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December 19, 1997


T V R Shenoy

'In the name of battling so-called communal forces, Kesri is only too eager to embrace criminal forces'

Ok, so Sitaram Kesri and Laloo Prasad are the architects of the new 'Secular Front'. Who is going to be the next to sign up?

Going purely by the qualifications of the founding fathers, I sincerely believe that Prafulla Kumar Mahanta of the Asom Gana Parishad is the lucky man. No, this isn't just a guess, but a carefully-reasoned statement.

Because Mahanta is right in line for getting chargesheeted by the CBI in the Letter of Credit scam. I am assuming, of course, that the governor of Assam doesn't sit on the file as his counterpart in Patna did!

Every man needs a hobby. Some men collect stamps, others collect coins. Chacha Kesri collects men and women who have been accused by the CBI or are facing trial in a court. Of course, Kesri didn't have to look too far to start his project, only as far as the mirror...

Sitaram Kesri was accused of living beyond his means. His answer, cheerfully accepted by the highly-trained investigators in the CBI, is that he makes do on a mere Rs 1,500 a month. I don't wish to sound unduly sceptical, but Kesri owns two pampered pet dogs whose expenditure alone should be more than that! (perhaps to 'poor' man should insist on a stipend from his son Amarnath, whom even the CBI accuses of wealth beyond his means!)

Those kind and benevolent souls at CBI headquarters seem only too keen to accept Kesri's tales at face value. There was, they say, no crime committed when the Congress received Rs 3 million from a foreign tax haven. And why didn't somebody in the CBI think of checking whether the Congress treasurers was involved when the JMM bribery case first hit the news?

And how about Chacha Kesri's chosen partner Laloo Prasad Yadav? Of course, the Rs 10 billion fodder scam is still around the Rashtriya Janata Dal president's neck. But, as Yadav himself says, 'Inder Kumar Gujral is the caretaker prime minister, and he will take care of us!'

But wait, there are other prominent leaders in the 'Secular Front' who feature even more prominently in CBI investigations. There is the Bahujan Samaj Party's Mayawati, another lady being courted by Chacha Kesri. Given this, I should think Mahanta would feel right at home in the 'Secular Front'.

Why, I wonder, isn't Karuppaiah Moopanar part and parcel of the Congress-sponsored 'Secular Front'? After all, senior Tamil Maanila Congress leaders are said to be involved in the Rs 14 billion Indian Bank scam.

Ah, but thanks to the Gujral ministry's attitude to 'witch-hunting' interrogating even bank executives requires prior permission from the CBI's political masters. Do you think Union Finance Minister Chidambaram -- a TMC leader! -- will grant such permission, even if CBI officers have the guts to ask?

All this, incidentally, may explain why Mamta Bannerjee and Sonia Gandhi are so reluctant to thrown in their lot with Kesri's Congress. Neither lady has the CBI on her track!

Am I only one who is disgusted by the sheer hypocrisy of the situation? Two months ago, the Congress and the United Front were screaming themselves hoarse about the 'criminals' taken into his ministry by Kalyan Singh.

Let us be honest and admit that, yes, Kalyan Singh did indeed grant office to men with questionable backgrounds. But long before they became ministers, they were MLAs. Who got them the party tickets and campaigned for them?

Most of the new entrants into the Uttar Pradesh cabinet were Congressmen. They were chosen by the Congress high command. And they were elected thanks to the Congress's alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party. And all the crimes they allegedly committed were known to everybody tat that time.

Before you rush to condemn Kalyan Singh, ask yourself two questions. First, was Kalyan Singh responsible for bringing them into the Vidhan Sabha? Second, would the criminal records of these ministers be in the news if they had voted against Kalyan Singh?

I am not dredging up past events for nothing. My point is that this history serves as a pointer to future Congress policy. In the name of battling so-called 'communal' forces, Sitaram Kesri is only too eager to embrace and encourage criminal forces.

President K R Narayanan asked the Election Commission to keep crooks out of the poll process. Perhaps he should give the same advice to the Congress president!

T V R Shenoy

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