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Gopal hits Reliance, Modi with one stone

Gopalkrishna Gandhi delivers the lecture. (PTI)

New Delhi, April 15: Former Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi today spoke of frenzied attempts to ensure the “reign of an ethnic majority” and labelled Reliance a “parallel State”, bringing Narendra Modi and big business on the same platform without mentioning his name.

The theme bears an uncanny similarity to a differentiating plank of Arvind Kejriwal, on whose AAP ticket Gopalkrishna’s brother Rajmohan, both grandsons of the Mahatma, is contesting the election in East Delhi.

Gopalkrishna referred to a “frenzy to bring to India’s helm the reign of an ethnic majority, of a sectarian bigotry, of a denominational autocracy. And all in the name, the very specious name, of strength”.

Gopalkrishna was delivering the D.P. Kohli Memorial lecture on “Eclipse at Noon: Shadows over India’s Conscience”. The annual event was organised by the CBI in memory of Kohli, its founder director, in the capital.

The audience included former and present directors of the CBI, who were told by the speaker that the investigative agency was often called “DDT” (department of dirty tricks). Sections of the media also came under attack for becoming “trumpeters of what they see as the coming change”.

Gopalkrishna said there was a strange stillness in the air these days although everybody was seeing the blooming of an election.

“The ship of our nationhood, during these election days, is meant to be moving. But is it moving at all? No one quite knows, no one wants to speculate on where, towards what port, we are headed if we are headed anywhere at all,” he said.

“Dictators have been wafted up by people voting democratically. The ballot box can receive the faith of innocence and emit a genie. It can receive trust unseeingly, disgorge its betrayal unblinkingly. That receptacle, now a machine, is neutral to the ethics of its arithmetic. It is concerned only with numbers.”

He was critical of the media, too. “And here I must say that sections of the media have become trumpeters of what they see as the coming change. We had heard of paid news. But this is free advertising. The high noon of the free press in India makes its own eclipse by ink and through the small screen.

“So, this best of times for democracy can become the worst of times for democracy as well.”

Thereafter followed the sharp attack on Reliance. “Our economy is startling if you do not want to see its other side. If you see that side, you will see it is schizophrenic. Corporate greed has crossed all bounds, as has corporate tastelessness. We used to talk of black money as a parallel economy and so it continues to be. But Reliance is a parallel State.

“I do not know of any country where one single firm exercises such power so brazenly over the natural resources, financial resources, professional resources and, ultimately, over human resources as the company of the Ambanis. From Ambedkar who spoke of economic democracy to Ambani who represents a techno-commercial monopoly of unprecedented scale, is a far cry indeed,” he said.

Gopalkrishna’s scathing comments feed off a perception that the business empire Dhirubhai Ambani built virtually from scratch in the late seventies has been the biggest beneficiary of the so-called “crony capitalism” and it wields enormous clout in the corridors of power that were for long years controlled by the Congress and for some time by the BJP.

Reliance Industries did not comment.

Chief ‘speechless’

Gopalkrishna said the CBI, which is an institution of conscience, was seen as “the government’s hatchet” rather than “honesty’s ally”. It should be made autonomous and be brought under the RTI, he said.

“The CBI has a very mixed image. Not all of it is flattering. It is seen as a government’s hatchet, rather than honesty’s ally. It is often called DDT — the department of dirty tricks.”

He said whether to settle personal scores against political adversaries or to force independent civil servants to fall in line with an unscrupulous executive, pressure does get to be exerted over the CBI.

“No political party is a saint in this matter. But the CBI cannot afford to be complicit in this capriciousness. It must resist the unethical overtures. There is the temptation to bring down reputation of civil servants through unethical leaks to the media in real time during the course of the investigation. This is despicable,” Gopalkrishna said.

He added that the CBI director should be a” phenomenal instrument, not a self-operating robot”.

CBI director Ranjit Sinha, who shared the dais with Gopalkrishna, appeared nonplussed. “What should I say? I am speechless,” Sinha told The Telegraph later in response to a question.

Another senior officer said what the speaker said on the CBI was correct but the timing was not right. “He was our guest but turned the table on the host. It was a bolt from the blue,” the officer said.