This is the election season. What theme is going to define this election? In my considered view, the opposition leaders, particularly the Congress President Rahul Gandhi, have outsmarted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by coining the slogan “Chowkidar Chor Hai”. Day in and day out Rahul repeats this slogan, which the other opposition leaders and countless Modi-critics faithfully spread through every available forum.
Rahul is never tired of saying that Modi’s is essentially a “suit-boot ki sarkar”, implying that he guards (chowkidargiri) of only the rich. Of course, his prime target among the businessmen who he considers as Modi’s friends, is Anil Ambani these days for the so-called Rafale fighter plane deal( though the fact remains that the fighter planes will be bought outright from France , not made by Ambani in India. But Rahul perpetuates the myth). However, the Congress President avoids taking names of the others.
It may here be noted that according to Rahul Gandhi, “demonetisation was country’s biggest scam”; what Modi did was intentional to benefit 15-20 crony capitalists and his friends. To help them, Modi took money from the common people and directly put it in the pockets of the biggest and most corrupt crony capitalists, so runs his logic. But then Rahul has not pointed out who these 15-20 crony capitalists are.
Similarly, Rahul alleges that the Modi Government does not waive the loan of poor/common people, but has waived huge loans of 10-15 people, who are Modi’s friends to benefit them. Again, Rahul has not disclosed the names of such crony capitalists and their location, the nature of benefit, method of conferring the benefit, and relationship of the recipient with the Prime Minister or others in the Government, etc. That without such information, what is said by him lacks credibility, but then the Congress president, or for that matter other top opposition leaders agreeing with Rahul, seems to believe that if an untruth is repeated several times, it starts sounding like truth that “chowkidar Modi is a chor” ( security guard Modi is a thief).
It may also be noted that though Modi has been a Chief Minister of one of the richest states of India for 13 years and now Prime Minister for the last five years, there has not been a single corruption-related case against him. Assets or wealth of either his own or that of his immediate family have not undergone any radical appreciation since he assumed a political office as the Chief Minister in 2001. But can the same be said of Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders?
Here, what I intend to do is to quote from the published sources to point the corruption cases that our oppositions leaders are embroiled with. Let us begin with Rahul Gandhi himself. Even if one avoids the rags to riches story of his brother-in-law Robert Vadhra and how he is implicated in the land scams under investigation, the fact remains that Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi have been on bail by a court since 2013 after furnishing personal bonds of Rs. 50,000 each in connection with the National Herald case. In fact, last fortnight, the Supreme Court did not give the mother-son duo any relief in a criminal case of income tax evasion.
Both have been accused of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds by paying just Rs 50 lakh, through which Young Indian (YI) had obtained the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) owed to the Congress party. It is alleged that YI, which was incorporated in November 2010 with a capital of Rs 50 lakh, had acquired almost all the shareholding of AJL, which was running the National Herald newspaper. The I-T department had said the shares Rahul has in YI would lead him to have an income of Rs 154 crore and not about Rs 68 lakh, as was assessed earlier. It had issued a demand notice for Rs 249.15 crore to YI for the assessment year 2011-12.
Now let us come to the leader of the second most important political party in Rahul Gandhi’s Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the Rastriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Bihar. Its supreme leader Lalu Prasad Yadav is now in jail for his conviction in the Fodder-scam. In fact, Lalu is the first major Indian political leader who has been convicted in a criminal case and imprisoned for more than two years and hence debarred from contesting elections as per the rules of the country. He had became Chief Minister of Bihar in 1990 but had to resign in 1997 following escalating corruption charges relating to the Fodder Scam. From 1997 to 2005 his wife Rabri Devi ruled as the Chief Minister of the state. His party came to power in Bihar Legislative Assembly election, 2015 in partnership with Nitish Kumar of JD(U), but Nitish Kumar dumped Lalu’s party from the power in July 2017 after the Enforcement Directorate and CBI lodged several criminal cases against Lalu, his wife Rabri, his son and former deputy Chief Minister, Tejashwi Yadav, in another disproportionate assets and railway tender bribery scam during Lalu’s stint as the Railway Minister. On 3 October 2013, he was sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment and Rs. 25 lakh fine for his role in the first Fodder Scam by CBI court, then again for 3.5 years in a second fodder scam case on the same day 23 December 2017 when his member of parliament daughter Misa Bharti was also officially charged by Enforcement Directorate in disproportionate assets, while 3 more fodder scam cases against him are also pending in the court. Yadav was found guilty in third fodder scam case in January, 2018. In March, 2018 Special CBI Court convicted him in the fourth fodder scam case which is related to swindling of Rs. 3.13 crore from the Dumka treasury. In Dumka Treasury case total Rs 60 lakh fine imposed (Rs 30 lakh under PC act and Rs 30 lakh under IPC) and 14 years’ imprisonment (7 years under IPC and 7 years under Prevention of Corruption Act) on Lalu Prasad Yadav in to run consecutively.
