Wednesday 28 May 2014

Arvind Kejriwal should not be jailed (Pakistan Observer)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 - FORMER President of the victorious BJP, Nitin Gadkari, will regret the criminal defamation case that he filed against Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo Arvind Kejriwal, who was Chief Minister of Delhi for 49 days. The AAP leader had called Gadkari among the most corrupt politicians in India, zeroing in on the fact that the former President of the BJP had built up a substantial business empire. While he has reportedly been given a clean chit in his income-tax dealings, senior officials claim that a former Union Finance Minister in the Manmohan Singh government was the individual who acted as the guardian angel of Gadkari, enabling him to escape prosecution for large amounts of money entering and leaving accounts controlled by companies known to be controlled by him.

Interestingly, Gadkari has made a chauffeur of his the Director of one of his companies, although this cannot be because of the fact that the gentleman in question is the primary witness in a case involving the finding of the dead body of a young girl in a car belonging to Gadkari Certainly it would be wrong to blame Gadkari for this tragedy. Of course, the family of the girl sought to ensure a comprehensive investigation into the tragedy. However, the Maharashtra police appear to have concluded that the girl either killed herself in some way or “suffocated to death” inside the car, despite the presence of bloodstains and much else which suggested a struggle. The reluctance of the Maharashtra police to enquire deeply into the death of the girl has been replicated in several other cases involving VIPs.

For example, HRD Minister of State ( till May 26) Shashi Tharoor lost his wife in circumstances that have yet to be revealed by the Delhi police. Some reports say that Sunanda Tharoor, who was apparently upset at the minister’s friendship with a charming Pakistani lady, had injuries all over her upper torso. Perhaps such reports are inaccurate. Unfortunately, the Delhi police, which functions for the present under Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, a faithful follower of Sonia Gandhi, is refusing to enlighten the public as to the exact circumstances of the passing away of Mrs Tharoor. Like Tharoor, Nitin Gadkari too is a genial individual who believes in the philosophy of “live and let live”, and consequently has friends across the political spectrum, including Congress Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde as well as each of the past three Congress Chief Ministers of Maharashtra.

Hence it is very unlikely that the full facts behind the death of a young girl in his car will ever emerge from the shadows Now that it is his complaint of criminal defamation that has resulted in sending their leader to prison, albeit for the brief time of two days, the AAP is unlikely to adopt the same lenient attitude towards Nitin Gadkari as the Maharashtra police or Income-tax authorities acting under the orders of the Finance Minister of the day. The AAP is likely to target him in Parliament and outside, especially if (as widely expected) Gadkari is given a plum portfolio in the Narendra Modi Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister-designate of India, Narendra Damodardas Modi, is himself completely free of any suspicion of corruption .

Indeed, unlike almost any other political leader, he has even refrained from ensuring that his close relatives benefitted in any way from the exalted post of Chief Minister of the business-rich state of Gujarat that he has held since 2001. His brothers and sister live simple lives, as does Modi himself, who uses just four of the many rooms in his official residence in Gandhinagar, including an office room, a small and simply furnished bedroom and a couple of rooms for key staff. However, the problem facing the new Prime Minister is that the upper reaches of his party are filled with individuals who have made considerable amounts of money for themselves as well as friends and family.

This when Modi himself uses only Indian cars, such as the Mahindra Scorpio. Thus it will be a difficult task for Modi to gather around him senior ministerial colleagues who are as honest as he himself is There is intense pressure on Modi to accommodate those who played important roles in the 1998-2004 Atal Behari Vajpayee NDA administration, despite the fact that swirling allegations of high living and corruption, including cases of massive rigging of the stock market, resulted in the defeat of the BJP in 2004. The taint was so pervasive that even in 2009 the BJP lost, and it was only when Modi was made the Prime Ministerial candidate nine months ago that the BJP’s fortunes revived. He now faces the task of ensuring that a Modi administration avoids the errors of the Vajpayee period in a situation where several key ministries are expected to go to holdovers from that period. Given his seniority, it is almost certain that Nitin Gadkari will be a senior Cabinet minister.

Indeed, he is trying for one of the four portfolios of Home, Defense, Finance and External Affairs that entitle the holder to be a member of the Cabinet Committee on Security and the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, thereby gaining access to sensitive state secrets The action of a Delhi magistrate in sending Aam Aadmi Party supremo Arvind Kejriwal to jail for calling Gadkari corrupt has resulted in the media beating up on Kejriwal himself rather than his jailers. However, the fact is that such a precedent will have a chilling effect on freedom of speech in India. If the law is such that Kejriwal can be sent to jail for the remarks he made, such a colonial-era law needs to get scrapped. The media in India is missing out on the big picture, which is that the Kejriwal judgement is a significant threat to the freewheeling debate about the mores and foibles of politicians that a genuine democracy would welcome rather than prosecute. In jailing Kejriwal, what is at risk is freedom of speech.

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