Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cash for votes scam – more likely the BJP is involved…..

There is very little “hard” evidence in this scam. The only thing that is known for a fact is that a few BJP MPs flashed wads of cash in Parliament on July 22nd, 2008 before the voting on the Indo-US nuclear deal took place. Everything else is pure speculation. There is no clear evidence to indict anyone or any party in particular. Anyone could be the culprit. This is a “whodunit” that is still miles away from being solved. Further, given the lack of evidence, it is possible that everyone maybe aquitted in the end. On balance however, I think this was a BJP plot rather than a Congress one. I will explain why.

The BJP’s charge is that the UPA was the ultimate beneficiary of the votes-for-scam and hence it must have started it all off. Going by their theory, Congress used Amar Singh to engineer defection amongst opposition MPs. Since the Left had pulled out its support, the UPA could have been in a minority and it would have been desperate to garner any support –at any price – that it could get. But this theory has several flaws:

The Left had 59 seats in Parliament and when they pulled out their support, the UPA had to look around for someone with a large number of seats. The support of small parties would not have been enough. As we all know, at that time the Samajwadi Party (SP) came forward to support the UPA. The SP had 37 seats and that provided the UPA with a huge degree of comfort. Now it’s entirely possibly that the Congress may have struck a shady deal with the SP – much of which we don’t know of at all. Maybe there was a lot of money paid by it to get the SP’s support, but nothing has come out in the public domain on this till date. If the SP had taken monies to support the UPA, the sums involved would have been far higher than the few crores that we are hearing.

The question is that if the UPA had already secured the SP’s support, why would it be so desperate to go after 3 BJP MPs? What would the support of 3 MPs have meant to the Congress? Yes, it could have attempted to divide the BJP and engineer a larger split in the party. But that’s not what it did. It apparently tried to bribe just 3 BJP MPs. This does not make any sense at all.

Then there is the question about the sum of money involved. There is a widely held belief that political parties are willing to take monies to lend support to the ruling party in times of crisis. But the sums involved are supposed to be much larger. The figures we hear are of the order of Rs 15-25 crores per MP. The sum of Rs 1 crore per MP looks absurdly low. Are we to assume that these three MPs were willing to incur the wrath of their party for a paltry sum of Rs 1 crore? Surely they realized that they were worth a lot more. Some reports say that this was just an “advance”. If this was just an advance, then what was the full figure? In this “business”, I have not heard of any MP “giving credit” to the bribe giver! One has to assume that Rs 1 crore was the final deal value. Sorry, I cannot believe this these MPs would have sold out for so less.

The last flaw in the theory is that there is absolutely no evidence to link the UPA to the money. Whatever the reasons – whether the party was extremely smart – or whether the Delhi Police intentionally did nothing about it – there is zero evidence today of the money trail leading to the UPA’s doorsteps.

That’s why the other theory gains credence. The theory that the BJP knew that the UPA was going to win the vote since the SP had decided to support it. They plotted to discredit the government by making it appear that they had won the vote by bribing MP. When they scanned the political environment, they would have figured that if they targeted Amar Singh, they could hit two birds with one stone. Not only would the UPA be discredited, the SP also would have been hit hard in UP. Remember, in 2007, the BJP had got completely annihilated in UP – it had been reduced to just 51 seats out of 400 odd. While the BSP had won the elections, the the SP had also bested the BJP. The SP was voting for the UPA and clearly, the BJP knew who they had to target. Besides, and very importantly, there was Amar Singh – who in his quest for a larger role for himself in poltics – was always going to be easy prey.

Going by this theory, once the BJP had zeroed in on SP and Amar Singh as the route to discredit the UPA’s likely victory, the brass of the BJP worked out the details. Sudheendra Kulkarni – a close aide of Advani – gave shape to the actual plan. He used Suhail Hindustani to search out Amar Singh. Amar Singh may have thought that he would ingratiate himself to the Congress by getting them some “extra support”. Since the whole idea was to earn some brownie points which would come in handly in his future life, the numbers really didn’t matter. Sudheendra Kulkarni then got CNN-IBN involved to “do the sting”. The poor channel in its own fight for TRPs agreed to be a party to this scam. It realized just in time what was going on and so refused to air the tapes the day of the vote.

I am not saying that this theory is right or is already proven. All this is pure conjecture. But this theory certainly looks more plausible than the first one – that the UPA was the originator of this scam. The UPA may well have been involved in a much bigger scam – that of buying out the support of the SP. But their possibility of trying to buy out three MPs looks implausible.

We must also ask the important question about why the BJP decided to vote against the nuclear deal in the first place. Everyone knows that the BJP supports a closer relationship with the US. Everyone knows that the BJP was the one that initiated talks with the US on the nuclear deal. If one were to believe Wikileaks (and I don’t one should believe it too much), then the BJP apparently told officials of the US embassy that they were only posturing against the deal. In reality they supported it. One must question what kind of politics the BJP was playing. If the BJP had supported the deal since it itself believed it it – then none of this would have happened. We see the same thing happening these days also – with the BJP is refusing to co-operate on the GST proposal. Again, the BJP was an early supporter of GST – but it suddenly turned around because of political compulsions. This sort of extreme politics must be condemned. At the end of the day, politicians must remember that all of them are committed to working towards the growth of the country.

The real truth is that this is the worst kind of politics possible. The BJP should have supported the Indo-US nuclear deal, but voted against it merely to pull down the UPA government. Then there are doubts about whether the Congress bought the support of the SP. And lastly, the stink about Amar Singh’s wheeling-dealing ways. We must remember that Amar Singh is a creation of our political system only. He exists because the “system” makes people like him important. That’s what we should really worry about…..

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