By M D Nalapat
The Chidambaram incarceration shows that change seems to finally be on the way.
That India is still a laggard in per capita terms is explained by the domination over state policy of Lutyens Lok, who even after the start of the Modi era continued their influence, especially in certain ministries. The economy has been a victim of such forces. Fortunately, these days even the Ministry of Finance recognises that the economy is in parlous shape. What it fails to admit is that the cause for such a state of affairs is that the Finance Ministry has largely followed the path of P. Chidambaram for the past five years. Several officials who connived with Chidambaram in systematic gaming of the financial system were not just retained after 26 May 2014 by some ministers, but promoted through their efforts. It was as though the “Police Constable” (as P. Chidambaram is nicknamed for his intimidatory methods) was able to ensure that those who helped him trample on public interest for the sake of a handful of favourites were protected, while honest officers who opposed them were harassed. The Chidambaram network ensured that the former Union Minister of Finance was able for five years to dodge the CBI, as well as the Enforcement Directorate (ED), with ease. This despite a few officials in both agencies repeatedly putting on record several of his transgressions. For example, a Joint Director of the ED sent a detailed note to the CBI Director on 15 December 2016 about the involvement of Chidambaram and his son in the INX case. Another detailed letter about the prosecutable doings of Chidambaram as FM had been sent by the then ED Director on 20 May 2016 to the CBI Director. Amazingly, instead of being asked to continue identifying the former minister’s activities that have cost the country dear, such officials were shunted aside by an invisible hand working to sabotage Narendra Modi’s efforts at cleaning the system of the corrupt. In several instances, officials who persevered in their duty were subjected to harassment and slander by leakage of disinformation to media persons, who were misled by such incorrect news because such lies were told to them from high-level sources who sought to protect the Chidambaram network. An ED Director had ordered a genuine investigation of Chidambaram rather than the whitewash some of his colleagues pushed for. A Joint Director of the ED showed courage by initiating a probe against Chidambaram when he was still Union Minister for Finance. Searches were made, records seized, and a detailed chargesheet filed while these two were in office. However, a politician close to Chidambaram was unhappy about such honest investigative work, and despite the wish of the PM for a clean government, got them replaced with others about whose work the courts were clearly not impressed. Such shallow enquiries took place despite the extreme gravity of the offences committed by the Chidambaram network. The Lutyens Zone saw to it that agencies became slipshod in their investigations, rather than ensuring that the evidence presented was conclusive. However, this has changed in Modi 2.0 and justice is being done, as the Prime Minister had wanted all along.
The lackadaisical manner in which the ED and the CBI had in the past been acting in the Chidambaram case (once officials inconvenient to Chidambaram were moved out) has been proved by the fact that both the former Finance Minister and son Karti were given bail an unprecedented two dozen times by courts across India. Judges were clearly not convinced by the shallow arguments put forward by the ED and the CBI against bail. Who can forget the way in which law officers of the Vajpayee government botched up the case against Ottavio Quattrocchi in Malaysia? A senior Malaysian minister even told some friends—hopefully in jest—that it seemed as though Quattrocchi’s lawyers were themselves preparing the briefs for the lawyers seeking to get the King of Fixers extradited back to India. Their failure came after Mr Q had been allowed to escape by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. After Rao and Vajpayee, the other Prime Minister to enter the portals of ridicule as a consequence of allowing Quattrocchi to escape (this time from Argentina) was Manmohan Singh. Amazingly, all—repeat, all—those responsible for the Houdini act of Quattrocchi (not once, not twice, but thrice) went on to have stellar careers in politics and the law.
So strong is the protection that Lutyens Lok extend to each other that an influential politician (who rewarded countless flunkeys with plum jobs while ensuring career death to those he disliked) summoned a Joint Director of ED on 27 May 2014 and ordered him to drop the INX case against Chidambaram, as in this politician’s view, the “amounts involved were minuscule”. Besides, the Lutyens Zone notable told the ED Joint Director, the charges against Chidambaram were “impossible to verify”. However, such internal sabotage is no longer effective. It is clear that Prime Minister Modi has become expert in tackling the Lutyens Lok menace that has harmed India for decades. Modi’s own personal honesty and zeal for the national interest has been rewarded by a landslide win in 2019 and will be rewarded again in 2024, so that Modi enters his third term in office, as in Gujarat. The agencies tasked with identifying dangers to the national interest must examine and consider as anti-national those high-level politicians and officials who protected those who converted stock exchanges into a rigged casino, who ensured through toadies that banks were drained of cash, and who even indulged in the treason of short selling of the Indian rupee. Such corrupt politicians and high officials are a danger to the national interest. It is individuals, whose only objective is the welfare of themselves and those close to them, that have created the present situation in the economy. The good news is that the situation can get turned around very quickly, once such individuals are removed and replaced with those loyal to the Prime Minister not just in word but in deed. Individuals who will dismantle the high tax, high harassment regime put in place by Chidambaram and continued by North Block even after 2014. At long last, the Chidambaram incarceration shows that change seems to finally be on the way in the manner in which those aligned to the Lutyens Zone protected those who feasted off the misery of the people.
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