Posts Tagged ‘Bofors’

CHURUMURI POLL: Is this Congress’s Bofors-II?

8 October 2012

The grenade lobbed by the Arvind Kejriwal-Prashant Bhushan gang on Friday, accusing Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, of dubious deals with the construction company DLF, has sent the Congress camp into a tizzy. Over half-a-dozen Union ministers trooped into TV studios to defend FDI*—the First Damaad of India—even as Vadra maintained a studied silence, before breaking it on Facebook (he has since deleted his FB account).

To be sure, there was little of surprise: the same details had been carried by The Economic Times a year and six months ago, quoting Registrar of Companies (ROC) documents. At the time, the Congress had not seen it fit to respond. But the timing of the latest “expose”, after the Jan Lok Pal movement was tarred and tarnished, after the announcement of a new party sans Anna Hazare, and in the run-up to the Gujarat and general elections, gives the issue a whole new angle.

Questions: Will the charges against Vadra become a millstone around the Congress’—and by extension, Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi‘s necks—forever, like Bofors has? Or will they peter out because there is no foreign hand like Ottavio Quattrochchi‘s and no clear quid pro quo? Do the charges prove crony conspiracy at its worst? Or, has the Kejriwal-Bhushan duo bitten off more than they can chew by hitting below the belt?

*courtesy Rama Lakshmi/ WaPo

Does Gen Singh’s bribe claim help or harm Army?

26 March 2012

The saga of the chief of the Army Staff, Gen V.K. Singh, gets murkier and murkier. First, the disparity between the much-decorated general’s recorded date of birth and real date of birth occupied the nation’s (and Supreme Court’s) attention for months, even as much dirty linen was washed by friends of both parties on television.

The whispers were that the government wanted to sneak in one of its chosen men and had chosen to press its line.

Now, after the retirement issue has been sorted out and the line of succession is clear, the outgoing chief has levelled allegations of being offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore to clear the purchase of a tranche of sub-standard jeeps. What is more, he has hinted that the offer was made by a lobbyist who was till only recently with the Army and that he had brought the bribe offer to the notice of the defence minister A.K. Antony.

Both incidents are “unprecedented”, as the media loves to call all incidents. But there is little denying that the timing of Gen Singh’s disclosures will put the government already reeling under Coalgate, CWG, 2G and other scams in a spot. Defence bribes are a touchy issue—Bofors claimed the chair of Rajiv Gandhi in 1989 and Tehelka‘s Operation Westend still haunts the BJP. That such an incident came during the tenure of “St. Antony” will not be missed by many.

At the same time, there is little denying that, for all his claims to the contrary, Gen Singh’s motives are beginning to acquire a small question mark. Simple question: Do Gen Singh’s moves harm or help the Indian Army?

Why Yediyurappa is on a strong wicket (for now)

23 January 2011

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: A  protracted legal battle, especially over the issue of the discretionary powers enjoyed by the governor, appears likely to be the most important fallout of the spat between H.R. Bharadwaj and B.S. Yediyurappa, over the sanction of prosecution of the chief minister.

Of  secondary importance is the impact of the governor’s action on the political equations in the State in general, and the propriety of the CM continuing in office despite the go-ahead for prosecution in particular.

From all available indications, Yediyurappa is unlikely to oblige his detractors and prefers going down fighting rather than throwing in the towel. As a matter of fact, he finds himself in an advantageous position, much to the chagrin of those who have planned and executed this move.

***

The discretionary powers enjoyed by the governor is a grey area, which still needs to be fine tuned through judicial interpretation, like Article 356 of the Constitution (on imposing President’s rule) was done by the Supreme Court in the S.R. Bommai case.

Under the present frame of things, the governor enjoys two kinds of discretionary powers, namely the one given by the Constitution under Article 163, and the others given under the relevant statutes including section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code (for sanctioning of prosecution).

