Dr. Subramanium Swamy thinks that our Finance Minister, P Chidambaram should resign on grounds of corruption.
The crime: Ms Chidambaram has been legally representing the IT department, which falls under the purvey of the Finance Ministry, for the “modest” (in the words of Ms Chidambaram) fee of Rs 2 lacs a pop.
As to her record: 1 case fought, 1 defeat. After that her legal counsel has not been sought possibly because the Opposition had already caught onto the nepotism angle or possibly because, after shelling out 2.5 crores as compensation, the IT department, in the tradition of the Indian cricket team, was “resting” her. However she is still on retainer—that is she is still getting cheques in the mail.
The government’s version reads thus:
‘The Board would like to clarify that in January 2004, Smt Pushya Sitaraman, senior standing counsel for the Income Tax Department, Chennai briefed Shri P Chidambaram (then practicing as a senior advocate) in a case involving large revenue (clubbed with a batch of cases raising the same issue). The case was not taken up for hearing until May 2004, when Shri Chidambaram became finance minister,’ the press release said.
‘In July, 2004, due to the non-availability of Shri Chidambaram, Smt Pushya Sitaraman persuaded Smt Nalini Chidambaram, senior advocate, to take up the case, in view of her long experience and familiarity with the subject. A proposal to this effect, received from CCIT-I, Chennai was approved by the CBDT as per the prescribed procedure,’ the press release added.
In simplespeak, that means P Chidambaram used to be the legal counsel for the IT department and when he became the FM and hence “unavailable”, the government finding no other person went to Ms Chidambaram and “persuaded” her to take up the case just like Rabri Devi was persuaded by the people of Bihar to become the Chief Minister once the “Messiah of the Masses” got himself into some trouble with the law.
Now how can she refuse —-really it would have been a most heartless thing to do.
P. Chidambaram has gone on record saying that he had no idea that his wife was representing the IT department because he was never shown the files. Which reminds me of a line in “Yes Minister” when the Minister asks Humphrey, the great bureaucrat, why he is never shown all the files and Humphrey replies: ” There are some things, Minister, that you are better off not knowing.”
Then of course there is the third angle. Assuming that P. Chidambaram was never shown the files—should he, as a husband, know what his wife does for a living and whom she represents? A point of view expressed thusly.
The MP said, ‘He (Chidambaram) doesn’t seem to know what is happening in his ministry. Now he doesn’t seem to know what is happening in his house. What kind of a person is he? Does he know what is going on in the country?’
I think what happened was that Nalini Chidambaram did tell her husband. But the way she said it would have been like: ” How many times have I told you to clean the living room? The ceiling fan has been making a creaking noise and I have been telling you for months now, bring it down and grease the joints. My sister’s daughter is getting married and we need to go shopping, buy some gifts. I also need a new sari. By the way I am representing the IT department.And oh did you do go to the…”
No wonder….P Chidambaram was by then in the “entering this ear and going out the other” mode husbands frequently get into for their survival—-of course he did not know !
Swamy, of course, thinks that the husband and wife are in it together. He reminds us of the Fairgrowth scheme where again, Fairgrowth was a company under CBI investigation, P Chidambaram had some inside knowledge, and his wife supposedly made a killing on the stock.
Here’s the deal. Let’s assume the highly unlikely scenario that the Chidambarams are a corrupt couple—-again let me stress it is so very unlikely that two people engaged in two of the world’s most honorable professions—politician and lawyer would stoop to such a level. Making that assumption, I as an Indian citizen, still feel proud of their alleged corruption.
Nepotism has always existed—-but it is usually an unqualified relative getting a position on the basis of daddy/mummy’s pull—examples: the entire Gandhi family, the Yadavs, the Chautalas…….however here Nalini Chidambaram is qualified in her own right to act as a legal counsel (just like many others are)……the fact that she gets the job is perhaps because of who she is related to. And note Chidambaram’s reaction and contrast it to what Devi Lal said, circa early 90s, when a reporter pointed out why Om Prakash Chautala was the Chief-Minister-in-waiting:
“To kya? Usko nahi banoonga to kya Bhajan Lal ka chora ko banoonga ?”
(So what? If I don’t make him (the CM) do you think I should make Bhajan Lal’s son the CM ?)
I mean looking at in another way– India is shining. Politicians too are now hopefully evolving from the days of cash-filled suitcases (Narasimha Rao) , smuggling in watches (Om Prakash Chautala), weighing against gold (Jayalalitha, Maywati) to more refined forms of corruption—insider trading, conflict of interest etc.
And that, my friend, is progress.