Harsh Dev Singh
PM Narendra Modi had issued a directive in November 2016 calling upon the BJP Ministers, its MPs and MLAs for submission of their property statements to Amit Shah as a measure of Accountability and Transparency. The said command was widely hailed as a significant initiative for curbing corruption and punishing the corrupt. Together with it was the statement of the PM that “na khaunga, na khane doonga”. People were overwhelmed. After all, the PM had announced to initiate the fight against corruption by making a beginning from his own party leaders by seeking details of their assets. Charity begins at home. Cleansing of the staircase must always start from the top. PM wants to purge his own party before laying lands on the corruption ridden system and other corrupt politicians. People were thrilled. They felt that henceforth the leadership of BJP would be made accountable and this would not only set an example for the political leadership across the country but make the opposition politicians fall in line. Corruption is on its last legs, the roly-poly over weight leaders of BJP did not mince words in saying so while eulogizing PM and his loud exhortations. The people waited and waited. Its now the second term of BJP govt. Much water has flown under the bridge since then. And six years down the line, the euphoria has petered out. No one knows what happened with the property statements of the said leaders or whether they were ever submitted to Mr. Amit Shah? Or what Mr. Shah did to those property statements if at all they were submitted.
One thing however has become known to all. That the BJP leaders are beyond the ‘long Arms’ of law which would never reach them as long as they enjoy the patronage of their bosses and till the saffron regime rules the roost. It would not be wholly inappropriate to say that BJP leaders and their allies are above law. Not only the original BJP leaders but all those who join the saffron brigade become ipso facto immune from the process of law. An opposition leader who embraces BJP also gets absolved of all his crimes, purged of all his sins, exonerated from all offences, relieved of all dubious credentials, given rapid fire clean chits for all his mis-deeds and re-assigned his spotless character. It is widely believed that joining BJP and surrendering to the dictates of its Almighty leadership has the same effect as bathing in Ganga.
The property details of BJP leaders as submitted by them to Amit Shah seem to have been legalized. While the people expected a deep surgery of allegations of corruption and disproportionate assets raised by the said leaders, the latter’s irregularities appeared to have been regularized by their leaders. The melodramatic rants of submission of assets amid petulant fits of passion therefore only evoked cynicism. They proved to be mere illusory constructs.
While the 2016 directive proved to be a mere eye-wash and window dressing for the gullible, the central as well as J&K leaders including Ministers and MLAs who were accused of real estate scams, money laundering, usurping of State and Forest lands, making illegal appointments through backdoor and of running transfer Industry were granted immunity from criminal proceedings only for the reason that they were BJP men. Several BJP Ministers and a BJP MP have been reported to have created huge assets, taken loan from J&K Bank amounting to Rs. 30 crore and got it declared NPA besides having defied norms and procedures and violated the defence acts while constructing un-authorized structures. Still allowed to go scot free. During demonetization a Minister’s vehicle was widely reported to have been apprehended while carrying huge illegal cash for conversion into new currency notes. Similarly another Minister’s spouse was reported to have been video-graphed while converting dirty cash into gold and still another Minister accused of having taken several crores as bribe for granting permission for construction of private apartments in an environmentally fragile area of Jammu. In the same way, some BJP MLAs had been accused of raising palatial bungalows after elections besides raising huge moveable and immoveable assets which were disproportionate to their known sources of income. Likewise the sudden spike in deposits in September 2016 prior to demonetization as revealed by the Reserve Bank of India had also gone unprobed. RBI had pointed out that “Sept 2016 saw an aggregate addition of Rs. 5.98 lakh crore over that in August 2016 to hit an all time high of Rs. 1,02,08,290 crore”, which had created genuine apprehensions and doubts in the minds of the public. Such a sensational disclosure made by RBI had put the BJP in the dock and necessitated a probe into the huge unprecedented deposits but not a word was pronounced by the BJP govt despite such appalling revelations. The inference is irresistible. BJP men immune from legal postulations.
Recent past has also witnessed a made race among other opposition leaders to join the saffron party so that they could also undergo the ‘cleansing exercise’ through the BJP’s washing machine. An affluent Congress leader who was highly critical of BJP and its ‘divisive communal policies’ would often use choicest invectives to attack and expose BJP. He had an instantaneous change of heart one fine evening and the next morning people found him sitting in the last row of BJP leadership singing songs in praise of the saffron party. Some NC leaders who had made fortunes for themselves and claimed themselves to be staunch loyalists of Abdullahs took a complete U-turn from their professed principles and ideologies to embrace BJP at the first available opportunity. Having taken a dip in the ‘holy BJP’ they too have become ‘clean’ and are now spotless secular leaders of the erstwhile ‘communal, bigoted party’. A Panthers Party leader who rose from rags to riches after his elections as MLA also underwent similar purgation after quitting the party which catapulted him to prominence and resultant affluence. Once a critic of BJP leaders, he has now become their great admirer and takes regular vows of observing rigorous fasts till BJP assumed power once again in the UT. There are dozens of other episodes wherein the opposition leaders scared of their immoral, profligate conduct and uninspiring antecedents have chosen to join the BJP stream so that they could be relieved of all their sins and misdeeds through the ‘holy touch’.
The turbulent phase of scams in BJP-PDP rule from 2016 to 2019 has also been thrown under the carpet. The CAG reports pointing towards scams and frauds of gargantuan proportions have been disregarded and pushed into the oblivion. CAG report for 2019-20 had disclosed huge scams in various Deptts particularly I&FC, R&B, PHE, School Education, Estates Deptt etc with huge violations of “Book of Financial powers” and the “Public works code, execution of thousands of works without tenders, without accord of AA and technical sanction; diversion of funds under PMDP amounting to several hundred crores and other financial irregularities of huge magnitude. The CAG report for 2018-19 had pointed towards a suspected scam of Rs. 8,000 crore likely to have been committed during 2017 and 2018. The CAG report has categorically castigated the Education Deptt, Municipal Corporations of Jammu and Srinagar and SKUAST for the financial irregularities, which were overlooked. Likewise, the CAG report of 2017-18 had revealed “fudging of more than 10,000 crore in receipts and expenditure under the minor head 8,00”. And despite the unambiguous statement of fudging coming from the then CAG Rajiv Mehrishi, the govt had failed to act in view of BP being a partner in the then govt.
A present day politician is not scared of his political adversaries. For he has enough resources to counter him. All that he worries about is protection from CBI, ED, NIA, ACB etc. And that protection is assured in case he embraces BJP and surrenders to the tidal wave personality cult oriented populism unleashed by Modi and Shah. As per the report appearing in a leading daily out of 122 persons from 2014 to 2022 under CBI rader, 118 are opposition leaders. So corrupt could be absolved of all their acts of omissions and commissions if they fall in line and succumb to the dictates of saffron philosophy. Or else be prepared to be hammered by the iron fist of the vigilante organizations. The political patronage provided by the BJP to the corrupt has induced many opposition leaders to switch over sides to avail of the all time offer and an olive branch extended by it and to wash off all their sins for making a new beginning in their political careers leaving their shady past far behind.
The question which is often raised therefore is “whether joining BJP is like bathing in Ganga”?
(The writer is Advocate, Former Education Minister & Chairman Aam Aadmi Party J&K State Co-ordination Committee)
Harsh Dev Singh