Reasons behind Karti Chidambaram's arrest

This may well be just the beginning of upping the ante against more Congress leaders.

 |  4-minute read |   01-03-2018
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First things first about Karti Chidambaram's arrest by the CBI in Chennai on Wednesday (February 28) morning. The law must take its course and the guilty, howsoever high and mighty, must not go unpunished.

The Narendra Modi government has made a calculated move - nothing short of a high stakes gamble - with this move. Prime Minister Modi’s strategy is two-fold. One, he has put on centre stage the issue of corruption and his strong action, essentially with an eye on the political semifinal due in a couple of months - Karnataka Assembly polls - and then the very final - the next general elections (whenever held, either as scheduled by May next year or a few months earlier).

It's a name-and-shame strategy, aimed mainly on winning the battle of people's perceptions and influencing their minds. The idea is to show to the people that when it comes to waging war against corruption, Modi is a lone warrior that this country has ever produced and now he has started targeting the Congress party directly by cornering the son of top Congress leader P Chidambaram. 

Modi is shrewd enough to know that his main fight in the next general election will be with the Congress, and if he is able to again keep the Congress well below the 100-seat mark in the next Lok Sabha elections, his strong showing will be guaranteed. An Opposition minus the Congress will be no match for Modi while a Congress-led opposition can be forced to be put on back foot in the name of corruption.


For example, it doesn't matter whether the investigating and prosecuting agencies are able to come up with judicially admissible evidence against a high-value target like Karti Chidambaram and whether the accused is convicted or discharged honourably. Political expediency demands a shoot-and-scoot approach. This is what happened in the Bofors case and the 2G scam. In both the cases, the prosecution couldn't prove its case, but the Bofors case ensured the defeat of Rajiv Gandhi in the 1989 general elections, and the 2G case contributed heavily to electoral defeat of another Congress government - set apart in time by exactly a quarter century.

The moral of the story is that the government or political party that initiated a criminal case against a high-value political target doesn't suffer electorally, but the targeted person is politically destroyed in the immediate future.

This brings us to our second point. The Karti case may well be just a beginning and the Modi government may up the ante against more Congress leaders - former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is on a comeback trail, perhaps P Chidambaram himself and finally the biggest fish: Robert Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. So, the bottom line is this: expect a sustained campaign, a frontal assault by Modi's BJP against the Congress. All this essentially full of sound and fury, not necessarily signifying anything.

However, this stratagem can also mean a self goal for the Modi government if the courts were to come up with adverse orders sooner than expected, a possibility that can cannot be completely discounted. The case agsinst Karti Chidambaram is that he received kickbacks in 2007 to clear foreign investment worth around Rs 300 crore in television company INX Media, using the influence of his father, who was then the Union finance minister. But the most bizarre aspect of this case is that there is no government official named in the CBI FIR which was filed on May 15 last year.

The question is even if assuming Karti indulged in corruption by influencing government officials, shouldn't they be in dock too for signing the approvals?

Responses of the two warring sides - the Congress and BJP - have been on the expected lines. The Congress party's national spokesperson Sanjay Jha tweeted thus: “The arrest of #KartiChidambaram tells us that Modi Ji is panicking. The political desperation is showing. The nervousness is apparent.”

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said it was "classic diversionary tactic of the government to hide their own corrupt governance model that is being exposed on a daily basis - be it Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Dwarka Das Seth Jewellers".

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said, "This is law, not vendetta. If corrupt are being jailed and the law is taking its own course, I see no reason why any political party should cry vendetta."

Finally, the nation is set for an "utterly gutterly" type of politics from now onwards. The chasm between Modi's BJP and the Congress-led Opposition will inevitably widen further. This will show in Parliament which is scheduled to resume its budget session next month. It will once again be the same sorry picture: Parliament shutdown, no business, war of words etc, etc.

However, it is highly unlikely that Karti-type episode will deflect people's attention from the increasing number of bank frauds, more and more of which are tumbling out of closets virtually on a daily basis now.

Also read: INX media scam: Why did CBI arrest Karti Chidambaram now?


Rajeev Sharma Rajeev Sharma @kishkindha

The writer is an independent journalist and a strategic analyst.

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