P Chidambaram was one of the most powerful ministers during the UPA regime and his clout over the media in particular was supreme. Channel owners regardless of their ideological leanings would simply not have the courage to question Chidambaram if he wished to have his way on any piece of editorial.
With the Congress party out of power for nearly four years, Chidambaram’s fortune has changed spectacularly. The fact that the new government is controlled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his most trusted lieutenant Amit Shah hasn’t helped his cause either. Modi-Shah duo are known for leaving their rivals in utter ruins to ensure they are not able to pose challenge to their political existence in the foreseeable future.
The Modi government appears to have found the weakest link in Karti Chidambaram, the former finance minister’s son, who was arrested by the CBI as he returned from London. The CBI detectives were quick to pounce on him at the Chennai airport before bringing him to Delhi. While in Delhi, the CBI court sent Karti to five-day custody. A helpless father, himself a lawyer, simply could not do anything.
All he could say was that “Don’t worry, I am there” when he saw him in the CBI court where he was brought for extension of custody on Thursday in the INX Media alleged bribery case.
The senior Congress leader, as reported by IANS, put his hand on his son’s shoulder with his wife Nalini Chidambaram, who was already in court looking on. While the judge permitted the parents to talk to Karti in the presence of the investigating officer during the brief break before passing the order on giving five-day custody of Karti to CBI, he disallowed Karti’s request for home-cooked food.
People close to Chidambaram say that Karti’s arrest has left the former finance minister ‘utterly distraught.’ Chidambaram, who’s been a prolific Twitter user, has suddenly gone quiet. He hasn’t tweeted since 25 February, when he plugged his regular newspaper column.
One of the allegations against Karti is that he accepted a bribe in 2007 to clear foreign investment worth around Rs. 300 crore in television company INX Media, using the influence of his father, who was then the Union Finance Minister. Two individuals, who owned the company then were Peter and Indrani Mukerjea. Both are currently in jail on charges of murdering Mukerjea’s daughter Sheena Bora.
The Congress had reacted angrily calling the arrest ‘vendetta politics’ by the BJP led government at the Centre. Taking to Twitter, the party’s chief spokesperson, Randeep Surjewala had said, “Classical diversionary tactic to hide Scams & Colossal Corruption that is being exposed on a daily basis,be it NiMo+Choksi,D.D.Jewellers and Rotomac.”
With elections in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh scheduled this year, it’s quite likely that the Centre’s Modi government will want the spotlight on Karti to continue for the saffron brigade to be able to extract the much-needed electoral advantage. There are enough examples to suggest that the Modi-Shah duo have used the central agencies to settle political scores, but the two most powerful men of Indian politics don’t appear to give much importance to the negative perception about them.
It’s not to suggest that the previous governments did not use the likes of CBI, ED and other law enforcing agencies against their political rivals, but the current BJP government has clearly outsmarted them in their own game. As one very senior Congress leader recently confided, “Our biggest regret is that we could not act against Modi and Shah decisively. We had all the evidence to ensure that they spent a long time in jail, but some of our leaders succumbed to their greed. However, we’ve become a lot wiser in opposition now.”