Speaking at the 70th foundation day of the National Cadet Corps (NCC), prime minister Narendra Modi said no one would be spared in his drive against corruption.
Seeking cooperation of the youth in the battle against corruption and black money, the PM said, “I don’t think any youth of my country is now willing to tolerate corruption. The hate for corruption in the society is visible… I want you to help end corruption that is like a termite."
Countering the general perception that the rich and the powerful mostly get away while the poor get the short shrift in corruption cases, the PM said, “The country used to discuss corruption in despair, the lament being 'no one catches the powerful'. Three former chief ministers are now rotting in jail. Who says there is no justice? No one will be spared."
The prime minister was talking about the three former chief ministers who are currently in jail. While former Bihar chief ministers Lalu Prasad and Jagannath Mishra have been convicted and sentenced in cases related to the fodder scam, former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala is serving a jail term following conviction in a recruitment scam.
Image: PTI photo
Three former chief ministers landing in jail on graft charges is certainly unprecedented in seven decades of independent India as far as corruption is concerned. It is also not the norm in a country where the general perception is that the powerful political class is never punished, and are above the law.
But going by how the prime minister placed the issue in his speech, it may seem like it was his government which ensured the conviction of these powerful people. But is that truly the case?
Let us first talk about the fodder scam cases. In March 1996, the CBI was brought into the case as per the Supreme Court’s order. Lalu Yadav was named as accused in six cases. The central investigation agency filed chargesheets against Lalu Yadav and 55 other co-accused in 1997.
On 30 September 2013, a special CBI court in Ranchi convicted former Lalu Prasad Yadav and Jagannath Mishra along with 44 others in the case. The court had announced a sentence of five years for Lalu Yadav and four years for Jagannath Mishra. On January 6, Lalu Yadav was again convicted in another fodder scam case and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail.
On January 24, a special CBI court in Ranchi awarded five years jail to Lalu Yadav and Jagannath Mishra, this being the third case in which verdict has been pronounced.
Barring orders by the courts in the last two cases, nothing has happened after Narendra Modi took over as the prime minister of India. So his or his government’s role is certainly not a factor in sending Lalu Prasad and Jagannath Mishra to jail.
In the teacher’s recruitment scam case, in which former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala has been convicted, started in 2003. The Supreme Court ordered a CBI probe. In June 2008, the CBI filed a chargesheet in the court of special CBI judge against 62 people including OP Chautala.
In January 2013, the court convicted Chautala and sent him to jail for 10 years. So Om Prakash Chautala was already in jail by the time Modi became the prime minister.
It is very clear from the facts that in none of the three court cases involving the three former chief ministers did Modi or his government has a role to play. So while decrying corruption, the PM forgot to clarify that the credit for putting these powerful politicians behind bars was not his for the taking.
Is this not a form of moral corruption, or did the PM not realise what he was implying?