Monday, October 22, 2012

The muck of corruption now sticking to Gadkari and Kejriwal….

In a country in which almost all are involved in some or the other form of what can broadly be called corruption, it was always surprising that someone should attempt to don the “anti-corruption” mantle. That both, the deeply corrupted BJP and the holier-than-thou Kejriwal (the Joker in the political pack, henceforth abbreviated to just Joker) chose to do so was always too ambitious. Now as the knot of corruption start to unravel, both are caught in an embarrassing manner.

When Gadkari was blamed by IAC activist Damania for “not questioning the NCP on the irrigation scam”, she had zero proof of her meeting with Gadkari. I was clear that her claim should be rubbished. When Joker mentioned about some investments made in Purti Power and Sugars Ltd (a firm alleged to be “owned” by Gadkari), my point was that given Joker’s credibility, these charges should be taken as just that – charges. If Joker had anything to prove, he should simply have filed an FIR or a suit against Gadkari. Of course, the rabble rouser did nothing. But now that the respectable TOI has researched Gadkari and found interesting revelations, the muck is starting to stick to Gadkari. His interview with Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV a few days back on the same subject also strengthens the impression of some element of truth being there in the allegations. Of course, the MD of Purti as well as Gadkari himself have stated that all is clean. My opinion remains unchanged. Till the time they are proven, these are mere allegations. Someone should take Gadkari to court. Else they should let him be.

But the charges look bad. Gadkari was PWD minister in Maharashtra in the Shiv Sena-BJP government during 1995-99 (incidentally, that was the only time these two parties ever ruled Maharashtra). The allegation is that he gave the Mumbai-Pune expressway contract to IRB Infrastructure with the understanding that IRB would later invest in Gadkari’s Purti. Sure enough, the investment happened only after Gadkari was out of power, but the allegation is that that was the exact quid-pro-quo terms. The fact that subsequent orders were given to IRB “by the central government in 2003” only proves that the BJP’s national government was part of the deal as well (the NDA was in power until 2004). What compounds life for Gadkari is that the other investors (other than IRB) of Purti include a clutch of companies whose whereabout (addresses) are fake. This arouses suspicion of benami ownership of Purti by Gadkari, who officially holds almost nothing in the company. Even the Directors of these investor companies are associates of Gadkari. If benami holding is ever done, it is precisely in this manner. Surely, the needle of suspicion points at Gadkari. But like I said, let someone challenge him in the courts; not in media.

If anything is proved against Gadkari, he will be the 2nd BJP President to be indicted for corruption. So much for the main opposition party’s record of fighting corruption!

The other interesting story of course is about a question (strange how no one thought of this before) being asked of Joker. How did he manage to stay put in Delhi for 20 years of his IRS service? Now the accusation here is very very strong. People want to stay in Delhi and Mumbai because these are the hubs of tax collection and hence, corruption. A majority of Indian corporates and HNIs are based in these two cities. It is reported that tax officers are willing to “pay crores” to secure postings in these two cities. How then did Joker manage to stay put for 20 years? Did he also bribe the system to manage that? If he did, did he also “recover” his investments? What is worse is that even his wife has never been transferred out of Delhi. Suspicions of a “family business” abound. But again, no one should conclude anything without a court enquiry. What is really bad for IAC (not surprising at all really) is that Damania is herself accused of “change of land use” (what Vadra is also charged for). Ditto Prashant Bhushan (Himachal), his father (NOIDA) and god knows who else.

I said “not surprisingly” because in this country, corruption has seeped into our very bones. Being a little corrupt is a necessary requirement to just survive. Managing the process is considered “smartness”. In such a real situation, it doesn’t help when someone tries to stand on a pulpit and preach to others. I have never had any problems with the objectives of Anna, but I have had severe problems with their holier-than-thou attitude. Everyone knows there are various centers of corruption – the PDS is one such example. When Nandan Nilekani talks of the UID and its important role in curbing corruption in the PDS, there is no need for Joker to laugh it off. Nilekani has far more credibility than Joker ever can. Auctions (without necessarily maximizing revenues) is the way to cut corruption in government projects and purchases. Simplifying laws and removing discretionary powers are other ways of removing corruption. None of this has anything to do with the Lokpal. They are just administrative moves that can be far more effective than the flawed concept of the Lokpal. But for Joker to appreciate all this is perhaps beyond his intelligence.

The real truth is that the story started off by Joker has now engulfed him as well. The support given by Gadkari and his party to Joker has now backfired on Gadkari and the BJP. They both started out to blame the Congress. In reality, they have only shown that every single party, every single person is corrupt. Creating a mood of despondency will ravage the country. It is time we halted such insane practices and got down to the basics. And start to dismantle corruption the right way… brick at a time.

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