SCAMS & SCAMS … With Chidambaram in Tihar jail, corrupt politicos across states in deep worry

NEW DELHI: High-profile Congress politician and former Union minister P Chidambaram has ended up in Tihar Jail in the INX Media corruption case. He will be in judicial custody till September 19, a period when the CBI will continue its interrogation, as ordered by the special CBI court hearing the case, which also involves suspected money laundering.

The 73-year-old Chidambaram was facing interrogation at the CBI headquarters here for the past two weeks, while he was lodged comfortably at its rest house within the headquarters premises. He was now shifted to Tihar Jail –the lodging place for India’s worst criminals in and around the capital. He would get special attention, he being a former minister and senior politician. Chidambaram was in his usual self till Thursday and teased the Modi government by raising his palm to media personnel, and saying he was not greeting them, but showing his five fingers; adding, “five percent”, a reference to the reports the GDP growth has slumped to five per cent from the high of nine during the UPA periods.

Chidambaram was produced before CBI special judge Ayay Kumar Kuhar, who sent him to Tihar jail.  “The allegations are of a serious nature; therefore he was remanded to police custody (earlier). The investigation of the case is still in progress,” the CBI court order read. It added: “The CBI has apprehension that because of his status and position, the investigation may be hampered. It is not a case where accused can be ‘released’ at the stage of considering his extension of remand as submitted by the counsel for the accused. The accused is remanded to judicial custody.”

It was on May 15, 2017 that the CBI registered a case against Chidambaram on alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance he as Union minister provided to INX Media for it to accept foreign funds of over 300crore in the same year. A year later, the Enforcement Directorate filed a money laundering case against Chidambaram, and his arrest happened on August 21 this year. Investigations so far showed Chidambaram and his family invested heavily in properties and entities in India and abroad during the UPA period, when corruption was the order of the day in Delhi.
Chidambaram’s transfer to Tihar Jail came after his anticipatory bail plea was rejected by the Supreme Court. Chidambaram’s plea to shift him to ED custody, not CBI, was also rejected by the apex court.

The Congress party is deeply embarrassed by the arrest and interrogation of Chidambaram, but it is mostly tight-lipped, not knowing how to defend its senior leader. Alongside, the Congress is faced with  other major embarrassments too; one in Madhya Pradesh, where senior Congress politician and chief minister Kamal Nath’s nephew Ratul Puri is under arrest in the huge corruption case relating to the AgustaWestland VIP chopper scam. It is suspected that the nephew acted in concert with the uncle to take bribe from the huge central government deal at the time of the UPA II.

In Karnataka, senior Congress politician, MLA and former minister DK Shivakumar was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on August 30 for interrogation after the IT department got “evidence” of him transferring huge amounts of slush money via havala transactions. This followed a raid on his residence when it was found that he harboured a set of Gujarat Congress MLAs in secret camps in Karnataka on the eve of a Rajya Sabha poll in which senior Congressman Ahmed Patel was a candidate. Shivakumar, a very powerful politician during the period of the Congress rule of the state, says he was innocent.

Finally, chickens are coming home to roost. Congress bigwigs and leaders of UPA allies across states and in Delhi are reportedly in a state of fear as the Modi government in its second term is acting fast on corruption cases, the investigations of which were in slow mode during Modi’s first term as PM. One of the first things Modi did after he took over as PM for the second time was to call senior officials of various departments. Modi gave them a piece of his mind. Act or get lost, he told them in measured tones;  a clear warning that he would brook no nonsense anymore.

Two senior Congress politicians – former chief minister Oommen Chandy and Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala are the latest to be running into the hot arms of the CBI. The LDF government in Kerala is referring a 14-year-old case of corruption involving the Travancore Titanium company to the CBI, on the ground that investigations involved some company in Finland, which was contracted for purchase of pollution treatment plants. 

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, it would seem, is handing over two Congress politicians to Home minister Amit Shah on a platter, a la the CBI ring. A prospective CM-in-waiting after the next assembly polls in 2021, the government decision came as a shock to Chennithala in particular. A minister who handled the related portfolio under a UDF government in the state, himself a Congressman, turned out to be the whistleblower in the case. Once the CBI files the case, arrests are likely. Oommen Chandy is scratching his head. 


P. Chidambaram is an outstanding parliamentarian and efficient administrator. A former attorney with law degree and foreign education, Chidambaram was a class by himself while the Congress held power. He had the right connections in Delhi, in media, bureaucracy and politics, and held his head aloft. He posed as if he was a cut above the rest. However, several corruption scandals sullied the image of Chidambaram, his son and lawyer wife in recent years. That he owns huge wealth is well-known, either in his name or in the name of his family.

Karti with wife Srinidhi

He was born into a Chettiar family (of traders) in Kanadukathan in Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu. Through generations, the family is rich and held an aura around it. He did his law from the Madras Law College but later obtained an MBA from Harvard. Wife Nalini is a lawyer too, at the Supreme Court; and her name too is involved in the Shardha chit fund scam. Nalini is from the Kongu Vellala Gounder community, while Karti’s wife Srinidhi is a Brahmin; daughter of a doctor with Apollo.

Chidambaram, originally a leftist youth, started his political career as a Congressman. In 1996, he left the Congress and formed part of the Tamil Manila Congress, only to return to the Congress party later. Chettiars are a numerically strong and wealthy community in Tamil Nadu, and Chidambaram’s leadership helped the Congress. Chidambaram’s father was into textiles business, plantations, etc but the son did not get involved in all these, and concentrated in politics and law. He represented Sivganga in the Lok Sabha. –IHN-NN


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