Scams and politics

Scams involving politicians and political parties have cropped up many times in post-independence India’s history, but seldom have the alleged wrong-doers been punished. The first was the jeep scandal during Pandit Nehru’s Prime Ministership and involved his close confidant V. K. Krishna Menon. There was much sound and fury but little of substance. The next big scandal was the Bofors scam. A huge kickback was said to have been paid in finalizing the deal for the acquisition of 155mm Bofors field howitzers from a Swedish company. It was alleged that a bribe of $9.5 million was paid. It was insinuated that the then Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi was involved in it. But nothing could be proved against him though this so-called scandal was made much use of by the CPM and the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections that followed.

Then came the Augusta-Westland helicopter scandal. It first surfaced in February, 2013. A number of helicopters were to be bought for travel by VVIPs. It was alleged that kickbacks were paid by the Italian company to change the specifications of the order by reducing the ceiling of the choppers from the original 6000 metres to 4500 metres. Several names cropped up including that of former Air Chief S. P. Tyagi. A kickback of Rs. 423 crore was allegedly paid by the company to fix the deal. The company was blacklisted and a CBI inquiry started during the UPA regime. Little was heard about the scam in the subsequent years. It is now hitting the headlines again when elections are due in several States. The former Air Chief has been sent to judicial custody.

In West Bengal, the Saradha chit fund scam hit the headlines in 2013. The CBI is still investigating the case but nothing much has come of it, except that some suspects have been languishing in prison. The CPM, ousted from power, accused the TMC of a complicit role in the scam while the TMC returned the compliment by pointing out that the Saradha and other chit funds had mushroomed during the CPM rule.

What is noteworthy is that the central agencies investigating into these cases are periodically intensified or slacken their probes according to the signals received from the Government. In other words, politicians and political parties use these cases for doing down each other according to exigencies of circumstances, rather than for bringing the wrong-doers to justice. The impression gains that if wrong-doers have the right political connections, they can get away with murder with impunity. The net result is that people lose faith in the justice delivery system.

Tuesday, 20 December, 2016