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Rs 200 chowkidar raj and a chain reaction

NOTHING GETS PAST ME: Narendra Modi at an event in Karnataka on Monday. (PTI)

New Delhi: A seemingly trivial incident on a Delhi Metro train has illustrated how the banking scandal has spiralled beyond jokes on social media and struck a raw nerve among common citizens.

Around 12.30pm on Monday, CISF personnel guarding the Metro caught six men squatting on the floor of a train at the Yamuna Bank Station. Sitting on the floor of the train is an offence punishable with a fine.

The six were fined Rs 200 each. All the six protested vehemently, contending that sitting on the floor when there were no seats was not a crime.

Eventually, two paid and were let off. The four day labourers who could not pay were taken "into custody" and led away.

As soon as the security posse left, a fierce discussion erupted among the passengers. Then something unusual, by Delhi's standards, took place: barbs started flying without fear against Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister who could do no wrong.

Many described the CISF action as " sarkari goondagardi". In no time, the inevitable comparison was made with the banking scandal and the huge amount Punjab National Bank said it had been defrauded of.

"You can escape with Rs 11,000 crore but not sit on the floor. This is the achchhe din Modiji promised. There were no seats available and I have to travel 40km to meet a client," Ram Chandra Pal, one of the two who paid the fine and who works for a private bank, told this correspondent who witnessed the incident.

Dhiraj, a student, who said he had resisted a strong urge and daily habit to sit down, chipped in: "It is better to rob banks nowadays. Policemen will wake up only after you are nestled safely in a foreign country."

At least a dozen people joined the conversation. The solitary passenger who objected to Modi being dragged in was promptly silenced by rebuke and ridicule flowing from every corner.

None of the passengers criticised the Metro authorities - the Prime Minister became the solitary target and it was apparent that the ire was fuelled by the loot of public money, not the fine.

The Opposition parties have sensed this and are planning to use the bank fraud to target the image of Modi. The Congress is consulting all Opposition parties to formulate an effective political action.

Rahul Gandhi has sought to keep the focus on the Prime Minister, striking at Modi for the fourth consecutive day. In a Hindi tweet, Rahul said the silence of the "chowkidar who vowed " na khaoonga na khane dunga" showed whose protector he was after the escape of Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari alleged that the Modi government had created a culture of opaqueness and secrecy by reversing the RTI-induced transparency in the system and pointed to the Prime Minister's refusal to answer critical questions.

Tewari said: "What is the Prime Minister's response to the case involving Amit Shah's son in which Rs 50,000 turned into Rs 80 crore in a few months? What is the price of Rafale fighter jet? What is Modi's response to the demand for a probe into judge B.H. Loya's death? Why was ONGC forced to buy GSPC when Modi declared it got the richest oil discovery in 2012? Why is he the only Prime Minister of independent India who hasn't held a press conference?"

Tewari also wondered why the names of those who accompanied the Prime Minister on his foreign tours were state secrets.

Stressing the need for a joint political action on the ground, NCP leader Tariq Anwar said: "Modi's image appears to be still intact among ordinary people because his government bulldozed all questions and demands for a fair probe. We don't have any expectation of fairness and accountability from him and hence all the Opposition parties should directly communicate with the masses."

RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha told The Telegraph: "An unmistakable pattern of loot is visible from Lalit Modi to Nirav Modi, which establishes the fact that the priorities and directions of the Prime Minister come from a few crony capitalists who are out to destroy all institutions. All Opposition parties must come together for a massive joint action and that's what people expect from us."

Choksi escape

The Congress asked who in the government facilitated the escape of Mehul Choksi who had already been declared an absconder by a court.

Tewari said: "The chief judicial magistrate of Chandigarh had declared the CMD of Gitanjali Gems (Choksi) a proclaimed absconder on August 4, 2017. A court's decision is intimated to every law enforcing agency. How can he fly out being a proclaimed absconder? Who among the powers that be helped him?"

Tewari said an illusion of swift actions was being created now to confuse and mislead the people. "This is just smokescreen. You don't act when complaints are lodged, courts declare somebody an absconder and what is the meaning of actions when the horse has bolted? The home ministry is responsible for preventing a proclaimed absconder from fleeing the country."

Contending that there was tell-tale evidence of inaction over the last three years and no attempt to shift blame to the Congress would work, Tewari said: "We demand a white paper on the health of banking system. The banks should publish on their websites the list of non-performing assets (NPAs) and frauds. Why is the government secretive about these facts? The people ought to know about the plight of the banks."

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