While the former has been clearly defined, the latter has some areas of doubt on the question of whether the discretionary power enjoyed by the governor is individual, or whether he is bound by the advice of the council of ministers.

***

There have been three important rulings of the apex court in this connection: a 1974 judgment in the case of dismissal of two judicial officers of the Punjab government; a 1982 case of a special leave petition (SLP) filed in connection with the prosecution of then Maharashtra chief minister A.R. Antulay; and a 2004 case of prosecution of two ministers of the Madhya Pradesh government.

What stands out in the three judicial pronouncements is that the governor has to necessarily act on the advice of the council of ministers.

The question of the governor exercising individual discretion comes only in the rarest of rare cases and in cases involving the choice of the chief minister or the dismissal of  a government which refuses to resign after losing majority and the dissolution of the house.

Justice P.N. Bhagwati and Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, who were members of the seven-judge bench, had something more to add while concurring with the other judges:

“The President, like the King, has not merely been constitutionally romanticised but actually has been given a pervasive and persuasive role. While he plays such a role, he is not a rival centre of power in any sense and must abide by and act on the advice tendered by his ministers except in narrow territory, which is sometimes slippery…[and]  should avoid getting involved in politics.”

In the case of Antulay, a two-member SC bench led by Justice Chinnappa Reddy noted that the discretionary powers exercised by the governor (in sanctioning the prosecution of the CM) arose out of the concession made at the high court by the attorney-general, who had appeared for the respondents.

“The governor, while determining whether sanction should be granted or not, as a matter of propriety, necessarily acted on his own discretion and not on the advice of the council of ministers,” said the bench, and expressed its satisfaction that concession given by the attorney-general was to advance the cause of justice. But it made amply clear that this applied to this particular case only.

***

As for the sanction of prosecution of the Madhya Pradesh ministers, the Supreme Court upheld the governor’s decision in view of the bias, inherent or manifest, in the cabinet decision.

It is this 2004 judgment on which the Karnataka governor has relied while giving permission for the prosecution of the B.S. Yediyurappa.

But there is an essential difference between the  Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka situations. In Madhya Pradesh, the matter went to the governor after the cabinet had rejected the permission. And the governor had the benefit of the Lok Ayukta report on the charges made against the two ministers to act upon.

But in Karnataka, the lawyer’s petition seeking the sanction went straight to the governor, and the governor conceded to the request even when the matter was pending investigation with the Lok Ayukta and the judicial commission especially appointed for the purpose.

The Karnataka episode has thrown up another new problem: what validity should the discretion exercised carry when the governor’s action is perceived as biased/ prejudiced/ or one sided?

The  BJP has a long list to prove its charge of bias and its spokesmen, including the chief minister, have been harping on this aspect. This may also be put up for judicial scrutiny.

***

As far as the impact of the current imbroglio on political equations in Karnataka, the answer is simple. Nothing worthwhile is expected to happen. No doubt Yediyurappa and the BJP are terribly embarrassed. But Yediyurappa is a person who will not easily give up office and so won’t his party.

However, it must be said that The problems faced by the BJP are its own creation. It has needlessly provoked the governor.

The BJP should have been careful in its dealings the moment a longtime Congress loyalist like Bharadwaj, who is known to have no scruples in serving party interests in whatever capacity he is holding, was sent as governor.

But it did not so and is now paying the price for its indiscretion and lack of sophistication in dealing with the governor. The relations between the governor and the government have never been on even keel at any time and both have stoked the fire of mutual animosity and acrimony and find themselves caught in a cleft stick.

The governor, in the name of exercising caution, has cornered them.

***

Going by the names figuring in the complaint, on the basis of which the sanction to prosecute Yediyurappa was given by the governor, it is clear that it is his family members rather than party functionaries or dissidents, who have landed him in trouble.

This was the point which the BJP leader in charge of the State, Arun Jaitley, had reportedly made to upbraid Yediyurappa’s son B.Y. Raghavendra at the height of its last crisis to save the CM’s chair two months ago. The remarks by the BJP president Nitin Gadkari that the actions of Yediyurappa “may be immoral and not illegal” have only added spice to the same.

