Azad-Bedi Googly Hits FM Jaitley: Has He Slipped On The DDCA Pitch?
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
NEW DELHI: Is Finance Minister Arun Jaitley fast losing ground? Is his, in journalistic parlance, graph down?
It would seem so, given the hidden smiles and murmurs within the Bharatiya Janata party as all the individual Bharatiya Janata party leaders on the receiving end of Jaitley’s off the record sessions with scribes, seem to be revelling in his discomfiture. And even if the Bharatiya Janata party has sprung to his defence on television, and through statements, it seems to be a house divided insofar as the Finance Minister is concerned with key Ministers in government and BJP leaders not particularly unhappy with the turn of events.
Cricketer and BJP MP Kirti Azad who along with former cricket captain Bishen Singh Bedi has been writing for a while now about fraud in DDCA involving Jaitley held a press conference starting it with “I am a very big fan of our Prime Minister, and support his anti-corruption drive. We are against corruption, not against any individual.” Azad who had not got an audience with PM Modi despite petitions on the alleged scam till date, met the media with specific charges in a against Jaitley after the feud between the Finance Minister and the Delhi Chief Minister revived the old, largely ignored controversy over the cricket fraud.
Kirti Azad ran a film where “Wikileaks 4 India and Sun Star National Daily’ reporters tracked down companies that had dealt with DDCA to find that these did not exist. And that the addresses were wrong. Efforts by BJP President Amit Shah a day earlier to persuade him not to hold the press conference had failed, with the cricketers determined to bring the scam to light.
Within a day of the CBI raid on Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s office, the tables appeared to have turned against the Finance Minister, with the information coming from a well regarded cricketer and BJP MP. The CBI came out with little more than some bottles of whisky and just Rs 28 lakhs from the Principal Secretary Rajendra Kumar’s accounts whereas Azad. in the on-camera investigation on a series of companies that did not seem to exist, has opened what can become a Pandora’s Box for Jaitley and the government. More so as the ‘evidence’ will make it difficult for even the suave Finance Minister to talk himself out of the charges.
Jaitley has been on a high ever since he took the decision to part company with veterans like LK Advani, and throw himself full weight behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the last Lok Sabha elections. The timing stood him in good stead and he emerged from the elections as one of PM Modi’s most trusted aide. Not just that but also his troubleshooter in and outside Parliament, his ‘match fixer’, his modern day Brutus who grew into the Chair controlling not just Finance, but Parliamentary Affairs, Justice and the Law, as well as the Media.
Nothing happened in government without Jaitley in it. Articulate, smart, and very comfortable with the media, Jaitley rose into the Number 2 slot in government eclipsing even RSS favourites such as Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. And of course External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who remains out in the cold, not being a favourite in the current dispensation, RSS or BJP. He has the ear of PM Modi who, as the grapevine insists, might not like him particularly but cannot do without him. Or as a Congress MP put it a few weeks ago, “lets say Modi trusts the others even less. Jaitley does not have a constituency, not being elected directly, and does not have the RSS support. So that makes him directly beholden to the Prime Minister for whatever power he enjoys.”
Also Jaitley is well informed about the working of Parliament, the government, the judiciary , business and the media houses. He brings knowledge and an ability to translate the information into often beneficial action for the government, that all others put together in the Council of Ministers lack. Or so it would seem as he is PM Modi’s Man Friday, vocal on all issues. In fact the gag order being followed assiduously the central Ministers, has never applied to Jaitley who is one of the most vocal members of the Cabinet. He has regular darbars with the media where he speaks at great length, giving his views on issues at times, but on individuals within the BJP and in the Opposition most of the time.
And it is this last that seems to have left him without too many friends in the BJP. Jaitley is not liked by many in the government he represents. And while there is never any proof of such things, the grapevine based on central hall comments, makes it seem as the anti-Jaitley list within the government is long. And important as it includes Ministers from the Cabinet Committee on Security, as well as others in the Cabinet. At least two BJP chief ministers are not particularly fond of Jaitley, nor he of them.
The BJP old guard whose term is not as over, as Jaitley had clearly thought after the Lok Sabha success, is particularly angry. The Bihar results had the Finance Minister calling Advani who, according to the buzz, was not particularly receptive and if the grapevine is to be believed abrupt and very short with his former protegee.
PM Modi has kept quiet through the current controversy, but the BJP has been directed to officially defend the Finance Minister. The effort by Shah to persuade Azad not to go ahead with the press conference is also a reflection of the worry within the government about the corruption charges acquiring a snowball impact. More so as one of the main planks for the Lok Sabha campaign was PM Modi’s assurance that he will not tolerate corruption, and his government will crack down on it.
Jaitley might or might not extricate himself from the Azad-Bedi googly, but the wicket has been exposed and the pitch is slippery.