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Hold Your Breath!

Hold Your Breath!

Does Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi have something up his sleeve that can rock the Narendra Modi Government? He seems to believe so and, for once, several politicians have taken him seriously.

The disruption of Parliament by BJP MPs led by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar was sure sign that at least the ruling party MPs believed that Gandhi had something that could taint the image of their leader.

Tapped Conversation?

From what can be pieced together from available information, the issue seems to be allegations of a monetary nature and the ‘proof’ Gandhi seems to have could be an audio tape of a phone conversation the PM had.

The ruling establishment has some idea about the ‘revelation’ but it would be naïve for the Opposition to expect the ruling establishment to wait for Gandhi’s disclosure to defend their principal.

The Government has already started counter measures. For the first time an Air Force Chief has been arrested and remains in CBI remand. Although the Agusta deal was initiated by the NDA Government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and only concluded by the UPA Government, there is an attempt to drag in Sonia Gandhi into the VVIP chopper scandal.

Masters At the Game

Raising a smoke screen is not a difficult job for the BJP, given its minions who troll the social media and the corporate media that lives in fear of retribution.

Gandhi’s success would depend on how well he and his party are able to present their case against the Government’s and BJP’s attempts to counter attack. Given his limited abilities as a public speaker, Gandhi would need the support of every Opposition party to carry out a successful campaign against Narendra Modi.

But that is hardly likely to happen. Already AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal has tried to position himself by calling the allegations as a ‘fixed match’ between Congress and BJP. When both parties sling mud at each other, how that amounts to a fixed match only Kejriwal knows. But his reaction has given an indication on how divided the Opposition is. Therein lays Modi’s hope.

Fixers Can’t Help

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his 8/11 announcement, he promised that the problems people could face on account of note replacement would be over by November end. However, with hardship for the common man increasing by the day and showing no signs of abating in the near future, Modi’s party is worried.

In his latest bid to seize the narrative on ‘notebandhi’, Modi fielded one of the architects of Swadeshi economics to do his bidding. Not many would know S Gurumurthy and may have wondered about the gentleman hogging prime time on corporate news channels who continue to be pro-government despite reeling under the impact of drying ad revenues following cut in ad spend by consumer majors whose products sales have gone down since 8/11.

Some may know Gurumurthy as the co-convener of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch that did the RSS bidding during Vajpayee’s era of economic liberalisation. For all claims of being right wing, the RSS economics is just mumbo jumbo that even illiterates would be ashamed to peddle. But SJM has been able to present its rubbish as Swadeshi economics, time and again.

CA-Turned-Crusader

Very few would know how Gurumurthy, a chartered accountant based in Chennai got to dabble in politics. It all started with his association with the late Ramnath Goenka. As the chartered accountant for the undivided Indian Express group, Gurumurthy ‘managed’ the company’s account books presented for tax scrutiny, long before, ironically, becoming Modi’s champion campaigner against black money. His CA skills helped the Indian Express survive the Congress establishments’ onslaught on The Indian Express Group when it started promoting Opposition politics.

He soon rose to become a corporate wheeler-dealer. Gurumurthy is supposed to have settled several corporate family feuds even while being party to bigger corporate rivalries. In the famous feud between Reliance and Bombay Dyeing in the late 1980s, Gurumurthy and Goenka were on Wadia’s side. Wadia was of course an Indian Express board member and provided financial assistance to the newspaper.

Bofors Story

Amitabh Bachchan’s attempts to plead the Reliance case with friend Rajiv Gandhi and obtain the company a favourable government treatment saw the Indian Express Group call off the truce with the Government and start an all-out war against it on Wadia’s prompting.

There were several causalities in this corporate feud — including friendship between the Gandhis and the Bachchans — which was given the garb of national political crusade by the Express. The Bofors affair was sustained and turned into an election issue, thanks to this rivalry. Gurumurthy was one of the backroom boys in this drama and played a sterling role in exposing the Reliance group.

Power is an addiction greater than drugs, alcohol, tobacco or even sugar. Having tasted the fruits of power, Gurumurthy kept reinventing himself to remain relevant. However his economic views were so banal that even a pro-RSS government has always made it a point to keep him at an arm’s length from the corridors of power.

The present Government was expected to make an exception, since Narendra Modi had widely availed of Gurumurthy’s services in the run up to the 2014 elections. However, while those like Ajit Doval were given official positions, Gurumurthy and Subramanian Swamy have been confined to score background music for the Modi Government.

However, after the 8/11 disaster, Gurumurthy creeped out of the woodwork to claim that the Government was making progress in its ‘fight against black money’ and that the dividends would be rich.

Monumental Spin

Gurumurthy said that the currency replacement drive was a ‘correction’ that Narendra Modi undertook to overcome the ‘monumental mistake’ committed by the UPA government from 2004 to 2010 by ‘not checking’ the “tsunami of black money” that drove up the prices of stocks, gold and real estate.

What was funnier than a chartered accountant leading the ‘crusade’ against black money was the fact that he had contradicted himself on the issue.

In 2011, along with other worthies like Ajit Doval, Gurumurthy had presented a thesis that urged the Government of India to concentrate in targeting the black money parked in foreign tax havens since the black money generated in India was not that much or that harmful.

Perhaps realising that his contradictory positions were too glaring, Gurumurthy tried to divert his media conversations to speculate about the circumstances under which AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa died. At the end of the day, it must have been clear to Modi that the currency replacement crisis was not something that backroom boys can solve by spinning theories.

( abey.kay@gmail.com)

(Published on 19th December 2016, Volume XXVIII, Issue 51)#