- The Karnataka diary highlights the open loot underway under Siddaramiah
- While legally nothing will happen, politicially the diary may prove costly
- Karnataka goes to the polls in a year, but will CM Siddaramaiah survive the elections?
Another diary implicating our netas in corruption was in the news in the past month. This one first surfaced in Karnataka. Apparently, a Congress legislator close to the party bosses in Bengaluru had meticulously jotted down the names of senior leaders with the amounts of money written against each name.
As is the settled practice now, instead of spelling out in full the names of the recipients of the unaccounted cash, these were reduced to abbreviations. But anyone reading SG and RG or M Vora wouldn’t need to wrack their brains to make out who these initials stood for.
In all, the amount allegedly disbursed by MLC Govind Raj totalled over Rs. 600 crores.
Unsurprisingly, the response of the giver and the recipients was familiar: The diary was fake and a handiwork of the ruling BJP. Of course, you did not expect either Govind Raj or the beneficiaries of his ill-gotten munificence to mutter a collective mea culpa and beg for mercy.
No, instead, as in the case of the previous such diaries, they too would brazen this one out. Though the diary was seized from the bedroom of Govind Raj during an IT raid last year, and the seizure duly acknowledged by independent witnesses, it is hardly likely that anything would eventually come of it.
The reason why earlier such diaries ended in abrupt closure of investigations lies in well-established precedents. Beginning with the infamous Jain Hawala Diaries in the 90s to the recent Birla and Sahara diaries, political payments seem to enjoy an informal amnesty from scrutiny. However, this does not mean the entries therein are false. They are not. Barring probably the mischievous Sahara diaries, others were mostly genuine. As is the Karnataka diary of Govind Raj.
But what should concern us is how various recipients use those funds. Let us be honest. Elections are a costly affair. Politicians need money - and get it without much effort depending on their winnability.
The Birla and Sahara diaries reflected the fact that ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha poll the BJP was the obvious favourite. And the party had mounted one of the most expensive campaigns. The Congress didn't lack in funds, either, being the party in power for a decade. But the donors had more or less chosen the winner in Modi's BJP.
Citing the order in the Jain Hawala case, the Supreme Court dismissed the PIL seeking investigations into the Birla and Sahara diaries. However, the Jain Hawala diaries were one hundred percent authentic. Once his troubles ended, S K Jain, the main figure in the scam, before his death confided in close friends that he had indeed 'distributed' some Rs 60-odd crore to eminent politicians and bureaucrats in the hope of becoming 'another Ambani.'
Having made over Rs. 150 crores as a middleman in a particular power sector deal with a South Korean company, the Jain brothers believed that they could grow much bigger if they bought the goodwill of the powerful people. When the diaries were seized in a raid, they feared that they would be slapped with massive tax evasion and racketeering.
Therefore, they perforce denied their veracity. Yet, give Rs five lakhs to the JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav they did. Yes, they gave Rs. Ten crores to the BJP but because LK Advani happened to be the party president at the time, they listed his name in the diary.
However, some names in the Jain diaries showed pure bribes. For example, to a senior minister in the VP Singh Government. Or to a senior Gujarat-cadre IAS officer. Or to a then-upcoming hotelier close to the Gandhis. The point is that when you are out buying influence, you need to pay to wheeler-dealers close to the seat of power as also to those who preside over major political parties and need enormous funds to fight elections.
Likewise, not unlike the Jain diaries, payments in the Birla and Sahara diaries too can be divided between bribes and political donations. In the latter category fall the payments to the Modi-led BJP. Some other payments went into private pockets.
The Karnataka diary highlights the open loot underway in the State under the SiddaramaiahGovernment, with individual ministers routeing money to the central leaders through a designated point person.
It also evokes suspicion because some of the recipients have no business to receive party funds. For instance, it is alright for M. Vora, being the treasurer of the AICC, to get funds from the party-run State governments. But why should Digvijay Singh or others get money directly from Govind Raj? Also, it explains the inability of the Congress high command to take action against Siddaramaiahdespite serious charges of corruption.
Some years ago, while everyone in Andhra Pradesh knew that the YSR Reddy Government was one of the most corrupt in the country, the Congress leadership had turned a deaf ear because he regularly shared the loot with the central leadership. Notably, upon YSR’s death his son, Jaganmohan Reddy, was slapped with charges of amassing about Rs. 1,500 crore in illicit assets by the UPA Government when Jaganmohan refused to obey the Congress high command.
In sum, all parties, including the newly-minted AAP, take tens of crore in donations in black, but the trouble arises when these are diverted into private pockets. At least, in the case of Modi, not even his worst critics would suggest that he is personally corrupt - just as no one considers that the Gandhis and a majority of our politicians are incorrupt.
Virendra Kapoor is a Delhi-based journalist. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of Asianet Newsable
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:56 PM