Arun Jaitley: Can New India be run by a Kleptocrats Club?
Mamata Banerjee’s dubious allies
Technology has been a great enabler in detection of improper monetary transactions. Traceability of transactions has become simpler and the footprints of illegality can be traced. This has empowered all investigative agencies both at the Centre and state governments to unearth financial crimes including corruption.
When Mamata Banerjee decided to sit on a dharna she received support from many Opposition parties. There is an important commonality between them. They are all in the Opposition and aspire to be in power. Most of them, or their affiliates are today being investigated, prosecuted and in some cases have also been convicted for crimes of corruption. Her ally from Bihar represents the party of the convicted. The friend from Andhra Pradesh runs a party of contractors, ‘thekedaars’ and money launderers. Her two friends from Uttar Pradesh represent a scandalous legacy of corruption. Her anarchic brother from the Delhi government is at his wits’ end because the penny stock companies of his ministerial colleagues have been found out. Curiously, the AICC president somersaulted his position from Saradha being a scam to shoulder-to-shoulder support to the scamster. This somersaulter belongs to the first family of the Congress party where most members of the family are on bail.
It has been argued in the past that the Opposition is going in for a non-ideological, short-lived coalition. India cannot afford instability. It has also been argued that the choice in the next election will be either Modi versus Chaos or Modi versus Anarchy. Mamata Banerjee’s latest acrobatics are the best evidence of the kind of governance India’s Opposition can provide. But more importantly, those who have lent support to the West Bengal Dharna are those who are battling serious allegations of economic improprieties, criminal misconduct and even corruption. Can New India be run by this Kleptocrats Club?
Arun Jaitley was always one of the busiest men in the first BJP government till he was stricken by cancer. He was the finance minister and also the go-to man when major public relations crises erupted or when allies like former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa needed diplomatic handling. In between all this he also found time to regularly write a blog that dealt with the key political issues and battles of the moment. The blogs have now been put together as a book – A New India – with a foreword by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. One of his writings dealt with the battle between the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the Centre over the interrogation of the Calcutta police chief Rajeev Kumar, and another wrongly predicted that the BJP would make big inroads in Bengal in 2014. An extract:
The Kleptocrats Club
Posted on 5 February 2019
Mamata Banerjee’s disproportionate overreaction to the CBI wanting to interrogate the Kolkata Police Chief has flagged several issues for a public discourse, the most important being that a Kleptocrats Club now aspires to capture the reigns of India.
The chit fund fraud and its investigation
The West Bengal chit fund fraud was unearthed in 2012–13. Its investigations were handed over to the CBI by the Supreme Court. The court monitored these investigations. The CBI has interrogated and even arrested some people. Many have been granted bail. If a police officer is also required to be interrogated, how does it become a ‘super emergency’, an ‘assault on Federalism’, or ‘destruction of institutions’? What is the strategy behind the chief minister’s disgraceful and disproportionate reaction? What is her strategy in inviting all other leaders belonging to every opposition to join her on the dharna? It would be a gross error to assume that she did this because of a routine investigation involving a police officer. She did it to defocus from other opposition aspirants for the highest office and to project herself as the nucleus of India’s Opposition. Her speeches attack Prime Minister Modi, but her strategy is aimed to defocus some of her other colleagues in the Opposition and hog the centre stage.
Can a state assault federalism?
Federalism is not a slogan. It is a delicate balance of the Centre– state relationship. Our Constitutional framework clearly defines the sharing of functions between the Centre and the state. It does not permit an overlap. There are central agencies and organisations which conduct legitimate investigation in states. Today the CBI is being brutally prevented by physical force and detention of its officers from investigating a crime legally within its jurisdiction in the state of West Bengal. It is a textbook-illustration of a state government assaulting Federalism. Can a state government prevent the income tax department from collecting taxes in a state? Can another state government prevent the NIA from proceeding to arrest a terrorist located in the state? Can the enforcement directorate be prevented from investigating or arresting a smuggler or money launderer physically located in a state? Obviously, the answer is No. If any of these are visible, it would be a case of the state assaulting Federalism. The prevention of a central investigating agency discharging a function given to it by the Supreme Court is a direct assault on federalism.
When Arun Jaitley got it wrong
Just before the 2014 general election, Jaitley predicted that the BJP would make big inroads into West Bengal. His prediction was far off the mark, but finally came true in 2019.
Why is Mamata Didi so Angry?
Posted on 10 May 2014
Conventional wisdom would suggest that Mamata Banerjee and her party’s traditional rival in West Bengal are the left parties. The Congress party would occupy the third spot with the BJP being an also ran. Why then is the BJP the principal target of Didi’s attack? Every day she crosses the Laxman Rekha and uses the choicest adjectives against Narendra Modi. Mamata Didi is an intelligent politician. There is a method in whatever she does. Good governance is never her forte. Angry and agitational politics is her strength. A large part of the vote that enabled her to rout the left in the Assembly elections were those aspirational voters who rejected the left’s lack of development politics. The Bhadralok had all shifted to Didi as a reaction. It is this very vote which now wants to see Narendra Modi as the prime minister. Didi’s ‘Poribortan’ is not good governance or development. It is anarchy, booth capturing and encouragement to illegal infiltration.
The West Bengal results for 2014 may produce a surprise. Next only to Uttar Pradesh, the BJP’s vote share is expected to rise in West Bengal. Narendra Modi’s rallies have attracted a mammoth response. The BJP cadres are buzzing with enthusiasm. They are all calculating as to how much this increased vote share will convert into seats. Except for a few pockets in Malda, the Congress party is marginalised.
What then is the cause of Didi’s anger and worry? The Congress and the left are not likely to form a government in Delhi. Didi can never sit in the company of the left. The current problem is not New Delhi. It is West Bengal. She fears a radical shift of 15 per cent vote share that put her in power in the Assembly elections to the BJP. If that happens, she has only three votes left. Firstly, the traditional Trinamool supporters, secondly, the goons who have moved from the left to her side and thirdly the illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh.
It is the last of these votes which is Didi’s mainstay. For this cause, she has to justify infiltration and abuse Modi. The more she does that, the more she alienates herself from a significant section which put her in power. How long can Didi rely on the illegally imported vote? Even if she manages to retain a large number of seats this time, the warning signals for the Assembly elections are beginning to be heard.
Excerpted from A New India by Arun Jaitley, with permission from Juggernaut Books