Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor
Sore with TMC ministers
Not all is well in the small Tamil Mannila Congress parliamentary
party. There is growing resentment agaisnt the two TMC members
in the Gowda cabinet. The inclusion of M Arunachalam (left) as the minister
for urban affairs is particularly galling to members since the former is allegedly
involved in several minor and major scams. As a junior
minister under Shiela Kaul in the Rao ministry, he too was involved in the
out-of-turn allotment of government houses. The TMC members conveyed their resentment to the party chief G K Moopanar in no uncertain terms recently.
The case of Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram is a little different. His
arrogant behaviour has angered almost the entire TMC party. Peter
Alphonose, a Rajya Sabha member who is close to Moopanar despite the fact that he is still in the Congress, was so incensed by Chidambaram that he
nearly assulted him.
The incident took a few days before the swearing-in of the Gowda government
when Chidambaram (right) derivisively opposed the suggestion that Moopanar be made deputy prime minister in the Gowda ministry. 'What administrative experience
he has to become deputy PM?' queried Chidambaram, even as an enranged
Alphonose lunged for his throat in the presence of several fellow
members from Tamil Nadu. Chidambaram's alleged weakness for female
company also came in for adverse mention as did his role in the
share bank scam.
Moopanar has managed to contain the rebellious
mood against Chidambaram so far. It would be interesting to see for how long he can continue to do so!
A friendly FERA raid
With the focus on the big fish in the Rs 1. 33 billion urea scam,
everyone seemed to have ignored the FERA (Foreign Exchange Regulation
Act) directorate's raid on liaison man Sudhir Sarin in connection
with the same case. Last week, when a CBI team was in Hyderbad
to question the main suspects in the urea scam, a team of FERA
officials searched the well-appointed house of Sarin in the capital's
upmarket Greater Kailash colony.
Sarin, a regular fixer in the corridors of power, was rather close to the former fertiliser
minister Ram Lakhan Yadav. FERA sources said he handled some
of the funds for Yadav. But it was a 'friendly' raid; Sarin
was allowed to slip out even as the raid party was in his house.
Later, he was able to 'fix' the FERA chaps through another small-time
power broker who, from humble beginnings, has made a pile in commissions
in recent years. Sarin, incidentally, is very friendly with the
Congress politicians from the time his brother got married
to the daughter of the late Congress leader Yashpal Kapoor.
Press and the scamster
That the press, too, is selective in exposing the wrong-doings of the rich and the powerful is well known. But never before has this
conspiracy of silence by the mainline press been so thoroughly
exposed as in the case of excise evasion by a well-known cigarette
manufacturer. Owned by a member of parliament, the company is
alleged to have evaded excise duty to the tune of over Rs 4 billion.
The excise department, after months of painstaking investigations,
recorded the said MP's statement as also those of other senior functionaries
from the same company. The modus operandi was almost identical to
the one adopted by the same company in the early eighties when
it was charged with excise theft to the tune of over Rs 7 billion.
Simply put, the excise paid by the company was on a price much
lower than the end price of the cigarettes.
The scam came to light in Jaipur almost a year ago, but it was only a couple
of months ago that the investigations were complete. Yet, the press refused
to touch the story even when it had ready access to a well-documented
case file of the excise department. Incidentally, the owner of
the cigarette company was arrested in Germany some months ago
in connection with an economic offence. And he has not given up
his efforts to be inducted into the Gowda ministry.
A quirk of fate
Only days before Dame Luck smiled on him, federal Welfare Minister
Balwant Singh Ramoowalia was a desperate man looking for ways
to secure his financial future. His children had settled in Canada.
His wife, too, was away visiting them. He was at a loose end, feeling
he had nothing much to do as a member of the minorities commission.
But the United Front's search for a Sikh member for the Gowda government
changed the luck of this little known politician overnight.
Before his induction into the ministry, he was preoccupied with his petrol
pump project. He had got an out-of-turn license from former Petroleum
Minister Satish Sharma, but the Delhi Development Authority
would not allot him suitable land out-of-turn. Before becoming
a minister, Ramoowalia would often visit the DDA officials in his
quest for a plot of land for his petrol pump.
But to minimise graft, the DDA had computerised the system of land allotment on
a first come, first serve basis. Apparently, the same DDA officials
who had earlier rejected Ramoowalia's entreaties are now keen to
oblige the minister. And, now, it is the minister's turn to play
hard to get. After all, the petrol pump can wait. It is the ministership
Mysterious foreign visits
Former Union Minister Jagdish Tytler (right) is, apparently,
yet to come to terms with his defeat in the recent parliamentary elections.
Tytler lost to the BJP's Vijay Goel in the Delhi Sadar
constituency by about 1,600 votes. Soon after his defeat, he was headed for
western Europe. London was not originally on his itinerary, but he landed
there all the same to enjoy the hospitality of his friends whom
he had awarded lucrative contracts while he was the minister for
civil aviation in the Rajiv Gandhi ministry.
He flew back to Delhi only to celebrate his close friend Kiran Choudhary's
birthday with a gala dinner at a five-star hotel in the capital. Choudhary,
a constant companion of Tytler, is the daughter-in-law of Haryana
chief minister Bansi Lal and a general secretary of the Delhi
Congress Party. After the birthday dinner, Tytler was again jet-bound.
This time, he was headed east with, apparently, Hong Kong and Singapore
on his itinerary. However his detractors in the Congress allege
that, more than pleasure, it is money matters that have taken the
former minister abroad. Tytler alone can de-mystify his visits.
Home away from home
As if there was not enough trouble already for P V Narasimha Rao (right) and his extended family, what with urea and JMM MPs' bribe
scams beginning to haunt them, the Central Bureau of Investigation has
been tipped off by someone earlier close to the Rao family about a huge real estate investment
made by one of the children of the former prime minister in the US.
The money allegedly was transferred through the usual hawala route, the CBI was informed. And the investment was made, through one of Rao's children who is settled in the US, in a residential complex. It was, however, doubtful if the CBI would pursue the lead given that the Gowda
ministry is dependent on the Rao-led Congress for its survival.