was very difficult to find a major case to report. In the annual report also, I used to see small cases of corruption.
However, in 1975, our sources briefed us about a chargesheet filed by CBI against M. Karunanidhi, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, for alleged favours shown to certain aviation companies.
They were apparently given contracts for agricultural spraying at higher rates in lieu of some personal consideration. It had also transpired that the companies were coerced into paying bribes. The Justice Sarkaria Commission, which inquired into the matter, which inquired into the case, upheld the allegations and the cases eventually went to the courts.
But when Congress was swept back to power in 1980, equations changed and the Congress government withdrew all the cases.
Such love-hate relations all the time affected cases of investigation agencies, not only in the Bofors scam and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi case.
Congress leaders were seriously blaming DMK for support to the terrorist organization LTTE. Investigation agencies also got several pieces of evidence, but later diluted the cases. Later, for the alliance, Congress joined hands with the DMK and is still working together.
The fodder scam was unearthed in Bihar in 1996 when Lalu Prasad was the Chief Minister of the state. He had resigned from the post in 1997 after a court issued an arrest warrant against him in connection with one of the cases.
According to Joginder Singh, former Director CBI, “I was pressurised by senior ministers in the I.K. Gujral government to downplay and to intentionally delay submission of chargesheets in the infamous fodder scam in 1996.”
He has also written about his bitter experience with Lalu Yadav and his supporters in the government. Gujral was leading a government by a coalition and the major ruling parties were Congress, Janata Dal of Lalu and CPM CPI.
Lalu Yadav dialled the prime minister–his prime minister–and indignantly asked him what was up. “Kya ho raha hai yeh sab? Yeh sab kya bakwas karwa rahe hain aap? Ek PM ko hata ke aapko banaya aur aap bhi wohi kaam karwa rahe hain?” (What is happening, what’s all this nonsense? I removed one PM to make you the PM and you too are doing the same thing!). Gujral mumbled something from the other end about being helpless, but Lalu Yadav banged the phone down midway through the prime minister’s reply.
That must have left Gujral a bit rattled. It had not even been a month since he had taken over as prime minister and he had a crisis on his hands; Lalu Yadav was furious and that interrupted phone call was certainly not the last he had heard on the subject from the Bihar chief minister.
Anwar Ahmed, who was with Lalu Yadav at that time, recalled in an interview, “Saheb was livid.” That night–the night of 27 April 1997–Lalu called up nearly every United Front leader he could contact–Chandrababu Naidu, Jyoti Basu, Indrajit Gupta, Sharad Yadav.
However, after a long legal battle, the Special CBI court in Ranchi sentenced Yadav to jail for 5 years in connection with the case.
The court also slapped a fine of Rs 25 lakh on Yadav. The verdict also disqualifies him from his Lok Sabha membership and bars him from contesting elections for six years. Reacting to the judgment, former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Joginder Singh said RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav should have been given a life term in jail in the fodder scam case. He also wanted the VIP culture in jails to be stopped. “I think he is getting free boarding and lodging for the next five years. I think the law needs to be changed. And why should my money be spent on a prisoner if he is capable of paying for himself? The law should be changed and the prisoner should be made to pay for his stay in jail, it is so in America also. And just jail is not enough,” said Singh. Anyway, Lalu Yadav and his family are again in trouble due to CBI for another corruption case and crying foul with the support of the Congress.
The irony is that several political regimes that came to power on an anti-corruption agenda conveniently steered clear of making real efforts to clean up the system.
Yet the same leaders shout the loudest against corruption when they are part of the opposition. The latest example is Arvind Kejriwal and the team of the Aam Aadmi Party which captured power in the name of an anti-corruption movement, but faces serious charges of corruption and money laundering.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says the time has come for a decisive fight against corruption. He termed corruption as an evil, and the country must stay away from it.
Referring to his clarion call from the ramparts of Red Fort for a decisive battle against corruption, the Prime Minister termed lack of amenities and unnecessary pressure from the government as the two key reasons for corruption and hindering people’s progress.
The legacy from the long period of slavery of corruption, exploitation, and control over resources, unfortunately, received more strength after the independence, and this severely harmed at least four generations of this country.
The author is Editorial Director of ITV Network-India News and Aaj Samaj Dainik.