AgustaWestland scam: Flower of a toxic soil that took 60 years to bloom

Nothing illumines contemporaneity and the past like literature.

Padmashri Dr SL Bhyrappa’s 1980’s Kannada novel Anveshane (Quest) has a scene set in the late 1940s (or early 50s) where an underage boy is imprisoned on a false charge by a corrupt police inspector. A compassionate lawyer while freeing the boy chides the police inspector on these lines: "Aha! So early on after Independence and you’re already this corrupt!"

Congress president Sonia Gandhi. PTI

Congress president Sonia Gandhi. PTI

This scene is drawn directly from Dr Bhyrappa’s own life as a teenaged waiter in a hotel in Hubli whose owner bribes a cop and foists a false case against him.

And then there’s hard, cold reality like this one:

An item of his policy which I believe testifies to Nehru’s Marxist feeling… is his tolerance of corruption…Nehru’s Communism is revealed in the extraordinary favour he shows to the Communist Party….He allows the Russian Government, and apparently the Chinese too, to subsidise them. It has been admitted in Parliament that the Home Department knows about some of these foreign funds. No other ruler in the world tolerates this kind of thing. Why does Nehru?

This is from Philip Spratt’s foreword to the 1963 classic Nehru myth-buster “Genesis and Growth of Nehruism.” Spratt should know for he was a former Communist, a spy, an accused in the infamous Meerut Conspiracy Case, and one of the founders of the Communist Party of India.

Here’s yet another sample of the selfsame hard, cold reality:

Oleg Kalugin, who became head of FCD Directorate K (Counterintelligence) in 1973, remembers India as 'a model of KGB infiltration of a Third World Government': We had scores of sources throughout the Indian Government — in intelligence, counterintelligence, the Defence and Foreign Ministries, and the police…It seemed like the entire country was for sale; the KGB — and the CIA — had deeply penetrated the Indian Government. After a while neither side entrusted sensitive information to the Indians, realising that their enemy would know all about it the next day.

This self-explanatory tidbit is from the Mitrokhin Archives.

Then we have the Wikileaks cables that mention Rajiv Gandhi as a negotiator lobbying for the Swedish Viggen fighter aircraft in the 1970s. The then Air Marshal OP Mehra’s son-in-law Navin Behl was alleged to be lobbying on behalf of Viggen’s competitor, Mirage.

And then, in the 1980s, the Bofors scam blew Rajiv Gandhi’s massive 404-seat mandate to a million shards, a taint that continues to haunt his legacy and whatever is left of his party.

The common factor in all of these: financial corruption apart, a reckless disregard for national security by three former prime ministers belonging to the same bloodline. Innumerable reports and books have repeatedly exposed how foreign agents of various hues had acquired powerful clout in the successive governments run by said bloodline. All for the family, of course.

The ongoing political brawl and national outrage over the AgustaWestland scandal though justified, should surprise no one. The AgustaWestland scam couldn’t flower but for the six decade-long preparation of this soil of corruption made fertile with such toxic manure, whose genesis Spratt traces in these words:

…[in 1953] the Congress Party was by no means socialistic…the resolution on the socialistic patter was passed at Avadi…overlooked the attraction of socialism for a ruling party of hungry careerists…many of the public are still unaware of what it is all about. It is really whether India shall continue to be ruled by a Government of usurpers…

“Government of usurpers” is a devastatingly accurate definition, most recently, of the two-term UPA government. What else does one call a government whose prime minister reports to an ordinary Member of Parliament who in turn seeks inputs from an extra-Constitutional body styled as the National Advisory Council?

While the AgustaWestland scam is hot at the moment in the Parliament, two other crucial revelations surfaced around the same timeline: the role of former home (and later finance) minister P Chidambaram in the Ishrat Jahan case, and his son Karti Chidambaram’s global “benaami” empire (to quote S Gurumurthy) via Advantage Strategic Consulting Private Limited, which is valued at hundreds if not thousands of crores.

The intrepid Rajeev Srinivasan nails it in his Firstpost piece:

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?... 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.

In the first instance, Chidambaram misused his ministerial position to target his political opponent and shore up his own political strength. In the second, he again misused his official position to enhance his family’s fortunes.

It’s the first instance that’s significant because it concerns national security.

Right from its first innings in 2004, the Congress-led UPA government has demonstrated with sickening frequency that it cared zilch about national security and failed to carry out a basic duty: ensuring the safety of Indian citizens. Former home minister Shivraj Patil’s disgraceful era remains an ignominious monument to this fact: after brazenly disregarding repeated terror attacks on Indian soil, it finally took26/11 for the Congress to show him the door.

Neither did things improve after Chidambaram replaced Patil as the home minister, as the Ishrat Jahan revelations demonstrate. If anything, it shows the opposite. Equally, the recurring deaths of Indian scientists involved in national security projects, and the existence of a Pakistani mole (in our Intelligence apparatus) codenamed “Honey Bee” among others show the horrifying extent to which national security was compromised.

And now, to our eternal shame, we get to hear that the former Air Chief Tyagi was contemptuously referred to as “gorgeous girl” by sleazy defence dealers, which as this Firstpost piece rightly says, reduced him “to the level of a gangster's moll, a Mona Darling to Lion.” Also the fact that Tyagi’s relatives are now being investigated eerily harks back to the 1970s’ Air Chief Marshal OP Mehra’s son-in-law Navin Behl referred to earlier in this article.

Among the more damaging aspects of the AgustaWestland scam is the ease with which the media was “managed,” a euphemism for “bought.” Given our massively cynical times, Rs 45 crore is indeed a tidy sum to facilitate said management. As we’ve noticed over the past few days, the reactions of prominent journalists, media celebrities, etc on TV, print and digital outlets indicate their nervousness.

Again, none should be surprised. The Mitrokhin Archives also reveal how, in Arun Shourie’s words, “our "free and fair" media" was easily infiltrated with really paltry sums of money, and “[the Mitrokhin Archives] recounts the ease with which the KGB and the CIA were able to plant stories." From then to now, the only change has been in the realm of the scale of fortune these media worthies have amassed.

And so we see how little has equally changed from Nehru’s time where he allowed (foreign) Communist-regime funding into India to his daughter’s daughter-in-law’s time.

The AgustaWestland scam won’t be the last of the skeletons to tumble out of the cupboard of the erstwhile UPA regime.

There’s just no other way of saying this: the two-term regime of the UPA was a decade of scambaggery, which left behind a sprawling trail of institutional destruction. In which other democracy would ajudge grant bail over the phone? From Haryana to Maharashtra to (undivided) Andhra Pradesh, every Congress-ruled state had been converted into a den of scams and pervasive corruption.

To gauge the extent of this comprehensive subversion, one can recall the instant, spontaneous uproar by Congress MPs in the Rajya Sabha last week,when Subramanian Swamy as much as uttered Sonia’s name. What is it about the Congress chief that her party members insist that she be beyond the law? And why is she being shielded in this manner when there is every real possibility that nothing good or bad went on in the UPA without her consent if not collusion?

Almost two years since it lost power, the Congress continues to impede India’s progress by vitiating national discourseand stalling Parliament among other ugly tactics. And it shows no sign of stopping.

Just what has the Congress reduced this nation to?

Updated Date: May 06, 2016 07:39 AM

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