The formidably intelligent P Chidambaram has always been one of the most enigmatic politicians in India. I have long felt that he is the one person nobody in India would dare to speak up against (well, there was also Sachin Tendulkar, but he is now a lion in winter). That is because he clearly exudes authority (and of course that fearsome intelligence).
Whether he is in power (Home Minister or Finance Minister till recently) or out (he was in the wilderness for years with the Tamil Maanila Congress), he has an aura about him. No, you don’t cross him lightly. He has charisma, and he was by far the most powerful person in Sonia’s regime. Besides, as a Chettiar, he has inherited a millennium worth of astuteness.
Therefore, in the waning days of February, I was astonished at the accusations levelled against Chidambaram: the first that he had doctored the report about Ishrat Jahan to remove all references to the LeT; the second that his son Karti had amassed an empire, especially in real estate, all over the world apparently during the time PC held the Finance and Home portfolios.
The fact that there’s this sudden double whammy on P Chidambaram surprises me. The Ishrat revelations were brought out by GK Pillai, the then-home secretary. And, incredibly, PC admitted he had done it, or at least that is what appeared to be the case in an interview. This is startling because it amounts to something rather like treason. Not the kind of thing a stalwart like PC should be admitting to, or getting involved in.
But there’s an interesting twist. For, the allegations made about #IshratGate are not new. RVS Mani, another home ministry official, took early retirement a few years ago alleging harassment – including physical torture such as cigarette burns – by intelligence officials. He was in the centre of the controversy, having signed both the original affidavit fingering Ishrat and friends as LeT, and then the later affidavit disclaiming the LeT connection.
But why did both these allegations (about #IshratGate and Karti’s immense, apparently ill-gotten fortune) come out at this time? Surely, those in media who had been the most willing to buy the UPA’s line about Ishrat the Innocent (namely NDTV and friends) have not had a change of heart. And it was the Times Group that published the damaging material from Pillai and Mani.
Similarly, the information about Karti’s fortunes was released by The Pioneer, specifically by J Gopikrishnan, who, through years of due diligence, broke open the 2G scam and has been investigating the Aircel-Maxis deal which also has links to Chidambaram.
So I repeat, why did these stories get traction now?
Here’s my conjecture: fed up with the Congress and the Left, especially after their anti-national #BreakingIndia antics at JNU, Haryana and elsewhere, the NDA government is sending a warning shot across the bows of the Opposition (and its handlers in China, Pakistan and #DeepState). The government may feel vindicated by the massive outpouring of disgust at the anti-national utterances of the JNU students, their faculty and supporters. No country can survive if it remains weak-kneed in the face of this level of sedition, and Indians realize it too. The Lefties made a big boo-boo: they didn’t realize what plays in Lutyens doesn’t play in Jhumri Thalaiya.
And to rub that in, the government is taking on the strongest person in the Opposition, not a weak link and the assault is with, as it were, nuclear weapons. I was personally appalled by the allegation that a Home Minister would deliberately underplay the role of terrorism from Pakistan in l’affaire Ishrat, with the sole purpose of damaging Narendra Modi. As much as I have a healthy respect for the Congress’ ethics, this was beyond belief. Corruption I understand, but outright treason?
Is the government, then, saying, “Look, we have the dossiers. We know what you’ve done. And some of the things you have done are so shocking that we can do you some serious damage. So you better watch it”?
This may well be a tactic to pre-empt trouble if Sonia Gandhi and son are found guilty in the National Herald case and the Congress decides to foment some riots. If they, and Manmohan Singh, and Chidambaram, are all implicated either by omission or commission in blatant anti-national activities, the sympathy factor will evaporate. Goodbye, 2019!
The government played its PR cards right in the case of the JNU lefties. Despite all their huffing and puffing, and their hope of creating some ‘martyrs’ by provoking violence, the JNU lefties ended up tamely confessing and tearfully declaring allegiance to the Indian Constitution.
If that doesn’t totally ruin their ‘revolutionary’ krantikari cred, I don’t know what will. Score: Government 1, Lefties 0.
If there is any truth in the allegations about Chidambaram, he may well be looking at the end of his political career, and his son may be looking at some serious jail time. By boldly going after the strongest person in the Congress, the government may be saying, “Behave, or else!”
It may signal no more accommodation on, for instance, the disruption in the Rajya Sabha.
There is a whole lot of signalling going on. @suvodipd suggested that Chidambaram may be reminding Sonia Gandhi and son that, after all, he has dossiers and unless they support his son Karti, skeletons may tumble out of cupboards. People are protective of their offspring, and PC may be no different: if Karti is going down, he’s going to take down Sonia as well.
The Congress is scrambling for a response: the government is signalling this is the other shoe falling after Smriti Irani’s withering assault on them in Parliament. No more Mr Nice Guy?
The government may be signalling to the media that they have reached the end of their tether; and reminding the Congress that it does hold power right now. Yes, power has its prerogatives. That’s of course why Nehruvian Stalinists are so loath to part with it. But they may have, may just have, overplayed their hand a teeny bit in their pursuit of ‘Dynasty by All Means’. This may well be the beginning of the end of the Congress, as Mahatma Gandhi wished for in 1947. Treason is a four-letter word.