October 27, 2020
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Taint On The Saint

Heard the latest? 'Rumours abound of a conspiracy to taint Sonia; the Volcker report, the Amar Singh tapes and the Quattrocchi controversy are held up as proof.'

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Taint On The Saint

Look at a random sampling from the long laundry list: Tainted ministers. Appointment of 'pliant' officials. Jharkhand. Goa. Bihar. Nanawati. Volcker... It all seemed one of a pattern, but somehow the brazenness on Bofors didn't make any sense. And instead of launching into a predictable diatribe against the party of the Saint and her Apostles, this time I decided to actually do some homework. So off I went in search of all those in Delhi with their ear close to the ground

'Explain this to me,' I asked my friend Bakwas Biswas. 'What gives? How come the Saint and the Head Apostle, Mr Integrity himself, can still see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil, and only emerge days later to disarmingly disown all knowledge and responsibility and righteously mouth platitudes and pieties? Surely they don't expect us all to be so naive and gullible to believe that this was only one loyal flunky, with an expiring Rajya Sabha tenure, trying to ingratiate himself further, and that he autonomously acted of his own initiative, just as the hon'ble Buta Singh had, for example?

'Surely, as many of the commentators have already helpfully pointed out, this brazenness was not required and how a transfer or two would have sorted out the matter if only sufficient time had been allowed to elapse. Surely in due course, the CBI would have found it prudent to approach the Chief Matropolitan Magistrate and confess up that it had been unable to link the money in Mr Q's "frozen" bank accounts to any of the slush funds from Bofors? So why did the law minister get all bolshi all of a sudden?

I was getting rather worked up into a lather, but Bakwas heard me out silently. He can be rather inscrutable when he wants. Finally he spoke: "How many times have I quoted Sherlock to you? 'How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?'" I almost expected him to say "Elementary, Watson" but Bakwas knows his Sherlock, and wouldn't ever misquote.

Now, Bakwas can be quite enigmatic, but if it's a novel take you want, he is the man to go to, for he knows his conspiracy theories, which is why I had gone to him in the first place. And sure enough, he proceeded to enumerate all the usual ones doing the rounds, one by one. Unfortunately, given the sheer number of those, I only remember a few that I intend to share with all. He first examined the one about the loyal law minister. 'Did you read the editorial in the newspaper that is most certainly the conscience-keepers of the nation?' he asked me. I hadn't. 'It seems to be suggesting,' he told me, 'that the CBI is being made a scapegoat and that the law minister should resign immediately as it was nothing else but a clear case of someone exceeding his brief, without taking the Saint or the Head Apostle into confidence.'

Bakwas was indignant. 'Why, the same was suggested about Hon'ble Sardar Buta Singh as well when the Supreme Court had characterised the dismissal of the Bihar Assembly as unconstitutional. Has there been any need for him to resign so far? Of course not,' Bakwas was foaming at the mouth by this point, but continued. 'Afterall, wasn't he, with stellar help from his sons Sweety and Lovely, only trying to ensure that the opposition should actually strengthen and be voted to power unambiguously?'

Strengthen the opposition? Help them get voted to power with a thumping majority? Surely, Bakwas had truly lost it. 'Come on, I am not that gullible,' I protested meekly. But Bakwas was too carried away by the sheer stupidity of it all. He went on regardless, ignoring me blithely: 'Why should,' he asked, shaking his finger at me accusingly, 'the minor matter of the SC directing the government and the CBI to maintain status quo ante on the accounts and to ensure no money is withdrawn - "if not withdrawn so far" - cause any resignations of such exalted figures as the law minister now? Surely any law minister, with any self-respect, in the normal course, would by now have been deeply embarrassed by the sort of things that the SC has been routinely, almost daily, been constrained to say? Besides, what good would it do? Has Natwar Singh's resignation got us all that cash? Would Bhardwaj's resignation get the money already withdrawn by the innocent and victimised Mr Q miraculously reappear into the bank accounts that would suddenly be "refrozen"?'