But with all this, the BJP finds itself in a politically advantageous position. This is because the denouement smacks of  political bias. The governor has acted unilaterally in acting on the allegations hurled at the CM repeatedly by the opposition JDS and kowtowed to by the Congress, without giving a hearing to the concerned.

Nothing under the circumstances prevents Yediyurappa from launching a political campaign to proclaim that it is all a pre-planned conspiracy to unseat him. He may stomp round Karnataka narrating the  sob story of his continued persecution by his detractors, who are envious of his success and want to undo the mandate given by the people, in the same manner he had when H.D. Kumaraswamy refused to hand over the reins as had been agreed upon.

This has a bright chance of success for two things. Firstly, the corruption has ceased to be an issue influencing the poll, barring the solitary exception of Rajiv Gandhi losing the 1989 general elections in the wake of the campaign against the Bofors payoffs.

Secondly the BJP’s image remains high in the eyes of the people, as has been proved in all the elections for the different fora held ever since BJP came to power in Karnataka more than two years ago. The latest in the series has been its success in the panchayat elections.

The performance of the BJP, which was practically a non-starter in the realm of panchayats, has been much better than its rivals, who have been left far behind, despite a vigorous political campaign.

Moreover, in general parlance, the sanction by the governor to launch the prosecution, hardly means anything.  It merely presages the starting point of a legal battle and has so many phases to be covered, for which the party is getting ready. The first step has been taken with a complaint already filed before the Lok Ayukta court.

Yediyurappa is not obliged to resign merely because the governor has sanctioned his prosecution. He is the company of his peers like L.K. Advani, who continued in office despite a chargesheet filed in an Uttar Pradesh court in connection with the demolition of Babri Masjid.

Yediyurappa may have a long legal fight on his hands to clear himself of the charges made but none of this warrants his resignation.

Knowing his nature he is not the one to give up the office that easily. He may refuse to resign and may dare the governor to dismiss him if it comes to that. This would surely enable him to take his fight to the people. In this, he apparently has the full backing of the party at the national level.

BJP has made an  opening gambit of taking the issue to the people by calling for a bandh. Efforts are underway to mount pressure for the withdrawal of the governor, which are doomed to fail  going by the manner in which the Congress is backing the Governor.

What happens to the common man in the process is not difficult to guess.

(Mathihalli Madan Mohan (in picture, top) is a former special correspondent of The Hindu)

Photograph: Chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose‘s birthday celebrations, in Bangalore on Sunday (Karnataka Photo News)

Like charity, cleaning up begins at home & party

7 January 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji was watching the news and shouted suddenly, “Lo Ramu, avanu Quarter Ki alva?”

Ajji! He is not Quarter Ki. He is Quattrocchi. Ottavio Quattrocchi.”

Yeno sudugadu! I had seen his picture long back in the papers. There were rumours that he had taken money for Baafars gannu or something during Rajiv Gandhi‘s time.”

Ajji! Although you mispronounce names, your memory is as sharp as a kitchen chaaku. You’re right. He was accused of taking a bribe when India bought Bofors guns.”

“Didn’t Quarter Ki get some kicks?”

“Kicks alla Ajji, kickbacks. In a way, you are right. He needs kicks. Lots of them!”

Alvo! Just last week madam Sonia Gandhi sat cross-legged under huge photographs of Gandhiji, Nehru, Patel etc, on loads and loads of pillows and thundered to all, ‘We will not tolerate corruption’.”

“This is normal in all Congress meetings, Ajji. It seems, an angry Jawaharlal Nehru used to throw the cushions on some sleeping Congressman or the other. Now, most of them sleep on them anyway.”

Ajji ignored my interruption.

“She wanted the world to hear about her war on corruption. If she is serious about it, why doesn’t she start eradicating corruption from her house itself. Like they say, ‘Charity begins at home’.”

