Gotcha! 'Revenge' raj rules

Politics of vendetta, says Opposition after central agencies target PC and Lalu

By Our Bureau
  • Published 17.05.17
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New Delhi, May 16: Knock, knock…. It’s not WannaCry, the ransomware, but a tougher nut called Wanna Make Opposition Cry.

P. Chidambaram and Lalu Prasad were today pitch-forked into a select but steadily growing club whose members or their associates have been blessed with attention from one central probe agency or the other.

At least 36 premises were searched today by the CBI and the income-tax department while probing corruption charges indirectly or directly linked to the two leaders.

The searches, spiced up with leaks and carpet-bombing television coverage, rolled just when the approaching presidential polls have set the stage for a possible common platform for the Opposition and the Narendra Modi government has begun the drum roll for its third anniversary.

Chidambaram, Congress leader, has not been directly named by the CBI but his son has been accused of helping a media company escape an income-tax penalty in 2007 when the lawyer from Tamil Nadu was Union finance minister.

That INX, the media company, was then helmed by Peter Mukerjea and his estranged wife Indrani — both in custody on the charge of murdering Sheena Bora — made the CBI operation on the 14 premises juicier.

Around 22 premises linked to Lalu Prasad were searched by the income-tax department in connection with alleged “benami” land deals. 

Till now, the club so targeted has had members such as Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal and Naveen Patnaik.

All of them also happen to be Opposition leaders.

Another common thread binds Chidambaram and Lalu Prasad: they are among the most vocal and trenchant critics of Modi and his government. If the Bihar leader rarely misses a chance to skewer the Prime Minister in his inimitable style, the suave Congress veteran torments the Modi government through his newspaper columns and cutting tweets.

Most of the cases predate the Modi government and it is theoretically possible that the different streams of investigation are achieving critical mass now. But the timing and the alleged inaction of the probe agencies on cases linked to BJP figures have led the Opposition to smell a plot.

Mamata, who met Sonia and Rahul in New Delhi today, was blunt: “If you do not like someone, then you send CBI, then put him in jail.”

“Some political vendetta is going on.... Whatever is happening today... sometimes with Laluji, Chidambaram, Kejriwal,” Mamata added. “What is on since the morning, that was also discussed (with Sonia),” she said, referring to the searches.

“If you fight with everybody, then who is left out?”

On her meeting with Sonia, the chief minister said: “We discussed very important matters regarding politics and presidential elections.”

Sources said the Opposition assessment right now was that the NDA may have the numbers to get its candidate elected President. Unless the situation changes dramatically, the Opposition is expected to try to ensure that no hardcore Sangh parivar acolyte enters Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Mamata is expected to meet Sonia again within a fortnight.

If the central crackdown is intended at discrediting the Opposition to try and keep it splintered, the impact is not yet apparent. Mamata announced she would attend an Opposition rally being planned by Lalu Prasad in August in Patna.

Mamata said that even the media were under “tremendous pressure and I know that. Barring two or three media houses, no one is able to say anything. There is pressure on the media.”

The Congress wondered why corruption cases in which the names of senior BJP leaders and chief ministers had cropped up were not being probed.

Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala said: “The truth is, the entire landscape of the BJP is mired in one corruption scam after another. Revenge has become the DNA of the BJP government. We want to iterate that neither Mr Chidambaram nor any Congress leader or any other Opposition leader will be deterred or cowed down or fear this regressive politics of revenge and vendetta.”

Surjewala referred to several scams in which BJP leaders had got embroiled and asked what action Modi had taken.

“May we ask the Prime Minister if Vyapam is not a scam and has action been taken against Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan?” he asked.

“May we ask the Prime Minister under what circumstances did Vasundhara Raje submit an affidavit in favour of a fugitive (former IPL czar Lalit Modi) and told British authorities not to disclose it to Indian authorities? Has he taken action against the Rajasthan chief minister? 

“May we ask the Prime Minister what action has he taken on the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation scam where the exchequer lost Rs 20,000 crore when he himself was chief minister? ”

Surjewala also referred to other issues, including the role of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj in the Lalit Modi case. Sushma had overturned the stated government policy and told the UK that India would have no objections if travel documents were issued to Lalit Modi.