India’s political heavyweights

Nantoo Banerjee

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s latest charge against BJP president Amit Shah that his business entrepreneur son Jay Shah struck it rich after BJP came to power in 2014, alleging a high-level corruption, only exposes his political naivete, if not a deliberately mischievous intent. According to the Congress, Jay Shah’s sudden rise is an "excellent example" of crony capitalism. The fact that Jay Shah had enjoyed a upswing in his business since 2014 can no way be held against his father or the ruling party until Rahul Gandhi is able to produce any proof to substantiate his allegation, presumably based on a website report. Jay Shah is not the only kin of a high profile politician who has chosen his own independent career of preference. Marxist political party’s once most high profile chief minister Jyoti Basu’s son, Chandan Basu, too preferred business to politics. Chandan had set up a biscuit manufacturing factory at Durgapur, West Bengal, and tied up with market leader Britannia in the 1980s when his father was the state’s CM. Jyoti Basu and CPM were not known to have showed any favour to Chandan. Neither Britannia got or sought any favour from the state government. Seemingly, it is silly to link the growth of Jay Shah’s business with his father’s political clout unless there exists genuine proof to that effect.
Amit Shah, a seasoned politician, has bluntly asked Rahul Gandhi “if you have documents to prove your allegations, bring them to court.” Jay Shah has already sued the news website, The Wire, for Rs.100 crore for its allegedly fake reporting that his firm's revenues escalated by 16,000 times after BJP came to power. The website report also questioned allegedly unsecured loans given to Jay's firms, including from a state-run company. The BJP president said none of his son’s companies did even “one rupee worth business “ with the government or received ‘kickbacks’ “as in the case of Bofors.”  Amit Shah, in a TV interview, had said after achieving a turnover of Rs.80 crore, his son's company suffered a loss of Rs.1.5 crore. "All the payments were made through cheques.” The loans, he said, were “not unsecured but a line of credit.”  BJP high-ups ridicule Rahul Gandhi’s allegation saying it is like the proverbial “stainer accusing a sewing needle of bearing a tiny hole.”
Beset with umpteen corruption charges against the Nehru-Gandhi clan — right from the jeep scandal in the early 1950s involving Nehru and Krishna Menon to Bofors gun deal during Rajiv Gandhi and AgustaWestland chopper scam in 2013 under UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and ongoing investigations into her son-in-law, a small-time Moradabad-based brass filigree maker’s son, Robert Vodra’s massive wealth accumulation during the Congress regime — Rahul Gandhi may be desperately looking for a high level BJP corruption case. In the last three years that the BJP-led NDA government, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is in power, no financial corruption scandal involving BJP satraps has surfaced. The Congress top dog may be very unhappy about not being able to find any financial scandal involving a BJP brass in the last three years of the Hindu nationalist party’s central rule. Even in BJP-ruled states, the party has mostly maintained a financially clean image. On the contrary, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi-led Congress party, which found no harm in collaborating with corruption-convict Lalu Prasad’s RJD in Bihar, has always taken a soft stand on corruption allegations against its senior party members’ kins such as Karthi, Palaniappan Chidambaram’s son.  Rahul Gandhi is the fourth generation politician in the Nehru-Gandhi clan who happily chose to be in the dynastic power politics. In many ways, such a political career appears to be much easier and smooth sailing than achieving success under tough competition in any other profession. Surprisingly, the Congress party, having some of the country’s top professionals as leaders, never faced a contest to the authority of the Nehru-Gandhi clan to bring in some refreshing change on the top. The clan has remained highly powerful in the absence of any internal competition in the party.
Fortunately, not all kins of high profile politicians chose to be in politics either, barring the likes of the children of DMK’s M Karunanidhi and Murasali Maran and RJD’s Lalu Prasad Yadav. Former UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, an engineer by qualification, may also have chosen to follow his father’s footsteps to try his luck, but, increasingly, many top-shot politicians’ sons are opting for career elsewhere. Most of these ‘unlike’ sons and daughters are making a mark for themselves in different professions.
For instance, Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh too is a business entrepreneur. He is totally focussed on expanding his Rs. 2,650-crore Heritage Foods, promoted by his mother. Architectural engineer Riteish, son of Congress leader and the late Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, chose to be a Bollywood actor. Riteish is best known for his excellent comic roles in such hit films as Masti, Kya Kool Hai Hum, Malamaal Weekly, Dhamaal and Housefull. Riteish is said to have thought of even dropping his surname, initially.
Utpal Parrikar, son of BJP’s present Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, chose to be in manufacturing business. A computer science engineer and a master of science from Michigan State University, Utpal spent almost 10 years in the US before returning to India. Bharat Patel, son of former Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel, is in the construction business. DMK leader M K Stalin’s son Udayanidhi, a Tamil film producer and actor, too is keen to stay out of politics. Jayant Sinha, son of BJP veteran and former union finance minister Yashwant Sinha, chose to return to politics only after holding top positions in McKinsey & Company. Jayant is an IITian and Harvard MBA. There are several such examples. What does Rahul Gandhi got to say about such great success stories of these ‘unlike’ sons of their political fathers?  (IPA)

Saturday, 28 October, 2017