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Virendra Kapoor

It was coffin scam ahead of 2004 poll, it is Rafale scam ahead of 2019 election

Coffin scam was figment of Sonia’s imagination just as Rafale scam is her son’s

It was coffin scam before the 2004 election. It is Rafale scam before the 2019 election. The coffin scam was a sham, the courts found no evidence of irregularity in the import of aluminum `transfer cases’ to treat the military dead with dignity. Nothing came of that scam, though Sonia Gandhi-led Congress succeeded in sowing doubts, at least temporarily, about the integrity of then Defence Minister George Fernandes.

Likewise, the import of 36 Rafale fighter jets with a deadly payload on board from Dassault of France, is a scam for Rahul Gandhi-led Congress. If post-Kargil the army felt the need to import the coffins for transporting bodies of soldiers to lend dignity to them in death, the Indian Air Force has been crying itself hoarse for years for the medium multi-role combat aircraft to lend teeth to its capabilities. The induction of the latest war planes in the fleet of neighbouring countries has decidedly put the IAF at a disadvantage.

Again, if the hullabaloo over the so-called coffin scam was based on deliberate confusion about the plain, one-time use traditional wooden caskets, which cost a fraction of the `transfer cases’ made of solid aluminum of at least twenty millimeter thickness, the Rafale noise is over a gross, and, dare we say mischievous, misreading of the composite package that comes with each fighter jet, instead of its bare-body version.

The simple, one-time use coffin cost nearly two hundred dollars whereas the solid aluminum cases for transferring the dead from one place to another cost nearly three thousand dollars, depending on the prevailing price of aluminum in the open market.

But Sonia Gandhi’s Congress, ignoring what Fernandes had sought to import were special `transfer cases’, cried scam from housetops. Just as her son now robotically shouts Rafale scam. Clearly, the mother-son duo seeks to paint the leaders of the rival parties in the same black colour on the eve of elections.

How did the so-called coffin scam end? This is significant. The Congress rode to power in 2004. A case was registered. The CBI filed a charge-sheet against three senior defence ministry officials. But, finally, the courts dismissed the charges, finding no evidence to suggest wrong-doing. A PIL in the Supreme Court too was dismissed.

Now, come to Rafale. The Supreme Court has already rejected the thrust of the Gandhi charge in the Rafale agreement with the same French firm with which the UPA Government had all but signed the deal but due to vacillation kept it hanging for Modi to clinch it. If A. K Antony had pleaded lack of funds, among other factors, for not signing the deal for 126 aircrafts, Modi cannot be faulted for buying in flyaway condition at least 36 so that the urgent needs of the IAF can be partially met. The UPA failed to procure even one though it talked of buying 126. Such hypocrisy does not impress anyone.

But you cannot educate those whose interests lie in not understanding the obvious. Rahul Gandhi is bent on manufacturing a scam to undermine the credibility of Modi. In order to establish a level-playing field between a corrupt Congress leadership and the BJP, Rahul Gandhi needs must sow the seeds of doubt about the prime minister’s integrity ---- even if, in the process, the effort to augment the fighting capabilities of our air force is further undermined. As always, it is family over party and party over nation for the Gandhis.

Meanwhile, remember that the coffin scam was thrown out by the courts when the UPA was in power. The Bofors scam too was given a judicial burial when the UPA was in power, the only difference is that in the former they tried hard to prove a scam while in the other they went out of their way to put a tight lid on one that was one hundred percent scam. The kindly judge who dismissed the Bofors case soon found himself a post-retirement sinecure.

Indeed, one of the most audacious scams of the Manmohan Singh Government, which nobody talks about, is when he dispatched a senior law officer to London to unfreeze the bank account of the Italian bribe-taker Ottavio Quattrocchi. The crook immediately took out more than twenty million pound sterling before, following a furore in Parliament, the gentleman and scholarly Singh ordered the Quattrocchi account to be frozen. How one wishes Singh had more spine and less gentlemanliness! The nation would have been spared the broad daylight loot that went on during his benign rule.

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Hold your breath: a literary genius is born

A report in a leading English language daily that Priyanka Vadra, nee Gandhi has received Rs one crore as advance for a book set me thinking. I do not recall anyone even among well-known Indian writers getting that kind of money in advance for their books. Nor do I think there is a market in India for the publishers to recover their costs, especially if they pay such astronomically high sums in advance alone. Besides, Priyanaka Gandhi is not known to have written anything which is in public domain which can justify such a payment. There are questions galore, but let us leave that for a moment.

But it will be appropriate to recall how book-writing and painting too had come to be corrupted as a means of laundering black money into white or to simply bribe the so-called authors and painters. Not long ago, when Captain Satish Sharma emerged as then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s closest aide, he was most sought after by the corporate houses. He was Petroleum Minister when his Dutch-born wife, Stera, emerged as a painter, holding an exhibition-cum-sale in late Lalit Suri’s hotel in Delhi. Small wonder, the great works of art were snapped up like proverbial hot cakes, leaving her richer with vast sums of legit money.

A sitting judge of the Bombay High Court, subsequently forced to resign, was paid by a property developer whose case he was hearing, over 3. 5 lakhs in British pound sterling for books which were no more than mere pamphlets. Again, the wife of an aide to the Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit discovered her artistic and literary talents overnight, holding painting exhibitions and publishing several books which, as expected, were lapped up eagerly by those eager to keep her husband on their side. Also, the thirteen-year-old son of K J Alphons, now Tourism Minister in the Modi Government, discovered his artistic talents when his father was a key aide to the then Urban Welfare Minister in the first NDA government. Public sector Housing and Urban Development Corporation, under the ministry, paid lakhs to buy the art of the little genius of whom little has been heard since his father quit the IAS to join politics.

Meanwhile, another standard way to corrupt journalists and wannabe writers is to get them to set up think tanks so that corporate houses can bribe over- the- counter. The list of such beneficiaries too is pretty long and cuts across party lines.

Of course, all this is not to prejudge the literary value of the yet-to-be-written Priyanka’s book. For all we know, India might soon be blessed with another world-renowned writer. But till that happens, we will continue to wonder why anyone would pay Rs. one crore in advance to an untested writer. You get the drift, don’t you?