Following Ishrat Jahan exposé, Chidambaram cannot remain silent for long

It cannot get worse than this for P Chidambaram, the most articulate and powerful minister of the UPA government. The latest revelations in the Ishrat Jahan case, assessed through an RTI by Times Now, has practically nailed him in a position from where he might not be able to retrieve himself, both as a leader and as a think tank of the Congress party.

Time will tell what legal recourse awaits the then home minister, who might have to defend his actions in a court of law. The Congress party will also have to gear up to face BJP’s onslaught over the issue in Parliament, when it resumes for the second half of the budget session following the recess.

P Chidambaram. AFP

P Chidambaram. AFP

The former home and finance minister had perhaps forgotten about his own government’s most valuable gift to the nation – the Right to Information act. More so, with change of regime at the Centre, his notings on critical files like Ishrat Jahan would not be beyond public scrutiny.

The official papers retrieved through an RTI clearly show that the first affidavit had followed due administrative pattern at all levels in the Ministry of Home Affairs, and was finally seen and approved by Chidambaram with his signature dated July 29, 2009.

Only recently, he had eloquently claimed that the first affidavit was filed ‘without’ his approval and thus a second affidavit was submitted before the High Court in which he only made ‘some editorial changes’ as a ‘compulsive habit of all lawyers.’

He said, ‘‘which part of the second affidavit is wrong? I accept the responsibility for this affidavit. It is disappointing that the home secretary, who is equally responsible, wants to distance himself from this.

“It was brought to my notice that the first affidavit was filed without my approval and it was being misinterpreted. It was my duty to correct the first affidavit. So we filed a supplementary affidavit after consulting the home secretary, the director of Intelligence Bureau and other officers," Chidambaram said, as per ANI.

The file notings for the two affidavits filed by the UPA government on the Ishrat case, within a span of two months between second half of July to September end 2009, prove that the controversy on the subject was largely of his and the Congress leadership’s making.

Anyone with rudimentary understanding of how the government works, particularly in such sensitive matters, would know that Chidambaram’s change of mind within a span of about 50 days­ from - declaring Ishrat as a Lashkar-e-Taiba’s indoctrinated fidayeen operative to virtually an aspiring innocent Mumbra girl - couldn’t only have come from his end.

It had to be a high stakes political decision, deliberated and cleared at the highest level of the Congress party and the UPA government.

The BJP, as any other political party under the circumstances would do, is out to milk the controversy for their own political benefits. Chidambaram’s noting on the file in black and white helps them showcase how malicious the Congress could become in its intent and purpose to finish their emerging political challenger from Gujarat, Narendra Modi, and­ make every attempt to write a political obituary for him.

The party would then relate any other issue, which the Congress opposes inside or outside the Parliament, as opposition not to the issue but to the persona of Narendra Modi.

The party also wants to clear the name of its leader in a case in which he was never accused, but was continuously targeted through various means by his political rivals.

For now, Ishrat’s ghost would haunt Chidambaram. Even otherwise, these are not the best times for him. The BJP leadership is currently mulling on possible actions that could be taken against Chidambaram. A political battle is already being fought in the public domain.

Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitaraman, known for her aggressive pitching, was specially fielded yesterday to hold a media briefing at party headquarters - 11 Ashoka Road, soon after Times Now played up the story.

Srikant Sharma, BJP’s national secretary and incharge of media cell, called
Chidambaram’s action `rahtrahit se gadari’. He said, “Chidambaram’s actions are a classic case of betrayal of national interest. Remember, he was the country’s home minister then. The nation can’t forgive a person who took an oath to uphold the Constitution, occupied office as home minister to secure internal security of the nation but was out to destroy its internal security infrastructure with a singular purpose to finish a popular chief minister who was to become the Prime Minister,”

“He compromised with national interests only to serve undeserving ambitions of his political masters. We will take it up politically in the Parliament when it opens next week. He will have to face consequences for his unholy deeds. I am sure for him law will take its logical course. Don’t forget that these four Lakshar terrorists, including two Pakistanis killed by security agencies in an encounter, were out to assassinate Narendra Modi,” he added.

There is little doubt that the ruling BJP will pursue legal course against Chidambaram. The only thing that remains to be decided is what would be the best course of action – file a case citing attempt to mislead the courts, treason or something else.

Firstpost had earlier said that the Congress had long waged its legal and political battle against Narendra Modi through the medium of Ishrat Jahan's ghost.

Historically, as a home minister, Chidambaram has shown that on critical issues relating to internal security - like Ishrat case or the menace of naxalism - he began well, but soon succumbed to his party’s pressure, and began playing the party boss’ tune. Being an eminent lawyer he could justify his actions either way on a public platform.
In 2010, in an article published in Economic Times, Digvijay Singh had called him “intellectually arrogant". Although Singh was seeking a review

of the centre’s aggressive naxal policy, it certainly gave an idea as to what his revered colleagues thought about him.

"I have known P Chidambaram since 1985 when we both were elected to Parliament. He is extremely intelligent, articulate, committed and a sincere politician, but extremely rigid once he makes up his mind,” Singh said.

“I have been a victim of his intellectual arrogance many times but we still are good friends,” Singh said.

Mani Shankar Aiyar fully endorsed Singh’s view on Chidamabarm saying, "Digvijay is not one hundred per cent right, he is not even one thousand per cent right, he is one lakh per cent right."

Writing for Counter Current, Trevor Selvam quoted Mani Shankar Aiyar saying, “His deposition over four sessions in the witness-box has shown him up as the most incompetent minister of state for internal security (1986-89) and the most negligent as minister in charge of the investigation into Rajiv Gandhi's assassination from May 24, 1995, till his defection to the TMC on April Fool's Day, 1996.”

Chidambaram has not spoken since the RTI exposed his position of half truth or even lies. He has a lot of explaining to do. He cannot afford to remain silent for long.

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Updated Date: Apr 20, 2016 07:57:25 IST

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