• Associate Sponsor

Across the Aisle: Searching for a method in the madness

On the National Herald issue, it appears that the government was prepared for the expected.

Written by P Chidambaram | Published: December 20, 2015 12:00 am
National Herald case, Bihar elections, Paris attacks, Arvind Kejriwal, AAP CBI raid, Bharatiya Janata party, iecoumnist, P Chidambaram, the inian express Weeks before the verdict, the government seemed to take sides in the private case.

It is said ‘there is a method in the madness’.

The Bihar elections had a lesson for everybody. The BJP learned that there was no one-size Modi cap that will fit all the states. The Congress learned that it could not be the lead player — or a lone player — in all situations. The JD(U) and the RJD learned that there is no such thing as permanent friends or permanent enemies and they have to work hard to remain friends.

One-state parties also learned their lesson in a quiet way. If you are a one-state party, that state is where you belong and that is where you should stay and guard your turf. It is a lesson learned many years ago by the DMK, AIADMK and the BJD and, subsequently, by the Akali Dal and the Shiv Sena. The SP and the TMC have now learned that lesson; AAP will do so soon.

The general expectation, therefore, was there would be sobriety and moderation and all organs of the State would get down to business.

The Global Scare

A quick review of the global situation is necessary to set the context. After the terror attacks in Paris (November 13, 2015) and in San Bernardino, United States (December 2, 2015), every country has turned more insecure and, therefore, more inward. Unfortunately, terror is now linked to immigration and anyone with dark skin or a beard or a Muslim name is suspect. Russia, France, then the United Kingdom, and now even Germany have no qualms about going far beyond their borders to strike at the enemies of their countries.

Terrorism now tops the agenda of the advanced — and also, militarily, the most powerful — countries. Mercifully, they spared some time for climate change and will do so for world trade. Once they have sewn up agreements on these two matters, they will go back to their foremost concern — terrorism. Given the scale and reach of the terrorist groups, especially the ISIS, it is difficult to find no merit at all (though there is much to fault) in the approach of the countries that appear to be the most vulnerable to terror.

The world will not notice if India falls off the ladder and that is what we seem to be doing — stumbling as we climb the ladder.

The Parliament session that began on November 26, 2015, offered a great opportunity to rebuild relationships between the government and the Opposition. The GST issue was a low-hanging fruit. The report of the committee chaired by the Chief Economic Adviser could have been used to pave the way for an agreement on the three contentious issues: the 1 per cent additional tax was anyway dead, no state was totally opposed to a dispute resolution mechanism, and a rate cap could have been provided through skilful drafting.

The National Herald Case

A government must always be prepared for the unexpected. On the National Herald issue, it appears that the government was prepared for the expected. The government seems to have expected the verdict of the court. Weeks before the verdict, the government seemed to take sides in the private case: it entertained a letter from the private complainant, virtually sacked the Director of the Enforcement Directorate, and reopened an inquiry that had been closed by the former director. So, when the judgment was delivered, the government’s and the BJP’s spokespersons were ready to fire away at the Congress.

Once the war of words begins, truth is the casualty. The truth in the National Herald case is that —

# The income and the assets of Associated Journals Ltd remain with AJL;

# The lender to AJL was the Congress party which assigned the loan to a Congress-controlled non-profit company called Young Indian;

# The lender (YI) swapped the loan for equity and became the dominant shareholder in AJL;

# Not a rupee has been taken out of AJL, not a rupee has been received by YI, and not a rupee has been distributed by YI to anyone.

The government, for no reason at all, jumped into the battle and took sides.

More Foolishness

As the National Herald issue was again moving toward the courts, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) “raided” the office of Mr Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi. The CBI claimed to be looking for old files relating to the education, health and information technology departments in which a secretary to the Chief Minister had worked some years ago. How did the CBI expect to find those files (old and belonging to other departments) in the Chief Minister’s office? No answer. In the end, the CBI did not find those files in Mr Kejriwal’s office and only lived up to its reputation of being a “caged parrot”.

Even as the war of words over the raid on Mr Kejriwal’s office was raging, the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh (a BJP government appointee) took the extraordinary step of summoning the Legislative Assembly, without the customary advice of the state Cabinet, to impeach the Speaker. The unstated goal was to install a BJP government comprising defectors from the Congress party!

“Criminalising” the National Herald case, raiding a Chief Minister’s office and using a Governor to destabilise the government in a sensitive border state are, in my view, nothing but madness. I wonder if anyone can discover a method in the madness.


Website: pchidambaram.in Twitter @Pchidambaram_IN

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App

More From P Chidambaram
P Chidambaram
  1. S
    Subramani Ananthapadmanabhan
    Jan 20, 2016 at 7:47 pm
    Mr. PC, so if Cyrus Mistry who owns TATA motors and TATA iron and Steel; and NGO's run by TATA. Can he take money from the NGO to bail out TATA motors? Will you say "Where is the fraud here as both are chaired by Cyrus Mistry?"
    1. S
      Subramani Ananthapadmanabhan
      Jan 20, 2016 at 7:44 pm
      What a somewhat smart PC fails to highlight to the public is that "Conflict of Interest" is termed illegal in every democratic countries (and few semi democracies like China). PC thinks that he is the only person who is aware of this secret as he spent most of his years during the oppressive Congress regime during license Raj. With many Indians now working for MNC's most are forced to take "Business COnduct" trainings that explain "conflict of Interest; insider trading" etc. clearly. So even by the arguments he has put forward, anyone who knows what a "Conflict of interest" is; will know there is willful wrongdoing by the 2G's. Martha Stewart, a known public figure was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment for just failing to report a conversation on insider trading between Rajat Gupta and others at a high profile party. She overheard an Insider trading conversation and sold shares. The Judge's reason was being a public figure, she should have informed the Authorities. Is this madness Mr PC? Many companies don't allow executives to chair the board of multiple companies. Cirus Mistry cannot just borrow/lend 50 Lakhs from Tata Iron and steel co. to TATA motors as he is chairman of both companies!!
      1. T
        Dec 20, 2015 at 6:40 am
        What else better can one expect from Feku56 who has now realised it is better to away from India than working for "make in India". Only change one can notice under Feku56 regime in the last one month post Bihar debacle is Aditya, Sangeet, V.K.Singh Mahesh Sharma etc all have been silenced by Amit Shah.
        1. K
          K SHESHU
          Dec 20, 2015 at 6:55 am
          Now that National Herold is almost out of the way, will the congress go in for an all-out consensus on GST? Were there any shady deals between the 'intolerant' and the 'tolerant? Why was the drama enacted? All the questions may remain unanswered till he session ends. Meanwhil thevpublic would remain the most foolish of all.
          1. A
            Dec 20, 2015 at 9:30 am
            congress party has got educated pools and goons like you and that is the reason zero loss theory and NH case and looted the India for so many years and you people want to be slaves for generations.
            1. Load More Comments