Ajji, volle Kumble googly haakkde. If that happens, her son, grandson or anybody from her family cannot become India’s Prime Minister. Ever.”

Howdu, Nija. This came out only because of an IT report by Narayana Murthy.”

Ajji, this IT is income tax, not information technology IT. Narayana Murthy has nothing to do with it.”

Sudugaadu, whatever it is, some government body thinks Quatrappa made money with kicks.”

“Quatrappa? Soon you will make him Yediyurappa.”

“Don’t interrupt me. Shouldn’t Sonia Gandhi start the war against corruption by sending our police or CID to arrest him?”

“Not CID, it is the CBI’s job. Our CBI still don’t want to get him even if other countries are willing to hand him over.”

Manehaalaru.  One more thing…”

Enajji?”

“North nalli, ‘Ji‘ is used as a suffix for all their names. Manmohanji, Soniaji, Pawarji…”

Ajji, you are also a ‘Ji‘! What are you trying to say?”

“I understand in the GG case the fact that there was corruption was brought out by a government body. I don’t know the name. Income tax inspector hendthi Iravathamma told me it was some CAG  or GAG.”

“Ha, ha. So Iravathamma is your latest source?”

“Software Seethamma interdus maadidru temple nalli. Iravathamma says country is running because of some honest officers. Otherwise this GG galaate would have never come out.”

Galaate alla, ghotala. but your friend Iravathamma is right. Only because of the good work by CAG, IT tribunal and to some extent the media, all the scams are tumbling out one after the other.”

Yenoppa. Poltishans are only busy making illegal money. That is their first love, it seems.”

“Correct, Ajji.”

“First and last love, koodano?”

“Absolutely, Ajji.”

Anjushathamanam janangal matrame Tharoorine…

18 April 2010

Rajiv Gandhi didn’t have to go for the Bofors scandal.

A. Raja wasn’t asked to go for the spectrum scam. Kamal Nath stays despite the rice export scam. P. Chidambaram stays after presiding over the biggest mass murder of his own men. Neither the relentless suicides in Vidarbha nor the rise in food prices or a multitude of scandals, said and unsaid, can dislodge Sharad Pawar. His crony Praful Patel stays despite running Air-India into the ground.

Shashi Tharoor?

The New Indian Express goes to 523 Thiruvananthapuramkarans to get a feel of what the people in his constituency think of the IPL hungamam.

The answer? “Verum anjushathamanam janangal matrame Tharoorine ozhivakkanamennu aagrahikkunnulloo.”

Image: courtesy The New Indian Express

Watch the video: Stephen Cobert with Shashi Tharoor

Also read: TWEET THIS: Shashi Tharoor and Globalisation 2.0

CHURUMURI POLL: Is there a scam in the IPL?

‘Business is now just an extension of politics’

The gritty, determined Italian middleclass woman

3 May 2009

The shortness of the public memory (and of the media) offers a brief explanation for the longevity of our politicians.

The Bofors scandal seems like so yesterday. The Rs 64 crore kickbacks that brought down Rajiv Gandhi‘s government looks like small change. And last week’s Indian Express expose that an “embarrassed”  government has got the Red Corner Notice revoked on Ottavio Quattrocchi, is already old news.

Editor, columnist, author and wordsmith T.J.S. George writes that we can forget at our own peril. The organised manner in which successive Indian governments have ensured that the guilty get away offers valuable lessons on crime and punishment, especially the lack of it when very, very important persons are involved.

***

By T.J.S. GEORGE

Since the dawn of Independence, no one has received from the Indian State more privileged treatment than Ottavio Quattrocchi. He is a business dalal, a middleman, a fixer of deals collecting commissions along the way. Usually when a fixer is caught in a compromising position, his patrons and beneficiaries drop him.

Not if you are Quattrocchi.

When he was caught, not only was he not dropped; the Indian State repeatedly went out of its way to protect him.

