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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 32, August 2, 2014

‘Patriots’ of Our Times!

Saturday 2 August 2014, by Subhash Gatade

India is a land of surprises, say many.

And how can Bihar, which they say has been witness to a glorious past, be an exception. Of course nobody could have imagined that ‘surprise of surprises’ or (should I call) ‘mother of all surprises’ would be reserved for the Bihar Police. In fact it was one lifetime experience for all of them there where they found how ‘Rs 50,000 can balloon into Rs 1.14 crore’.

The central character in the yet unfolding drama is Giriraj Singh, an RSS activist since his childhood days, and a senior leader in the State who has already carved out a name for himself nationally for controversial reasons. People would remember how he proposed to ‘deport the Modi opponents to Pakistan’ during the election campaign or how he eulogised Brahmeshwar Singh, leader of the Ranveer Sena, the private army of landlords which had been allegedly responsible for hundreds of killings of innocents as the ‘true Gandhians of our times’ when the dreaded figure was killed in a gang war. (http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/bihar-minister-sparks-controversy-by-calling-slain-ranvir-sena-chief-brahmeshwar-singh-a-true-gandhian/1) As an aside it need be mentioned here that Giriraj Singh was one of the first in the State who had vouched for Narendra Modi’s PM candidature also.

What happened has been in the public domain but it would be better to recapitulate the chain of events. A few days back it was reported that there was a theft at Giriraj Singh’s house—an ex-Minister in the Nitish Cabinet and presently an MP from Nawada—from where ‘around Rs 50,000 and some jewellery’ was stolen. The Bihar Police, which always receives battering for its alleged inefficiency, swung into action and could crack the case, and catch the burglar with a suitcase—who confessed his role in the theft—packed with Rs 1.14 crore in cash 600 US dollars, two gold chains, three gold rings and seven luxury watches etc. Photos of the police officials with the recovered cash and other items were promptly published by the media.

As the matter was debated hotly in the media, with former Chief Minister and RJD MLC Rabri Devi alleging that the “recovered money must have been earned by Singh through corrupt means during his stint as the Animal Husbandry Minister”, Giriraj Singh, who had lodged the complaint of the theft, flatly denied that the amount belonged to him and breaking his silence over the matter called it a “part of a criminal conspiracy to tarnish his image”

As the State Government led by the JD(U) was contemplating to review all the purchases made when Singh was in-charge of the Animal and Fisheries Resources Department between November 2010 and June 2013 while the BJP was a part of the ruling coalition, and thinking of putting under the scanner the purchase of ambulances for animals for Rs 500 crores then and the State BJP was finding itself in a very embarrassing situation to explain things, as a very senior member of the party was being made a butt of joke, one witnessed a typical Bollywood-style turn in the whole episode.

Enter Rakesh Kumar Singh—a cousin of the MP with a “flourishing real estate business” in Nagpur. On Saturday (June 12, 2014), Singh went to the Police Station where the case was lodged and told that Rakesh had kept the cash at his home “with some business expansion purpose”. What was puzzling to any onlooker was that it was the first time that Rakesh found mention in the whole case.

To cut a long story short, the Bihar Police, which is patting itself in the back for successfully cracking a case, has heaved a sigh of relief, and claimed that for them the job is done and it is up to ‘other agencies to find out the real owner of the recovered cash’. The Enforcement Directorate and IT Department are likely to question the MP soon. The State Police has asked its Economic Offences Unit to investigate the matter.

Hope all these investigations also look into the changing statements of Giriraj Singh and also look into the fact that the said monies were sourced from three different banks from three different States with the stamps of the said branches very much visible on the bundles of the notes. Perhaps the bank people would be able to throw more light on the case.

While one expects that this riddle of ‘Rs 50,000 to Rs 1.14 crore to 0’ would be solved and the truth behind the ‘mother of all surprises’ would be revealed, one can have little hope in the matter. As days pass and people lose interest in the case, perhaps the matter would be silently buried.

In fact, if the past is any guide, and if one looks at the party to which Giriraj Singh belongs, there are instances galore which show tremendous opacity in such cases involving its leaders or the party’s higher-ups themselves. It is a different matter that the BJP claims lineage to a ‘cultural organisation’ which likes to advertise itself as ‘character-builders of the nation’.

Perhaps a look into a few-years-old case where ‘Rs 2.5 crore was stolen from the BJP Headquarters’ itself would be instructive.

Yes, it is the same place where the then President of the party, Bangaru Laxman, was caught on camera ‘accepting’ a bundle of notes from an ‘arms dealer’. There is no point in repeating the aftermath of the Tehelka exposures which witnessed the unceremonious exit of Bangaru Laxman from the top echelons of the party with the RSS declaring him to be a ‘failed swayamsevak’. Later the party announced that Bangaru Laxman was accepting donations for the party itself.

 This ‘theft ‘ from the party headquarters had many interesting aspects.

According to reports, the theft was reportedly detected on December 26 (2008) by the Deputy Accounts Officer, Nalin Tandon, when the office reopened after Christmas. The mystery surroun-ding the heist deepened when it turned out that neither the locks to the accounts office nor the safe had been broken. There was absolutely no sign of a break-in, suggesting an insider’s involvement.

An SMS, which was circulated widely in the media then, would give an indication of the story. ‘Na taala toota na tijori, phirbhi BJP Mukhyalaya se dhai karod chori’ (Neither the lock was broken nor the safe, still 2.5 crore rupees were stolen from the party headquarters). (http://indiatoday. intoday.in/story/The+curious+ case+of+ BJP’s+ stolen+ funds/1/23900.html)

• A recap of the reports which appeared then also remind us that only notes of 1000 rupees denomination were found to be missing from the party’s treasury. Notes of the 500 rupees denomination had been left untouched.

• People asked a simple question: if the said amount really went missing then why none noticed the bag or packet of 31 kg-weight of 2.5 crore rupees. If one decided to have the whole amount packed in the denomination of Rs 1000 notes, that would have supposedly passed out through the gate.

• The most notable feature of the ‘theft’ was that it was leaked to the press by some insiders only. It is up to critics to see why insiders of the party were engaged in leaking secret information to the outside world which definitely brought the party into further disrepute.

• Perhaps the best way to investigate the case and catch the real miscreants would have been to entrust the job to any federal investigating agency; but that did not happen. The matter was not handed over to the police; but the party roped in private detectives to solve the case. The reason then given by the BJP for not lodging a police complaint about the theft was that it seemed like an “inside job”. The party apparently wanted to avoid the embarrassment of discovering a thief from within its ranks, whose name would be made public if the case were handed over to the police.

• Later one learned from the Treasurer of the party that there was no cause for worry and once the “ankeshan” (auditing) would be over, then only something definite could be said about it. Then came the news that the amount supposedly missing from the party coffers has been reduced without any further explanation.

Interestingly, this incident, which had left many party people red faced and brought into sharp focus the inability of the party to have people with unblemished careers, is largely forgotten now. There have been many changes in the party dispensation since then with new players coming to the front. None from the party would like to remember the incident today—while it is holding the reins of power at the Centre—which had put a big question-mark on its ability to manage the coffers of the nation if it could not manage its own coffers properly.

Perhaps the private detective agency has submitted its report to the party higher-ups about which nobody would be able to know anything.

Subhash Gatade is a writer and Left activist who is associated with the New Socialist Initiative.