Besides, investigated by the CBI, there is another bribery and corruption case where Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family are charged for illegally receiving prime property from the bidder as a bribe for corruptly awarding the Railway tender during Lalu’s tenure as Railway Minister. Transfer of these properties as bribe to Lalu and his children were disguised using the shell companies; for example, wife Rabri Devi and three children, Misa Bharti, Tejaswi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav, received Saguna Mor Mall property worth INR 45 crore through a shell company named Delight Marketing (renamed as Lara properties), and another shell company AB Exports was used to transfer properties worth INR 40 crore for a price of INR 4 lakh to Lalu’s other three children Tejaswi, , Ragini and Chanda. This his case spawned several other related but independent cases, such as disproportionate assets case as well as tax avoidance case by ED. Under the Benami Transactions Prohibition Act recipient of such benami properties can be imprisoned for up to 7 years and fined up to 25% fair market value, and convicted politicians are barred from contesting elections or holding elected position for six years.
Apparently, the Income Tax department may soon take possession of 17 of the properties owned by Lalu’s family members, it is reported. The properties, spread across Delhi and Bihar’s capital Patna, are estimated to be worth more than Rs 128 crore. The properties include a high-end under construction mall in Patna, a residence in New Friends Colony, New Delhi and a two-and-a-half acre farm near Delhi airport.
Let us talk of the other leading opposition leaders in Uttar Pradesh, whose sole political mission is to defeat Modi by hook or crook. Veteran leader and former Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family are under the CBI scanner for corruption related cases, which the Supreme Court is now monitoring. It is alleged that Mulayam and his two sons have acquired properties disproportionate to their sources of known income. The Supreme Court has just asked a status report from the CBI of the case that dates back to 2007.
The other former Chief Minister of the state, Mayawati, who is the poll-ally of Mulayam’s son Akhilesh, may not have any pending corruption case against her at the moment, but then the fact remains that the Supreme Court has asked her to return the public money she spent as the chief minister on building statutes and memorials. It may be noted that Mayawati’s wealth almost doubled during the time when she was Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. In 2004 Mayawati who was not having a house to live is today the owner of “palaces”. In her ancestral place, Badalpur she has a large bungalow with all kinds of amenities. But nobody stays in this house of her. This luxurious bungalow has been built by spending crores of rupees. In her last Rajya Sabha nomination papers, Mayawati herself gave details of her property. In 2007 her total wealth was Rs 52 crore which increased to 111 crores in 2012. Besides this, Mayawati owns two commercial buildings at Connaught Place in Delhi that amounts approximately to 20 crores. She also has a residential building worth Rs 62 crore in Delhi and one in Lucknow worth Rs 19 crore. The luxurious houses that she has in Delhi and Lucknow are worth 96 crores.
Similarly, we have the case of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, another front-ranking leader trying best to unseat Modi, is believed to be linked with the Sharada Chits that duped public to the tune Rs 10000 crores and this was source of funds for her Thrinmool Congress . The case again is under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court. In fact, as I write this piece, comes the news that the Supreme Court finds in the CBI report of grave charges against the former Police Commissioner of Kolkata in the scam, the officer with whom the Chief Minister had sat recently in a dharna to stop the CBI officials enquiring him.
Viewed all thus, one finds it strange that the BJP and the Prime Minister Modi, who describes himself as the chowkidar of the nation’s resources , are defensive when Rahul and others denigrate the profession of the poor Chowkidars in the country. In fact, it is a case of “chors” (thieves) fighting together against “chowkidar “Modi. In other words, the coming elections will witness the tussle between chors on the one hand and the chowkidars on the other.
By Prakash Nanda