By Ram Jethmalani is a senior politician and eminent lawyer
Palaniappan Chidambaram, whom I shall for the sake of brevity call just Chidambaram, is best seen through black and white. And please don’t get me wrong and accuse me of racism. I refer not to epidermis or mane, but to the economic colour of money. Some of his greatest contributions to the economy of India are his brilliant pioneering initiatives for changing the colour of money from black to white. And this passion has never left him.
Many of us have forgotten the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme (VDIS) 1997, which he announced when he was Finance Minister with the United Front government, granting income-tax defaulters indefinite immunity from prosecution under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973, Income Tax Act, 1961, Wealth Tax Act, 1957, and Companies Act, 1956, in exchange of self-valuation and disclosure of income and assets. The scheme was brilliantly conceived. While all schemes in the past valued declared assets at current prices, VDIS 1997 brought in an arbitrary date of 1 April 1987. Gold and silver hoarders, and large property holders got an exceptional bonanza on this valuation system. Further, proof of purchase was not insisted upon, which gave complete freedom to the confessors to fudge any date they wanted to their own financial advantage and further plunder of the country. So, even if gold was bought after 1987, it could be shown as having been bought before 1987, and it was a win-win game for all stakeholders to rake in the cuts. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India condemned the scheme in his report as abusive and a fraud on the genuine taxpayers of the country. But the issue was forgotten, and the illustrious career of Palaniappan Chidambaram rose to greater heights in the UPA regime.
Those were his innocent days. What a long way he has come since the era when he was cooking up VDISs, so utterly transparent, that the loopholes and avenues to give relief to the looters stared you in the face. The world economy was also then a little simpler than it is today, and his best achievement was getting caught about his investments in Fairgrowth, which was involved in the Securities Scam of 1992. Chidambaram had to resign for this utterly transparent investment in a company whose scam would have paid rich dividends. Unfortunately, he was not Finance Minister at the time and did not have the machinery to hush things up, and could only remotely control the markets, unlike his present capabilities as former Finance Minister and thereafter.
Being Finance Minister in the UPA government was his finest hour. He could fiddle around with share markets, capital markets, banks, financial instruments, such as, securities, participatory notes, tax treaties, not to speak of spectrum sale, and use his extraordinary innovative powers of black money magic to plunder our country with complete impunity. He assiduously cultivated the media with his clipped English accent (that led him down, now and then), occasional freebies, and sustained shadows of the Enforcement Directorate that he commanded.
Chidambaram cannot get black money out of his blood. Dr Subramanian Swamy has clearly stated in his website, “I now have further information from my usually reliable sources in the Union Government that the tapping of Finance Minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee and his close associate in the Ministry, enabled Mr. Robert Vadra the son-in-law of Ms. Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Karthik son of Mr. P. Chidambaram, to use the data thereby collected to manipulate and rig the Mumbai stock market. Earlier these data were directly provided by the then Finance Minister Mr. Chidambaram. I demand that the SEBI be asked by PM to initiate ‘Insider Trading’ investigation and prosecution of Mr. Vadra and Mr. Karthik.”
If what is put out by Dr Subramanian Swamy is false why doesn’t Chidambaram sue him?
The dark clouds of the 2G scam and the repeated evidence being given by A. Raja and other accused of his tacit involvement and other acts of omission and commission are menacingly closing in on Chidambaram. He is losing his cool, and more importantly, losing his carefully clipped English accent to its more indigenous roots more often. And like his colleague Digvijay Singh, his mind seems to be disintegrating to a stage where he has started talking gibberish. Take this, for example: in reply to the BJP demand for his resignation for his involvement in the 2G scam, Chidambaram claims that the BJP is targeting him since he initiated a probe by the NIA into Hindu terror. Can any rational person see the connection between the two?
Take also his comments regarding the recent Mumbai blasts. As Home Minister, instead of taking stock of the situation, and providing leadership, the only intelligent thing he could think of saying was, “No intelligence is not intelligence failure.” Even a college debating society expects better logic. It’s something like saying “illness is not a failure of health” or “impotence is not a failure of potency”.
Chidambaram’s special financial skills have diversified into electoral politics also. He has the distinction of having been declared defeated in the last Lok Sabha election, after which he galvanized his special skills and local machinery, in particular, a data entry operator, and doctored a marginal victory on the recount. That is quite a record for fraud. And can one forget how the Indian Bank was cleaned up and left with only non-performing assets thanks to him and his Tamil Maanila buddies?
Chidambaram’s record as Home Minister has been disastrous. Neither has he made any impact on internal security, with the worst massacres of his own paramilitary forces taking place in his time, nor on terrorism, which carries on in complete complacency because there are neither effective preventive or punitive systems in place, nor political will and national legislation to combat terrorism. It is on record and in the public domain that the Home Ministry gave incorrect names of India’s most wanted list of terrorists allegedly hiding in Pakistan, some of whom were tracked living in India or in custody. Is this a testament to his fabled efficiency and commitment?
What a laughing stock we must be before the world. It is almost as if India is determined that it shall not combat terrorism, shall not have enabling legislation as enacted by the US, such as the Homeland Security Act 2002, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 of UK and similar legislations in European governments. India is determined not to have an effective national agency on the lines of the Homeland Security Department of the US. The ramshackle National Investigation Agency showed itself as a complete failure during the recent Mumbai attacks. Understandable, because its only mandate appears to be to investigate “Hindu terror”, the last refuge for failed and hopeless Congressmen like Chidambaram. The CCTNS, JIC, ARC, NTRO (presently in another scam), and NCTC remain effete, scattered and unmonitorable, even by the Home Ministry. With such an unequivocal determination by the UPA government not to address terrorism effectively, I can only grieve for my country.