Oct 23, 2011
By Florine Roche
When former Telecom Minister A Raja of DMK, an ally of the ruling Congress party at the centre was sent to jail in March 2011, one did not expect it would become a rule rather than exception. But soon there were a few ministers who followed A Raja and they continue to be in Tihar jail. Naturally the much feared Tihar jail has undergone an image change as more and more the rich and the famous and the who is who of politicians are landing up in the jail to be along with dreaded and petty criminals. Following their entry into jail some creative minds worked overtime to humour themselves and also others. So we had mails and smses saying a new political party was set up at Tihar Jail or Tihar Jail to open a new exclusive ATM for inmates and what not. But on one had the slightest inclination that there will be more to this nautanki - of ministers including former Chief Ministers being sent to jail for corruption.
So, when former Congress- DMK are languishing in Tihar Jail in the South it is the turn of BJP leader and former Chief Minister Yeddyurappa and his former ministers to be sent to jail on corruption charges. With his arrest he became only the third former Chief Minister (A R Antulay of Maharashtra was the first one followed by Jayalalitha) in the country to be sent to jail on a private complaint under Prevention of Corruption Act. The highly charged political tamasha in Karnataka must have put the central leadership of BJP in a piquant situation over the issue of Yeddyurappa especially at a time when its senior most leader L K Advani is undertaking a nation-wide yatra against corruption.
The cherry on the cake in this political drama in BJP is that Yeddyurappa’s bête noire Anant Kumar is said to be the chief architect of this yatra of Advani and Advani was the first BJP leader to make his disdain for Yeddyurappa known publicly. Katta Subhrahmanya Naidu and his son, Yeddyurappa, Krishnaiah Setty and Janardhana Reddy – all BJP stalwarts and leaders in Karnataka are finding themselves behind the bars for corruption in Bangalore jail. There was also actor Darshan Thugudeep another high profile personality who became a “jailed hero” for battering his wife and had to go to jail. What we are seeing now is how Yeddyurappa is trying all tricks up his sleeves to escape from going to jail.
Though there have been scandals galore in the history of independent India very few politicians and ministers involved in these scandals have gone to jail. The first minister to be jailed for corruption was Arjun Singh’s father Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh, who was a minister in Nehru’s Cabinet. Nehru also had sacked his first finance minister R K Shanmukham Chetty, whom he believed to be helping to industrialists close to the Congress in evading income tax. It was the turn of A R Antulay, former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, to be sent to jail in 1984.
Another high profile scandal that resulted in the arrest of a Union Minister was former Telecom Minister Sukhram who was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment by a Delhi court in 2009 for amassing assets disproportionate to his known source of income. He was arrested by CBI in September 1996 and after an inordinate delay of 13 years and 6 months the court sentenced him to 3 years of imprisonment. But he secured bail and his case is still pending in Delhi High Court. Sukh Ram is now almost 85 and one can assume where the matter is going to end.
We know the fate of the Rs. 64 crore Bofors case where none has been acquitted. There is the Rs. 175 crore Taj Corridor case against UP Chief Minister Mayavati for embezzlement. But the UP Governor declined permission to CBI to prosecute Mayavati and the case is gathering dust with Maya memsahib ruling the roost. The Gift Case worth Rs. 3 crores against Jayalalitha is still pending with the CBI continuing its investigation. The disproportionate assets case against Mulayam Singh Yadav and sons to the tune of Rs. 100 crores registered in 2007 is diluted thanks to the Congress party which aligned with Mulayam in 2008 after the Left withdrawing support. A disproportionate assets case registered against Laloo and Rabri in 2001. But with Laloo becoming a key ally of UPA in 2004 the CBI went easy on the case and the couple was acquitted in 2010.
Unlike in the cases cited above the only difference this time around is that many of the ministers involved in corruption are behind the bars. With Anna Hazare and his team of social activists tightening their noose against the Congress, it may not be that easy for these politicians to escape from the clutches of law. But the major opposition BJP is also caught in a quagmire with regard to Yeddyurappa and its own crusade against corruption may not hold any water. One can only expect law to take its own course without discriminating against aam aadmi and powerful ministers and politicians without undue delay. It is required because public memory is too short!