Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor
A most murky scandal
Congress leader Rajesh Pilot
does not have much following in the party or outside but he certainly has
his nuisance value. Following the recent fiasco of his much-hyped
challenge to Sitaram Kesri for the leadership of the Congress
Parliamentary Party, he was, as widely expected, sidelined by
the party chief. And ever since, Pilot has been devising ways
to hit back at the party boss.
What better way to embarrass the leadership than to rake up an
old case about the murder of a young government doctor known to
be rather close to both Kesri and party general secretary Ghulam
Nabi Azad. Pilot has written a letter to the prime minister seeking
an investigation into the mysterious killing of the doctor way
back in 1993.
Posted last in the Central Government Health Scheme dispensary
in Pandara Road in the heart of Lutyen's Delhi, the doctor's mutilated
body was found outside the house of a young nurse attached to
Pilot's letter to H D Deve Gowda hints at the possibility of influential
people wanting to suppress the investigation. A Hindi language
newspaper alleged recently that the doctor was running
a call girl racket patronised by some of his influential patients
to whom he also administered pep-me-up injections at regular intervals.
After his death, the doctor's widow was allowed to retain the
government house thanks to the intervention of influential politicians.
Her name was excluded from the list furnished to the Supreme Court
of allottees of government houses out of then housing minister
Shiela Kaul's discretionary quota.
The scandal would have gone
unnoticed but for Pilot's belated interest in the case.
One more tell-tale diary
Why do people keep tell-tale diaries? Why do those who handle
illicit funds feel the need to record each and every paisa they
give or take? The infamous Jain hawala diaries have played
havoc with the Indian polity. Martin Ardbo, who negotiated the
Bofors deal with India, had his own diary in which in encrypted
from figured 'RG' and 'AN'. Whether or not 'RG' or 'AN' took bribes
was not the issue. The mere mention in Ardbo's diaries was enough
to cause suspicion.
More recently, former telecom minister Sukh
Ram left evidence of his murk dealing in his own hand. The CBI
found his diary with such entries as '37L' against the name of
someone simply listed by his initials. No one bought Sukh Ram's
plea that '37L' was a reference to the number of litres of milk
he got from his farm house. It was instead an entry for Rs 3.7
million he had paid to his businessman friend for investment.
Now the latest to turn up with an incriminating diary is another
former minister in the Rao government. Recent raids on the house
of S Krishna Kumar, the IAS officer-turned-politician, in the capital
and his home state, Kerala, have yielded a diary maintained by
his wife, Usha. It lists the amounts of money paid by Usha, who
had unsuccessfully contested the election to the Delhi assembly two years ago, to various people.
Her diary has spelt trouble not for her alone. The income tax department has dashed
off letters to those listed as recipients of large sums in her
diary to explain whether or not they had accounted for the moolah
in their tax returns. Some are furiously having to cook up their books
to adjust the vast sums they received from the former minister's
Politics, it is said, makes strange bedfellows. But while politics
may keep people apart, commercial interests can make them sup
together. The case in point is the long-pending Tata Singapore
Airlines proposal to set up a domestic airline in India.
When first made, Ghulam Nabi Azad, then civil aviation minister, had
put it on the back burner at the behest of his friends in the
now defunct East-West Airlines and other private domestic carriers.
Now Civil Aviation Minister Chand Mahal Ibrahim has done the same. And
in blocking the Tata-SIA airline he is being ably supported not
only by Azad but not-so-surprisingly by Pramod Mahajan, the high-profile
general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Mahajan, the self-confessed champion of Hindutva and Swadeshi,
has no problem if his favourite domestic airline, Jet Airways,
continues to have 40 per cent foreign equity -- 20 per cent each
for Gulf Air and Kuwait Airways - but he along with Azad and
Ibrahim cannot bear India's premier industrial house, the Tatas, floating
a new airline with only 40 per cent equity from Singapore Airlines.
Such ministerial caprice in policy matters is what makes foreigners
wary of doing business in India.
Come Ramzan and a furious competition begins among the secularists
in the capital to host grand and still more grand iftar
parties. Almost every day, for a month, several hundred people
are fed the choicest Mughlai delicacies by assorted VIPs in their
sprawling official bungalows.
The other day, a Calcutta newspaper
graded these parties. Prime Minister Deve Gowda, the paper announced,
was a clear winner in the iftar sweepstakes. 'Deve Gowda
served excellent food, was the perfect host, and mingled with each
guest,, gushed the newspaper's iftar party correspondent.
No one clearly wants to sour the festive mood by inquiring as
to who picks up the bill for these sumptuous feasts.
Not to be
left behind in proving his secular credentials, Bihar's beleaguered
Chief Minister and Janata Dal president Laloo Prasad Yadav threw an
iftar party in the capital. But one man he did not
invite was Central Bureau of Investigation Director
Joginder Singh, a regular on the iftar circuit.
Yadav had students of the Jamia Millia university fetched
in six deluxe buses for partaking in his iftar feast.
When some of the students insisted on getting Yadav's autograph,
the Bihar chief minister, who is being investigated for his role
in the Rs 10 billion animal husbandry scam, said,"Photo to
theek hain, autograph theek nahin hain.
Aj kal CBI mere dastakhat key peechey paddi hain (To
be photographed with me is okay but taking my autographs is not because
the CBI is looking for my signatures in the documents in the animal
Incidentally, the mood at these parties is far from religious.
While the faithful said their namaz in a corner
at Yadav's iftar party, unmindful of them, loud merriment
and animated political discussions continued elsewhere.