He had a point. The money is gone, but seeing him pause for breath, I jumped in. 'But, but,' I protested, 'surely the SC is familiar with how such things operate. Don't you know that the SC has added that in case of funds withdrawal, the government and the CBI should explain steps taken in an affidavit within a week and the government has been asked to make make clear who instructed the Additional Solicitor General to okay de-freezing of the Q accounts?' But Bakwas was contemptuous at my naiveté. 'If the CBI didn't go in appeal against the HC order acquitting the Hindujas and could do a breathtaking about-turn by taking all responsibility in defreezing the Q accounts, why, there should be no problem in passing the buck. We all know that it does not stop anywhere. It seems to go a long way.'

Indeed. But by now my head was reeling. I shared my reservations: 'Why would the CBI implicate itself? Hasn't it been arguing to the Chief Matropolitan Magistrate, as recently as December 20, that to "apprehend the accused" Mr Q, a red corner notice is "still in existence"?'

'Ah, haven't you read some one who can't be accused of being pro-Congress has written recently?' Bakwas asked in sheer incredulity. 'No,' I admitted sheepishly. He put on his glasses and proceeded to read:

"So this too will pass. We have already forgotten that the government that could have nailed the Bofors payments was that of Atal Behari Vajpayee and it did nothing. It went through the motions, of course, but so half-heartedly that the investigating agencies knew that the Prime Minister was not really interested. There is a theory about this doing the rounds in Delhi as well and the theory is that there was an understanding between Sonia and Vajpayee that the skeletons in their respective family cupboards would remain untouched. If the Law Minister had not rattled the cupboard, the Bofors skeleton would not have fallen out."

Huh? I was utterly unconvinced. 'What does this prove?' I finally spluttered. 'This is nothing but a cheap attempt to drag in the ex-PM, I said. Must be the RSS!' He hummed a few lines of George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass", but seeing no light of comprehension on my confused face, stopped, snorted derisively and proceeded to tell me with all the patience that one might employ towards one specially retarded: 'Okay, so it is not Sonia but those who speak on her behalf and really run the party. They understand that Congress needs BJP alive because that is the only glue that binds the UPA, else the alliance would come unstuck. At the same time, they also realise that were the UPA to ever come unstuck, as it would at some point in the future, the only real and natural ally would have to be the BJP. Why, they might even get together to form a stable government, finally dumping the baggage of the Saint and the Head Apostle!'

What? By now, my head was truly in a spin. The mind boggled. The spin-meister had me all tangled up in the web he had spun. 'Look at the eerie similarities,' he went on relentlessly. 'The Congress does covertly and denies that what it does at night is exactly what the BJP does overtly in the day. There are no ideological differences. Both exist because they oppose the other, and if either of them were to be annihilated, the other would cease to exist as well. Survival demands that they should come together...' His voice trailed off.

I had had enough of this nonsense. I put on my most exaggerated gullible expression and suddenly pretended that I was having an ah-a moment. 'Hmm, so you are suggesting that this is yet another case of selfless sacrifice on the part of the Saint's party to help out the BJP that is floundering around in search of an issue? With the left on its right and most of Shiv Sena shuddhified and absorbed or disintegrating; and with an imploding BJP confused about its Ramayana that became a Mahabharata, the party think-tank seems to have decided right at the onset to leave no stone unturned in providing the glue of one serious issue after another on a platter to the disintegrating BJP to protest against?'

I was, like, oozing sarcasm I thought I had finally fixed Bakwas.

