From P Chidambaram, DK Shivakumar to Sharad Pawar: Why Opposition's allegations of selective action bear substance

While these charges, as standalone cases of corruption, may or may not hold enough water to stand the scrutiny of a court in due time. But the systematic crackdown only on opposition leaders, and the timing of such actions has oft been questioned.

FP Staff September 27, 2019 11:01:23 IST
From P Chidambaram, DK Shivakumar to Sharad Pawar: Why Opposition's allegations of selective action bear substance
  • From P Chidambaram to Robert Vadra to Sharad Pawar, key figures linked to those in the Opposition are on the investigating agency's radar.

  • On the contrary, cases against members of the ruling party or BJP's alliance partners are pushed on the backburner.

  • This is why when the Opposition leaders allege that BJP draws sadistic pleasure in opening cases against Opposition leaders it is hard to shake off these allegations

In 2013, when the Supreme Court denounced the elite Central Bureau of Investigation as a 'caged parrot', little to no attention was given to another premium agency tasked with probing economical offences, the Enforcement Directorate. Yet, seven years down the line, it is the latter agency that the Opposition leaders are wary of.

From P Chidambaram to Robert Vadra to Sharad Pawar, key figures linked to those in the Opposition are on the investigating agency's radar.

On Thursday, Enforcement Directorate broadened its net in a money laundering case linked to businessman Robert Vadra. The investigating agency sought Vadra's custody from Delhi High Court, stating that Vadra was uncooperative.

However, Vadra's counsel said that the businessman had cooperated by appearing for summons. The lawyer said his client had answered questions posed to him and added that "not confessing" to the charges did not mean he was being uncooperative in the investigation.

Chidambaram

A different case, a different counsel, but the story was similar in Chidambaram's case where the latter's primary contention was that he has answered all summons and appeared before the agency for questioning.

"You (ED) want to arrest me, but for what reason? The answer is — to humiliate me, to humiliate me and to humiliate me, minute by minute and hour by hour," senior lawyer and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said arguing on behalf of Chidambaram.

From P Chidambaram DK Shivakumar to Sharad Pawar Why Oppositions allegations of selective action bear substance

Ex-finance minister P Chidambaram outside the Delhi court on 5 September. PTI

On allegations of Chidambaram being evasive during investigation, Singhvi said 12 questions were put to him and though six of them were repetitive, he answered all of them and never said "to hell with you and I would not answer your questions".

"The question put to me (Chidambaram) was, do I have a foreign bank account. I said I do not have any foreign bank account. Then another question was asked does your son have any foreign bank account. I said yes and he has taken requisite permission from the RBI for that," he said.

"How does question of evasion arise unless they (ED) want you to give an answer which they want," he said, adding that ED has presented a "completely distorted version" of what evasion is.

DK Shivakumar

Congress leader DK Shivakumar, who played a key role in keeping BJP out of power for one year in Bengaluru, is also currently lodged in Tihar jail and is being probed for money laundering.

ED's case against Shivakumar is based on findings of the Income Tax department in 2017-18. The IT probe suggested that Shivakumar was benefitting from a well-crafted network which was helping him evade tax.

The ED issued a notice asking Shivakumar to appear before it on 30 August for questioning. After four days of questioning, the ED arrested Shivakumar on 3 September, saying he had failed to cooperate.

Madhya Pradesh’s Congress chief minister Kamal Nath’s nephew Ratul Puri was also arrested by the ED in connection to a Rs 354 crore bank fraud case recently. His residence was raided by the IT department just ahead of the state elections.

Sharad Pawar was booked by the Enforcement Directorate in a criminal case in connection with the Rs 25,000-crore scam pertaining to the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB).

While these charges, as standalone cases of corruption, may or may not hold enough water to stand the scrutiny of a court in due time, the crackdown only on opposition leaders, and the timing of such actions has oft been questioned.

Chidambaram was arrested in a dramatic turn of events, just when the Congress party was readying an attack on the government on the issue of joblessness and lack of growth, as implied by the former finance minister himself.

The narrative against Vadra has been perennially strong ever since BJP was in the Opposition and the topic catches on every time there is an election around.

From P Chidambaram DK Shivakumar to Sharad Pawar Why Oppositions allegations of selective action bear substance

File image of Karnataka Congress Minister DK Shivakumar. ANI

Shivakumar had long been a thorn in the side of the party when he first facilitated Ahmed Patel's win in Rajya Sabha elections from Gujarat when BJP was rooting to keep him out of the Upper House. Then he single-handedly saved the JD(S)-Congress government from unravelling several times before the BJP finally succeeded in taking power.

And Pawar's case comes close on the heels of Maharashtra polls and a time when the opposition in the state is trying to join forces.

Pawar said, “I am not surprised that the government has taken this decision. This is a clear-cut indication that I am getting a very good response. I’m happy because I haven't taken a single thing from the bank. I am happy because elections are round the corner and I am getting extremely good response from Maharashtra. Because of this action, the response for me will definitely improve," he said.

Within hours, NCP workers started rallying on social media, changing their display pictures to those of Sharad Pawar.

“I don’t want to comment on whether this is politically motivated, but any sane person will think here is the case where Pawar is not associated with any decision-making authority. Yet, on a complaint that certain decision-makers are close to me, some people think of me. I am quite happy because I am not a director or officer bearer of this bank for the last 50 years; I have had no decision-making authority for years now. I don't know how my name is there,” he said.

On the contrary, cases against members of the ruling party or BJP's alliance partners are pushed on to the back burner.

BJP leaders under ED radar include Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa, the Reddy brothers of Bellary, current Human Resource Development minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ and Narayan Rane. All these leaders are facing charges of alleged corruption but ED seems to have made little progress against them. Other names include that of Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is allegedly a key suspect in the water supply scam, and Mukul Roy, who is facing a probe in the Narada 'sting' issue, but the trail seems to have gone cold since these leaders moved to the BJP, or so the Opposition alleges.

Likewise, two TDP leaders CM Ramesh and YS Chowdary, who were earlier being probed for tax regularities, have barely made headlines since they joined BJP in June this year.

As a report in The Wire points out, prominent faces in the Biju Janata Dal were being named in cases related to the Rose Valley chit fund scam. However, with Naveen Patnaik supporting all the Union government's moves in Parliament, those cases too have stopped receiving attention.

Therefore, when the Opposition leaders allege that BJP draws sadistic pleasure in opening cases against Opposition leaders, or when they say that  CBI, ED and other investigating agencies have become captive puppets in the government's hands, it is hard to shake off these allegations.

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