Indira hoax rerun for BJP

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By M.R. VENKATESH in Chennai
  • Published 26.06.03

Chennai, June 26: Three decades after the voice of Nagarwala dragged Indira Gandhi’s name into one of the most audacious scandals in independent India, an echo sprang up in the south but the bluff was called this time.

Yesterday, Anbarasu, 35, allegedly mimicked minister of state for information technology S. Thirunavukkarasar over phone to demand from a shipping agent Rs 50,000 as donation for a meeting to highlight the BJP government’s achievements.

The 35-year-old trickster and his associates were caught after the agent, on checking with a senior BJP leader, was told that no such meeting was planned and that the minister, a party member, was not in the city.

On May 24, 1971, Rs 60 lakh was withdrawn from the State Bank of India and given to a “man from Bangladesh” after the chief cashier at the Parliament Street branch in New Delhi got a call purportedly from Indira Gandhi asking him to do so.

Unlike yesterday, in 1971, the cashier did not crosscheck the demand before the money was given but learnt of the impersonation when he went to the then Prime Minister’s residence to get a receipt.

Sleuths swung into action when the cashier told police of the fraud, on the advice of the Prime Minister’s principal secretary, P.. Haskar, and recovered the money the same day and nabbed the alleged caller.

This time, too, the reaction was swift. An embarrassed BJP state leadership, including M.. Sukumaran Nambiar, the national executive member from Tamil Nadu, and state general secretary G. Kumaravelu, rushed to shipping agent Ramesh’s office in north Chennai, to probe the claims of the two messengers on the spot.

Then, on a complaint by the agent, police arrested the alleged tricksters — Anbarasu, the unemployed graduate who had made the call and his two associates who had gone to the shipping agent’s office to collect the money.

In 1971, the call was allegedly made by Rustom Sohrab Nagarwala, a former intelligence agent. Nagarwala and the policeman investigating the case were later found murdered and the case remains unsolved.

Yesterday’s incident jolted the BJP into issuing a statement that fund-raising drives by the BJP are done only by authorised party workers, with receipt books signed by the party’s state unit treasurer.