But Bakwas merely smiled and said, 'You know, you are not as dumb as you seem'. I wasn't sure if it was a left-handed compliment or his usual condescension. As I said, he can be quite inscrutable. Perhaps he was just mocking me, but before I could decide, he decided to carry on. 'It is called providing for a rainy day,' he said empathically. 'It is clear that the Left has its own agenda and so do all the regional outfits like the SP, BSP, TDP, RJD or, why, even JD (S). See how they have Bengalored (or did he use the new spelling: Bengalurued? I am not sure) the Congress. Congress is more of their competition at the state-level rather than the BJP. Typically, the potential Third Front is all anti-Congress whereas ideologically speaking the BJP and the Congress are closer than either wants to publicly admit or acknowledge. Why, take economic policy, communalism, riots, book-bans or even corruption. So the real threat to the Congress is from the demise of the BJP and hence the desperation to hand it issue after issue, much like Liquid Oxygen, as in that old Ajit joke, only to keep the desperately defunct and deranged party on life support systems somehow, and yet relying on the short attention spans in this age of TV channels induced frenzy.'

Bakwas had obviously given the matter a lot of thought, for he went on. 'It is a delicious Catch-22,' he went on, to my shock, telling me how I had been so bright as to have caught his drift. Hell, all my sarcasm had been lost on him, but I am quick-witted about such things and decided to go along with him, for after all he was beginning to sound plausible now.

'Take the cavalier manner in which Hon'ble Arjun Singh has sought to pooh pooh the various SC directives on, say, AMU and reservations in educational institutions. What better way to consolidate the Hindu backlash as and when it happens?' And he paused here only to point out, 'We shall need recent precedents, discounting the old ones such as Shah Bano etc, when it comes to real grave matters, should the BJP ever find itself on the receiving end of the SC's ire. Like, say, on Ayodhya. Surely Singh is only being foresighted enough? And afterall, can't the same spirit of unanimity on, say, what is laughingly called, "illegal construction", across the political divide, prevail on all matters?'

Hmmm. It was beginning to add up. But something still niggled. 'Surely the Saint and the Head Apostle couldn't have been in on this diabolical conspiracy?' I managed to ask. 'You are right, they are not,' he said knowingly. 'It is the rest of the party against them all.' 'But, why,' I insisted, going back to my original question, 'did it suddenly occur to the law minister to do what he did?' 'Well,' Bakwas took a deep drag at his cigarette, 'the conspirators may have decided to keep the BJP alive and kicking, but it wants no confusion as to who is the boss. They seem to have been cut to the quick by those who were recently heard arguing that the expulsions of MPs caught taking cash on camera was akin to "inflicting capital punishment for unbecoming conduct". If that was mere "stupidity", surely it was time to flex their global muscle (thus the earlier Mitrokhin, Volcker and now Bofors revelations) to dazzle the public with, and show how the Congressmen would not be on sale for small potatoes? It proves who is the Boss.'

Yes, I had to grudgingly admit, Bakwas seemed to have answered my question conclusively. 'My kickbacks are larger. And we are more brazen.' It was a masterstroke. It shows that the party is second to none, lest we forgot. It was all adding up. Raking up of 1984, Mitrokhin, and now Bofors. And in addition, the latest incident also goes to console the Saint that it has loyal and committed party-men unlike all those who are fighting over who indeed is Lakshmana or Sita in a confused outfit which is not sure whether it is Bhartiya Jinnah Party whose Bharati component has jumped the hijacked plane. As a smokescreen, it was brilliant.

But one niggling point still remained. I was going to raise it when the paper vendor brought in the weekly about which Bakwas said he was not quite sure whether it had actually interviewed or not the man who may or not have said he could have been the PM at 25. Bakwas jumped for it, grabbed it in his grubby hands, quickly turned to page 4 that had listed some other conspiracy theories, cried, "Eureka!" and ran off in sheer excitement, clutching it close to his chest. It was only much later when, on the way back to the office, I bought a copy from an impoverished child at the red light and turned to page 4 that I read: "Rumours abound of a conspiracy to taint Sonia; the Volcker report, the Amar Singh tapes and the Quattrocchi controversy are held up as proof." They were not mocking. They were serious.

Suddenly, all that had been revealed was confirmed.

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