Opening Pandora’s Box
Former Delhi Chief Minister and Congress party’s chief ministerial face in Uttar Pradesh, Sheila Dikshit has raised a political shindig ahead of the New Year. Dikshit has questioned the authenticity of Sahara diaries that are the basis of her party leader Rahul Gandhi’s charge that Prime Minister Narendra Modi received pay-offs as Gujarat Chief Minister from an industrial house. Dikshit questioned the authenticity of the Sahara diaries after reports mentioned her as one of the beneficiaries along with several other politicians, including Congress members like Salman Khursheed and Jayanthi Natarajan. Rahul Gandhi’s demand pertains to the 2015 petition (Common Cause & Ors. versus Union of India & Ors.) against the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) and the Vigilance Commissioner, which is currently pending in the Supreme Court. The petitioners are being represented by advocate-activist Prashant Bhushan. According to the petition, the Sahara Group and an Aditya Birla Group company allegedly made massive payments to prominent Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress politicians in 2013-14 and 2012 respectively. The allegations over pay-outs to politicians made in the application have been cited by Bhushan as proof of the unsuitability of incumbent CVC KV Chowdary for the post. The application alleges that he did not pursue the matter in his earlier job as head of the Income Tax department when junior officials first unearthed evidence of wrongdoing. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s demand has been strongly challenged by BJP saying that the diary entries have been dismissed as unreliable by the Supreme Court. BJP has said that in the face of the action against black money, there was a move to unsettle the government by bringing charges of bribery against the Prime Minister on the basis of the documents which has not been found authentic by the courts. However, Bhushan claims that an oral observation of the court on the documents is being interpreted by the BJP leaders as final order in the matter. His colleague Yogender Yadav is on record that the law of the land in the matter is as pronounced in the Jain Hawal diary case of the 1990s, which says such entries could be taken as the basis for a detailed investigation.
It may be recalled that the Jain Hawala case had created quite a political turmoil though nothing much came out of it. In the present case, as Gujarat CM, Modi finds mention in a sheet allegedly mentioning pay offs which I-T authorities seized during a raid on Sahara. Below the highlighted entry, the image posted on the Congress site mentions Dikshit, who was also a CM then. It also mentions CMs of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, both BJP ruled states. Bhushan has alleged that both the CBI and the Income Tax department buried serious evidence of corruption against prominent politicians. Initially expressing her angst, Dikshit said that despite speculation, she was not withdrawing as Congress’s chief ministerial nominee in UP, a move that could have made things easier for the party. Congress, however, chose to ignore Dikshit’s protest saying it was not bothered about individuals and that the PM should institute an impartial inquiry. Later Dikshit, too, endorsed the party line tweeting, “I have said what I had to. The ball is in the court of the @PMOIndia & others now. Will he respond and come out clean? #SaharaBirlaDiaries” Given the developments, the Prime Minister would do well by articulating a more serious response to Gandhi’s allegations than belittling it at the public meetings.