New Delhi: The death of Arun Jaitley over the weekend was marked by hundreds of obituaries, with most heaping praise upon the former finance minister and erstwhile lawyer. On social media, an outpouring ensued, with journalists and lobbyists joining in and talking of various Lodhi garden walks, breaksfasts, lunches and dinners had with Jaitley – as well as some daily early morning phone calls.
I’ve lost my Guiding Light my mentor. @arunjaitley, Arun Sir for me, who will I call every morning now? Your wit, your humour, your anecdotes, your knowledge of history & your intellect was unparalleled. The brightest star in the sky will remind me you are watching & guiding us. pic.twitter.com/DIqI6RqVEQ
— Navika Kumar (@navikakumar) August 24, 2019
A revered politician in many circles, not many dared write articles showing him in a critical light.
But the drama that really caught the nation’s fancy this week – while also playing the double role of deflecting attention from the ongoing situation in Kashmir – was the midnight arrest of another former finance minster: P. Chidamabaram.
The dramatic arrest of the Congress leader in the INX media case saw the nation being fed visuals of the CBI scaling the wall of his residence in central Delhi, to more images of Chidambaram being whisked away in a car. The legal battle began the next day, with the CBI requesting for five-day custody of Chidambaram and getting it.
Chidambaram has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Chidambaram’s detention was decried by certain section of the media for the way in which it was conducted – a show of ‘vendettas being dressed as virtues’, as senior journalist Harish Khare put it. But for journalists part of the saffron party’s coterie, a triumphant moment of celebration had arrived, one which had brought a powerful man from the UPA years to his knees.
The celebration of the ‘vendetta moment’ was clear to see in an article published in Organiser, the mouthpiece of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which also published a small, short piece commemorating Jaitley’s life.
Titled ‘The Con is On’, it calls Chidambaram the ‘father of Saffron Terror’.
The article, written by Dr Govind Raj Shenoy, credits the “fertile imagination and genius of Chidambaram” for the creation of “Hindu Terror”.
Spinning the Ishrat Jahan story as the start of the sordid drama that the world knows as ‘Hindu Terror’, Shenoy writes:
“Without his ‘Hand’, Ishrat Jahan would have remained a mere Lashkar-e-Taiba fidayeen. He anointed her a martyr of ‘fake encounter’. He even ‘FIR’ed the imagination of an entire nation by altering the FIR in Ishrat Jahan encounter case.
Out of power in Gujarat since the mid-1990s, Chidambaram gave Congress their best chance to defeat Modi in 2012 by sending Amit Shah to jail and then getting him banished from Gujarat. Nobody can blame Chidambaram for not having tried his best to keep Modi and Shah away from Delhi. He was the man who made best use of CBI to achieve his goal of eliminating Modi. Unfortunately, the CBI couldn’t do justice to the missionary zeal of their boss and both Modi and Shah escaped.”
Through the article, Shenoy makes his worship of the Modi-Shah duo more than just visible.
“Vicious people are claiming, Karti Chidambaram has enough money to buy entire PoJK from Pakistan and can hand it over to Amit Shah if his father was allowed to go free. “That is so preposterous,” say some of the more knowledgeable people, “Karti can buy Bangladesh and Myanmar too and India can solve the Rohingyas and illegal immigrants’ problem once and forever.”
In another article on Chidambaram, V.N. Balakrishna plays judge, jury and executioner by declaring that the “game is over” now that the “ED and CBI finally stormed [Chidambaram’s] invincible citadel of crime, nepotism and money-laundering and the high court rejected his pre-arrest bail plea and CBI gets custody for investigation”.
The article is full of contempt for Chidamabaram and his Congress lawyers, while also chastising the leader that the “arrogance” he displayed when he arrested in Amit Shah in 2010 in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case had come back to bite him hard.
Her’s how it goes about making its main points:
“Despite a mountain of evidence, Chidambaram and his son played the victim card.”
“What the l’affaire Chidambaram saga reveals is a long list of betrayal that made a mockery of financial integrity of India as a nation governed by laws.”
“Karti was arrested last year and released on bail and is still on bail. CBI has already told the Supreme Court that he had ‘destroyed’ all evidences. It is just a matter of time that he will be sitting next to his father in the CBI headquarters.”
“Chidambaram’s arrogance as the Home Minister did him in when he foisted a fake encounter case to arrest then Home Minister of Gujarat, Amit Shah on 25 July 2010. Now he is learning to his woe that during good times it never pays to be arrogant as Hand of Law is above the Congress Hand.”
The sword of Damocles
In an op-ed published on the Gulf News website, journalist C.P. Surendran, who was accused of sexual harassment by 11 female journalists last October, has written about how the arrest of Chidambaram will “hang like a sword over the heads of other Indian opposition leaders”.
Talking about how the recent drama has been playing out much like the contents of a “well-made Hollywood movie”, he reiterates how Chidambaram has the CBI arrest Amit Shah in 2014, and how finally in December 2014, a CBI court “exonerated Shah of the charges” after Modi came to power at the Centre.
“That the CBI is a tool in the hands of those in power is clear from the instances above. And the CBI is not the exception. A lion’s share of India’s public institutions is run not on governance values.”
When Chidamabaram is out on bail, Surendran writes, he “would have come out a chastened, humbler man”.
“Humility has never been his forte. Years ago, Chidambaram famously said that all that Modi knew of economics could be written on the back of a postage stamp. Recently, in Parliament, he made little of the finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman’s claims to making Indian economy worth $5 trillion.”
Now that the tables have turned on the Congress party, the message being sent out to Chidambaram’s friends and comrades is an unpleasant one, he says.
“And with the Congress, as of now and in all likelihood for the next 10 years, in a state of decimation, the Chidambaram experience will hang like a sword over the heads of the leaders of the Opposition. Almost all the top leaders including Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and Shashi Tharoor have cases pending against them. Amit Shah is an extremely intelligent and efficient political machine. He knows the forces and means at his command, and will not hesitate to use these as and when.”
Surendran acknowledges that India’s economy “is not doing well” as “private investment, private consumption, exports are down”.
If the Modi government fails to curb this downward slide, Surendran warns that the BJP will have no “alternative but to radicalise its political moves even more in the ‘Right’ direction as this will both distract attention and at the same time keep up the morale of its constituencies high”.
“Nationalism”, he says, “nips many a budding revolt”.
“All around, there is anxiety. The liberals have played themselves out. I had warned of the fallout of ‘demonising Modi’… The Indian media, always at their best when not contested, is with the Modi regime. The ever-critical NGO sector is squeezed for funds thanks to government strictures. The Indian polity is sold on Modi. That leaves the minuscule fellowship-intellectuals and New York Times/Washington Post columnists. They are guilty of the same mistake as the opposition.
“If India wants to correct its course, one of the first things to have is a nuanced, civil discourse… The ground between stooges and separatists, nationalists and treasonists, has to be forged.”
In other news
Swarajya stuck fairly to the middle ground this week, first with its publication of criticism over the Modi government “delivering economic policies in weekly instalments” and why B.S. Yediyurappa appointing three deputy chief minsters in Karnataka is a “sign of weakness and not strength”.
Rightlog.in also changed its name back to The Frustrated Indian, or TFI, in an Independence Day announcement.