Sonia & satyagraha some questions

Date: 09 Mar 2007


Sonia & satyagraha  some questions 

Sudheendra Kulkarni

Posted online: Sunday, March 04, 2007 

The scariest moments in a nation's life come not when crooks breach the law for self-gain and then corrupt the politico-judicial system for self-protection. Rather, they arrive when the honest and the upright lose their moral backbone and choose to misuse their power to defend the unscrupulous. 

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh made that fatal choice on Wednesday when he weakly asserted that his government had done "nothing wrong" in the Quattrocchi matter. As an individual, Dr Singh is incorruptible. But as prime minister he has allowed himself to be guided by ignoble instincts to turn the concept of right and wrong on its head in an unbecoming attempt to protect Mr Q in order to protect Ms G. 

Dr Singh's statement that the CBI enjoys "full freedom" to pursue the Bofors case flies in the face of facts. It would ring true only if he meant that the CBI had been given full freedom to weaken, subvert and ultimately bury its own case against the Italian fugitive, who is the prime accused in India's most politically significant corruption scandal. 

Similarly, his assertion that his government had not interfered with the functioning of the CBI would hold water only if he were to admit that the Union Ministry of Law and the Department of Personnel are not part of his government and take orders directly from 10 Janpath. 

Public memory is not so short as to forget how Union Law Minister H.R. Bharadwaj orchestrated the defreezing of Mr Q's bank accounts in London last year. This was done by keeping the CBI (and probably even the prime minister) in the dark. Yet Dr Singh had falsely claimed that defreezing of Mr Q's accounts was CBI's own decision and that his government had no role in it. 
This prime ministerial lie has been fully exposed by the correspondence between the CBI and Britain's Crown Prosecution Service, which is now being presented before the Supreme Court. The facts of this entire episode are so damning that the CBI refused to make them public when former Union Law Minister Arun Jaitley filed an application under the much-trumpeted Right to Information Act. 

Now that the prime minister has bravely agreed to have a debate in Parliament on Mr Q's detention in Argentina, will he finally share with the people of India the full facts on how and why his government okayed the "financial acquittal" of one who, like Dawood Ibrahim, is an absconder from Indian law? 
Anyone who has a modicum of respect for truth and concern for justice would agree that successive Congress governments, beginning with Rajiv Gandhi's, have done everything possible to prevent the identity of the intermediate and ultimate beneficiaries of the Bofors payoffs from being established. 
For this purpose, they have sought to thwart the investigation and derail the judicial process in a manner that has put India's democracy to shame. Indeed, the conspiracy and actual acts of cover-up have now piled up to a height that dwarfs the criminality of the original case of political bribe-taking with Mr Q serving as the principal conduit.
But why have Congressmen thrown a protective ring around Mr Q? Don't they know that Rajiv Gandhi had to pay a heavy political price in 1989 because of the people's suspicion about his role in the Bofors scandal? Why are they so sure that history won't repeat itself? If they think that Rajiv was wrongly punished, they should insist on him being absolved, beyond an iota of doubt, after due completion of the judicial process by the Supreme Court. For this, Mr Q must be brought to and tried in India. 

However, the present Congress leadership does not want this to happen. Indeed, the Congress president strongly defended Mr Q while talking to reporters on August 13, 1999: "The CBI has found him suspect. But we have not seen till today the papers that he has done something." 

This was patently a lie. As affirmed by N. Ram, the editor of The Hindu, whose courage, commitment and consistency in the journalistic investigation of this scandal have been exemplary, "The documents in the CBI's possession establish Quattrocchi's deep-end involvement in the Bofors corruption scandal." ('Know Your Bofors', 
The all-important question is: Why did Sonia Gandhi defend Mr Q, and is now causing her government to do so? For an answer, revisit an explosive article that Sten Lindstrom, a Swedish officer who investigated the Bofors scandal, wrote on April 9, 2004. "Truth has a nasty habit of surfacing when we least expect it to. I do not believe that day is far. Ottavio Quattrocchi, the Italian middleman who negotiated the political payoff through A.E. Services, must be interrogated. Sonia Gandhi must be questioned. All else is detail." ( 
And this was the leader who, sidelining even the Prime Minister of the country, sought to hog global limelight by organising, recently, a conference to commemorate the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi's satyagraha campaign. Soniaji, all that you have done so far qualifies as an 'asatyagraha campaign' aimed at shielding Mr Q, in order to shield yourself.