Consider just the landmarks. Following official disclosures by Swiss authorities about Bofors bribes, Quattrocchi’s escape from Delhi was facilitated by government ministers. When he was arrested by the Malaysian police in 2002, the CBI made such a hotchpotch of India’s case that the courts in Malaysia released him.

Exactly the same thing happened in Argentina five years later; the Indian authorities made such a pathetic show that the Argentine court was forced to set the man free. Quietly the Indian authorities also arranged to release the bribe money they had got frozen in Quattrocchi’s London account.

In a final act of grace, the CBI has asked for the removal of the Interpol warrant against him so that the spectre of arrest in strange lands will no longer bother this favoured apple of the Congress Party’s eye.

There is a further pattern in the way Congress leaders spring like wounded tigers to the defence of Quattrocchi and his protectors. Their main argument is that no court has found the man guilty. Of course not. No court will ever find him guilty as long as those whose duty it is to provide evidence decide not to do so.

Quattrocchi’s defenders also say that there is not a shred of evidence against him. Great quantities of evidence have in fact been made available by Swiss authorities, Bofors company officials and independent Swiss and Swedish and Indian investigators.

When Congress spokesmen ignore all this and ignore how cases are prosecuted shabbily with the intention of losing, they are assuming that Indian citizens are a stupid lot.

Alas, they are not.

Stranger still is the timing. The party is in the midst of a make-or-break election. Yet, it takes suicidal steps.

First, foolish selection of candidates in most states thereby consciously losing seats it could have won. Second, out of the blue, a clean chit to Jagdish Tytler thereby reopening the wounds of the Sikh community and losing tens of thousands of crucial votes. Then, out of the blue, a clean chit to Ottavio Quattrochi, a man either hated or suspected by most Indians.

Why?

Why the desperation? And why now when the electoral price to be paid is likely to be very heavy?

We can all guess the answers. We can also conclude that decisions of such momentous consequences cannot be taken by factotums in the CBI or this ministry or that. They can only come from a source of unchallengeable centralised authority, a wielder of absolute power whose resoluteness has the solidity of a rock and the immovability of a mountain.

Anna Magnani and Sophia Loren immortalised those qualities. They could set the screen on fire with their raw power and earthiness. Jean Renoir admiringly called Magnani the complete animal. Loren’s passionate portrayal of tragedy in war-ravaged Italy remains indelible in our minds.

Between them the two ladies made the world aware of a primeval force—the gritty, determined Italian middleclass woman. Before that primeval force the Indian State today bends and sways.

Let us hope it won’t break.

Also read: One question I’m dying to ask Sonia Gandhi—Part I

One question I’m dying to ask Sonia Gandhi-Part II

One question I’m dying to ask… Sonia Gandhi

29 April 2009

The disclosure by Indian Express yesterday that the UPA government urged the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) last year to withdraw the red corner notice against Bofors accused Ottavio Quattrocchi has once again swung the limelight on the scandal that brought down Rajiv Gandhi in 1989, and rears its head every election.

Not surprisingly, the BJP sees a Sonia Gandhi link behind the clean chit to the Italian businessman and views the development as another instance of the misuse of CBI by the Congerss-led government. Not surprisingly either, the Congress denies the imputation. If Mr Q is guilty, why didn’t the BJP-led NDA government or other non-Congress governments succeed in bringing Mr Q to justice, it asks?

Nevertheless, the suspicion persists, especially against the backdrop of allegations that the Congress-led UPA is not too eger to back the BJP’s demand to bring back Indian money stashed away in Swiss banks because you know why. What is the one question you are dying to ask Sonia Gandhi about the Rs 64 crore kickbacks?

Keep your queries short, civil and all in the family.

Only comments from valid, verifiable email IDs will pass muster.

Cartoon: courtesy Surendra/ The Hindu

Also read: One question I’m dying to ask Sonia Gandhi—Part I


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,497 other followers