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The man behind Kripashankar Singh's fall

Last updated on: March 2, 2012 16:19 IST

The man behind Kripashankar Singh's fall

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Sanjay Tiwari, who works for a cable television distribution company in Mumbai, has become the bane of former city Congress chief Kripashankar Singh's existence.

Tiwari, who lives in a Mumbai slum, has alleged that Singh has amassed huge wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income.

After obtaining the information by filing several applications under the Right to Information Act, Tiwari filed a Public Interest Litigation against Singh in the Bombay high court.

Acting on the PIL, the court directed the police to file a First Information Report and initiate an investigation into the alleged amassing of wealth by Singh.

Singh stepped down as president of the Mumbai Pradesh Congress Committee soon after the high court ruling.

As investigators raided Kripashankar Singh's dozen odd premises across the city and elsewhere on Friday, March 2, Tiwari tells Rediff.com's Toral Varia-Deshpande how and why he went after a powerful politician.

Why did you start pursuing the case?

A few months after the 2009 assembly election, one of my friends approached me with an affidavit filed by the MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) from Kalina (northwest Mumbai), Kripashankar Singh in 2004 with the Election Commission.

He had already filed a RTI query, on the basis of which it was revealed that in 2004, Kripashankar Singh had showed his educational qualifications as a graduate and in 2009 as a Class 12 pass.

The first affidavit made no mention of property. That is when me and my friend decided to pursue this case further and began seeking information under the RTI about his income tax returns, his property etc.

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Image: Congress leader Kripashankar Singh


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'We thought the case would never see the light of day'

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When did you decide to file a PIL?

After we got the RTI replies (we decided to file a PIL). We were also thinking about what to do next.

So through some connections, we approached advocate Mihir Desai. He helped us in formulating a proper complaint with all the documents attached.

On February 2, 2010, we sent the copy of complaints to the state anti-corruption bureau, the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), the economic offences wing, the Mumbai police commissioner's office etc.

But none of them replied to us except the economic offences wing of the Mumbai police.

They told us in writing that it is beyond their jurisdiction to conduct an inquiry and that they have handed over the papers to the state ACB.

We felt that the since Kripashankar Singh is a Congressman and both the state and Centre are being run by Congress governments, the case would never see the light of day.

We waited, but none of the agencies even got in touch with us for more information on the complaint. That is when we decided we would file a PIL in the high court.

Interestingly, the ACB initiated an inquiry and got in touch with us only after the PIL was admitted in court.

Can you please tell us how you went about filing so many RTIs?

If one person files so many RTI queries, the authorities are bound to doubt the intention of the applicant. So very smartly, we decided to share various government offices amongst me and some of my friends, who have been with me since 2005.

So while one friend filed a RTI in the school in Jaunpur (Uttar Pradesh) from where Kripashankar claims to have cleared his HSC (higher secondary certificate) from, one of us filed an RTI in the income tax department; another filed an RTI in the Mantralaya (the Maharashtra state secretariat).

When one of us filed an RTI in the collector's office, we found that some crucial papers regarding his property are missing! So on and so forth...that is how we were able to compile the data.

Who are these friends? Can you name them?

I do not think is it right to name them. Suffice to say they are friends who have been with me for a long time and are interested in social work just like me.

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Image: The Bombay high court


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'Kripashankar Singh is a highly corrupt man'

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Was getting replies from the RTI an easy process for you, since you had a strategy planned?

While we did not face any major hiccups, it was not that easy. The whole process was backed by some serious follow-ups.

It appeared that the system was trying to protect and cover Kripashankar's lies rather than being candid about it in the RTI replies.

Despite writing clearly and to the point, the officers would give half-baked replies or an incomplete set of papers. So there was a lot of follow-up that has gone into this.

For instance, we have still not got any reply on the number of chartered flights he has taken and the expenses incurred.

One crucial element of your PIL is Kripashankar Singh's bank statement. How did you manage to get that?

It is not available under the RTI. Was someone backing you?

A lot of people have asked me this question. The fact is that Kripashankar Singh is a highly corrupt man. Even people in his own small coterie are fed up with him and his ways.

I can only tell you that I managed to get the bank statements of his and his family members only because one of his own men decided to support us in our fight.

Who is this man? Is it someone from his office or one of Kripashankar Singh's detractors within the Congress?

I do not think I will ever give out the source. I can only say that he is our well-wisher.

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Image: Kripashankar Singh's residence in Bandra, Mumbai was among the many properties raided on Friday
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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'Whoever wants to can check my call records'

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There has been some talk about you being a front for (Congress MP) Gurudas Kamat and that he has provided you with a lot of support.

What do you have to say to these allegations?

Yes, I have heard these rumours But I want to tell everyone that my phone number is more or less public now.

Whoever wants to check can get the call records and see if I have ever even spoken to Gurudas Kamat.

>If I have followed this case for so long, allegedly with the help of Gurudas Kamat, then there must be at least one phone call from my phone to his or vice versa?

What more can I say to the rumours? How come there were no rumours when I was working for the 2005 deluge victims or for the widening of roads etc?

How did you manage the finances required in securing RTI replies, local travel etc?

How much does it cost really to file an RTI? I and my friends managed it.

How did you get a high-profile lawyer like Mahesh Jethmalani?

I have been associated with the cable distribution business for several years now. I have known a few local journalists and have some friends.

Through these contacts, I got in touch with advocate Mihir Desai. He helped us from day one till the judgment day. It was Desai who got Mahesh Jethmalani on board.

Both these lawyers have not charged a single penny. They said they are helping me for the cause of a social good.

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Image: Gurudas Kamat, Kripashankar Singh's predecessor as Mumbai Congress chief


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'If people support me, I will contest the polls'

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Now that you have successfully nailed Kripashankar Singh, will you continue to expose other corrupt ministers in other parties?

I worked on this case because it came my way. I will continue to fight against corruption. As of now, we have not decided whether we will target any other minister.

Have you thought about joining politics?

It is not something I have not thought about. If people support me, then I will contest the polls too. Why not?

Which are the other areas where you used the RTI for the larger good?

After the 2005 deluge (in Mumbai), I used RTI to get information on the compensation that was distributed.

Through the RTI, I found that while the government claimed that Rs 5,000 was disbursed as compensation to the victims, the actual amount received by the victim was only Rs 3,000 or Rs 2,000.

I, along with a few of my friends, went door-to-door to check the reality and found that there are too many discrepancies in the government's claims and the RTI replies.

We filed affidavits of 130 such victims, and filed a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Bureau. Acting on our complaint, the ACB conducted an inquiry and nine government officers were suspended.


Image: A Congress rally in Mumbai


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