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Capital Grapevine  

Interim budget: Modi ‘s ` bribes to voters’ better than his critics pocketing money

One of the more silly comments on the budget came from Mallikarjun Kharge. The leader of the Congress Party in the Lok Sabha dismissed the budget as a `bribe to voters.’ Why, you expected Modi to bribe you instead? As voters, we must object, even though we can appreciate Kharge’s pain. After all he belongs to a party whose leaders, beginning from the controlling family down to the chaar-anna members, have all through thrived on taking rather than giving bribes. How dare Modi bribe the voters and leave poor Congressmen bereft of, well… voters and votes.

Protesting the wide-ranging reliefs to hard-pressed voters would make the task of Kharge and Co. further difficult to win a respectable number of seats in the coming poll. Nor will it help the likes of Chidambaram, now busy almost full-time making the rounds of the courts for thwarting probes into their loot and plunder when they were in power. Keeping Modi out is now a matter of life-and-death for the crooks running scared of the investigating agencies. Instead of dubbing the budget `account for votes’, the former finance minister should revisit his own budget before the last election.

Any budget, anytime, which offers much-needed relief to the crores of workers in the unorganized sector, the farmers, the lower middle class, etc. ought to be welcome. Nitpicking over what is kosher for a vote-on-account what is not is a waste of time, especially when the previous governments shredded all such conventions with an eye on nothing else but votes. Need we remind Chidambaram of the Rs. 500 crore provision for one rank, one pension in the last UPA budget? It is another matter it did not succeed in hoodwinking the retired military personnel. The decades-old demand was fulfilled you all know by whom?

For want of anything substantial to fault the budget, they are on small niggles, such as the meager payout to farmers. When the previous governments did not even pay a dime, a direct payment of Rs. 6,000 is sought to be mocked at by that `janeudhari’ champion of farmers. A farm-loan waiver of Rs. 13, yes, Rupees Thirteen, as in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, is supposed to be manna from the Congress gods, but a whole slew of measures to pull the farmers out from distress, which, by the way, has a long pedigree, is an insult of farmers, according to that new-found messiah of farmers. No wonder he has few takers outside the party of craven sycophants.

If we were to sum up, the budget is Modi’s ticket to re-election, period. The `mahagathbandhan’ crowd can cry its heart out but there will be few takers for their blind opposition against a prime minister who for the first time in free India has sought to make all the crooks and criminals accountable to the law of the land, making them cough up bank loans at the pain of jail, and deporting the middlemen and fixers from foreign sanctuaries they had fled to, again, for the first time ever, after Modi went after them with rare vengeance. Cleansing the system can be painfully slow, but, once done, it will make Indians accountable to the rule of law – and not to corrupt dynasties.

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Middlemen in net, politicians quiver in fear

Quite apart from pursuing bank defaulters, investigative agencies were given a free hand to pursue all other thugs. After Christian Michel , the middleman in the Augusta Westland deal, was flown from Dubai in a special plane, they have now brought back two more noted fugitives, namely Rajiv Saxena, a close aide of Michel, and Deepak Talwar, a notorious lobbyist.

This could not have been possible without the cooperation of the UAE which is now keen to erase the impression that it a safe haven for fugitives. Modi’s personal equation with the ruling families of UAE helped immensely.

Of the two thugs, Saxena is said to have deposited the millions in bribes from Augusta Westland in Swiss accounts. The deal was cancelled by the Modi Government. Saxena’s capture could lead to the eventual beneficiaries of the slush money. Clearly, without the intervention of the powerful people, the Italian manufacturer of choppers could not have won the Indian order.

As for Talwar, he was a small-time tout who hit pay dirt once he entered into an arrangement with a key figure in the Narasimha Rao Government, raking in tens of millions in bribes in all sorts of deals. Following liberalization, he was the go-to man for anyone wanting clearance from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board, which at the time was under the charge of the PM’s all-powerful Principal Secretary A N Verma. The FIPB would clear investment proposals only if Talwar’s services were hired. Best known multinationals hired Talwar to cross the FIPB hurdle.

Later, Talwar latched on to a key NCP minister, virtually becoming the sole selling agent for everything connected with the aviation sector, including airports built under the PPP model. Talwar found novel ways to keep his politician friends happy. For example, the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and now a force behind the Kamal Nath government would buy economy class tickets for multiple trips abroad and gave them to Talwar who, not unlike a magician, promptly converted them into first class tickets.

These facts emerged after Talwar’s philanthropic NGO was raided. Asked how he converted his economy class tickets into first class, Digvijay Singh was all innocence: ` I thought Talwar knew someone in the airline’. The truth, however, is Talwar used the NGO account which actually laundered bribes, for converting Digivijay’s tickets, a case of charity indeed.

Given the huge number of deals he was involved in, Talwar could yield a goldmine of incriminating evidence. Also, being in poor health, doing a deal with the ED to save his own skin could tear away the masks of some of our leading politicians. It is reasonable to believe that in the coming days there could be a plethora of incriminating evidence against those who are currently engaged in tarring the reputation of someone who has the rare distinction of being in politics and yet remaining squeaky clean.

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Mocking Hindus

Shashi Tharoor, he of the IPL sweat equity, and, of course, of the mysterious death of third wife Sunanda Pushkar fame, has poked fun at the Hindu religious traditions. Posting a picture of the UP cabinet taking a dip at the Kumbh Mela, he tweeted : “ You want to keep the Ganga clean and also wash your sins here. Everyone is naked in the Sangam. Jai Ganga Maiya.”

Wonder what Shashi would say when his leader goes to the Sangam along with his sister, Priyanka, for a holy dip. Will that be for a mere photo-op, or to burnish his image with the faithful as a true-blue Hindu complete with a `janeau’ around his waist and `Shivjee’ on his lips? Time those whose only god is the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty stopped mocking the faith of crores of Indians.