July 05, 2015

Spreading Stain of Corruption

THE stain of corruption, nepotism and crony capitalism is enveloping the Modi government and the BJP state governments. Narendra Modi and the BJP had made the massive corruption under the UPA government their main plank in the Lok Sabha election campaign. Narendra Modi had promised to put an end to the loot and corruption under Congress rule. After the completion of one year of the BJP government, speaking at a rally in Mathura district, Modi claimed that he had not guaranteed acche din for those who looted the nation; for them it was bure din. Further he asserted: “Has there been any news of scams or nepotism for the past one year?” A few days after this boastful claim, the balloon of probity and clean government has been pricked. A senior minister in the union cabinet, Sushma Swaraj, has been exposed for committing a gross impropriety. The person who was extended the minister’s benevolent patronage was none other than Lalit Modi, infamous for the IPL scam. Not only did the minister bypass all formal and institutional procedures to recommend Lalit Modi’s case to the British government, there was also a conflict of interest involved since both her husband and daughter have been representing Lalit Modi as lawyers. The prime minister has doggedly refused to respond to the charges against his cabinet colleague and both the prime minister and the BJP leadership are out to defend and justify her wrongdoing. The Lalit Modi affair became murkier with the expose of how the Rajasthan chief minister, Vasundhara Raje, had also been acting to protect him. When she was the leader of the opposition in the Rajasthan assembly, she had given a signed witness testimony recommending Lalit Modi’s application to stay in the United Kingdom. To make matters worse, the signed statement asked for confidentiality and keeping this information away from Indian authorities. Lalit Modi’s links with Vasundhara Raje and her son Dushyant Singh, who is a Lok Sabha member of parliament, have all the characteristics of a crony capitalist nexus. This has been revealed by the manner in which Lalit Modi had bought shares at a premium of 10,000 times the face value of a share in Dushyant’s company. It is shocking that a person holding the position of leader of the opposition in a legislature can give sworn testimony asking that it be kept secret from the Indian authorities. This is what normally the BJP Rashtravadis would call an anti-national act. Here again, the BJP leadership and the prime minister have decided to brazen it out by saying that Raje has done nothing wrong. BJP leaders claim that the nepotism and corruption involved are only “family ties” and “private loan transactions”. These two instances involving senior BJP leaders – one a union cabinet minister and the other a chief minister – have blown sky high the façade of having provided a corruption free set-up since the BJP government came into office at the centre. It is not only the chief minister of the BJP government of Rajasthan who has been hit by a corruption scandal. The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh headed by Shivraj Chauhan has been desperately trying to cover up the burgeoning Vyapam scandal. This pertains to a high level network which has been facilitating copying and falsification of examinations conducted by the Professional Examination Board. This matter is being investigated by a Special Investigation Team of the police under the supervision of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. Incredibly, more than 40 persons associated with this scandal as accused or witnesses have died during the pendency of the investigation. But nothing shakes the determination of the BJP state government to bury the matter. If the Vyapam affair is a scandal which has hit a BJP state government of a long tenure, the newly formed BJP-led Maharashtra state government, which is less than a year old, has been hit by two instances of corruption involving BJP ministers Pankaja Munde and Vinod Tawde. Both are accused of sanctioning contracts worth Rs 206 crore and Rs 191 crore respectively without tendering or following due procedures. There should be no surprise at the corruption and the rapidity with which it has surfaced in BJP led governments, both at the centre and in the states. Corruption is inbuilt in the neo-liberal regime which has spawned a big business-politician-bureaucrat nexus. Crony capitalism is inherent in such a set-up. The favours extended to Gautam Adani illustrate that there is no change in the way this nexus operates after the change of government. In fact, with the more aggressive push for neo-liberal policies and privatisation the scope for corruption and loot has increased manifold. Narendra Modi has been willfully blind to this phenomenon. He will have to pay a heavy price for this in the coming days. (July 1, 2015) Shielding Hindutva Terrorists THE revelation by Rohini Salian, Special Public Prosecutor for the Malegaon blast case of 2008 has serious and disturbing implications. According to Ms Salian, an officer of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) met her and asked her to go soft on the case. This was followed by her being asked not to appear in the case. The second Malegaon blast had killed four Muslims and injured 79. The investigation headed by Hemant Karkare of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad had found a Hindutva extremist group to be responsible for this terrorist attack. The enquiry led to the arrest of Pragya Thakur, Lt Colonel Purohit and others. Subsequently, the links of this network in the bomb blasts in Malegaon (2006), Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad (2007), Ajmer Sharif (2007), Samjhauta express (2007) and Modasa (2008) were uncovered. The net widened and "Swami" Aseemanand, a RSS-VHP favourite was apprehended. It may be recalled that a number of Muslim youth were arrested and falsely implicated in many of these blasts as in Malegaon, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Sharif. The BJP and the RSS had at that time condemned the arrests of Pragya Thakur and others and claimed that Hindu "sants" were being defamed and falsely accused. After the Modi government's coming to power, the NIA stance of going slow on these cases and scuttling them had become apparent. Rohini Salian's courageous expose has only confirmed this diabolical attempt to protect those guilty of terrorist crimes. By the perverse logic of the Sangh combine only Muslims can be terrorists, not Hindus. The Modi government has also moved to protect State terrorism. The Ishrat Jahan encounter was proved to be a cold-blooded killing perpetrated by State agencies in Gujarat. The CBI inquiry into the matter, at the behest of the Supreme Court, found the involvement of certain Intelligence Bureau officers apart from the Gujarat police officials. As per the rules, the CBI requested permission to prosecute these officers of the central agency. This has been denied by the home ministry. With this, the murder case of Ishrat has been severely compromised. The BJP government has found a way to scuttle a case which had badly sullied the image of the then Modi government in Gujarat. The communal outlook of the government on terrorism and the manipulation of cases concerning the Hindutva terrorist attacks are dangerous portents. For the scores of Muslims who died in these attacks and their families, the message has gone that there will be no justice for them. For the Hindutva fanatics also the message is clear, though a different one: Here is a government that will be a protective shield. (July 1, 2015)