Recently in response to a communication from the Chief Justice of India urging the establishment of special courts to deal with corruption, the Prime Minister publicly welcomed the idea. In his statement he also made an oblique reference to corruption within the judiciary. It is not known what provoked the CJI to write and release his letter to the press. And what impelled the PM in his response to refer to judicial corruption. If there is a silent war between the judiciary and the executive the public is unaware about its cause. But any step to check corruption would be greatly welcome. Unfortunately the PM’s words on the subject are not matched by his deeds.
To appreciate that one need go no further than to focus on the current controversy involving union minister TR Baalu. The honourable minister blandly informed parliament about his intervention in a ministry, not under his charge, so as to benefit his son’s business interests. The opposition is up in arms and seeks a statement from the PM on the subject. The PMO, it seems, sent several communications to the ministry concerned, urging it to comply with Baalu’s request. Baalu represents the DMK which offers crucial support to the government within the UPA coalition.
The opposition may smugly pat itself on the back for raising this affair in parliament. But insofar as corruption is concerned the Baalu affair is the mere tip of an iceberg. It is a minor peccadillo compared to the organized mega corruption jeopardizing national security being ignored by the opposition elsewhere. Regarding this consider the aftermath of the Telgi stamp paper scam.
Spurious stamp papers printed by Telgi and associates resulted in a loss to the public exchequer of an estimated Rs 30,000 crores or more. During the investigation the names of a large number of national political leaders cutting across parties surfaced. Telgi was prepared to make a confession naming all those who helped him. Official investigators spurned the offer. In private questioning by the detectives those apprehended revealed many important names including those of a Governor and of ministers. So what happened? Exactly the same as happened in the Jain Hawala case years ago.
In that case too the national media, acting much like the procurer serving a harlot, went by the official version to whitewash the misdemeanors of over 40 national leaders belonging to major political parties. In that case the politicians were accused of accepting illegal foreign funds from the same channels and through the same conduits that funded terrorists. The judiciary and the CBI between themselves let the politicians off the hook by pleading insufficient evidence. But it was not denied, even by half a dozen of the accused politicians themselves, that they had accepted the money. Two pro-terrorists were convicted and given light sentences. Years later the Enforcement Directorate slapped a Rs 30,000 crore fine on the Jain brothers for having illegally brought in money from abroad. In short, officially there was terrorist funding, there was illegal entry of foreign money, and politicians did receive part of this money without declaring it. Yet, all politicians were let off for insufficient evidence!
Now consider the Telgi case. The crime is acknowledged because Abdul Karim Telgi has been convicted. It has been accepted that this racket could not be carried out without official complicity at a very wide and high level. It has been established that political VIPs cutting across parties were involved. But what happened?
During the probe several suspects close to Telgi were named by the police. Some were politicians. One was Roshan Baig, a Congress MLA from Karnataka. Another suspect was Moinuddin Bawa. Baig was in police custody in connection with the Telgi case. Bawa was closely questioned by the police. Did they spill the beans and name all the bigwigs involved? One cannot tell. What one can say is that eventually both were let off due to insufficient evidence. Telgi himself received a surprisingly light sentence.
Where are Baig and Bawa right now? Why, where else but busy campaigning as Congress candidates for MLA constituencies in the Karnataka polls to be held on May 10th.
Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh who tirelessly sermonize on the need to end corruption were doubtless emboldened by the fact that the CBI found insufficient evidence against Baig and Bawa, and both therefore deserved to be candidates. And, indeed, because evidence was insufficient, Baig and Bawa could well be as blameless as the PM and the Congress President themselves!
One may sympathize with the PM for overlooking corruption by his government. He needs political survival to implement policies dear to his heart. But if he stopped bothering about political survival and went ruthlessly against corruption the result might surprise him. His government may not be toppled. It might emerge actually stronger! As for Leader of Opposition LK Advani, there are far bigger issues than the Baalu affair right under his nose. Let him pursue the Baalu affair -- but why ignore the rest? Unless, of course, the BJP too fears that it might be vulnerable in the Telgi affair.
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