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NIKHIL WAGLE | 27 FEBRUARY, 2018

A Tale of 2 Modis

When the one hand feigns ignorance about the other


Have you ever taken a bank loan? No matter if its Rs 50,000 or Rs 5 crores, even if you miss one instalment, the banks are on your neck. There is no shortage of people who have experienced the ruthlessness of banks when they reclaim loans.

Unless, of course, you are Nirav Modi. It is hard to fathom how a high profile businessman so easily duped the Punjab National Bank for Rs 11,500 crores. Even a kid would be able to figure out that there were a range of officials, right from the top, complicit in it. So far, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested 21 persons, including the cousin brother of Anil and Mukesh Ambani, who worked closely with Nirav Modi. He, along with other senior employees, were aware of the swindling, as per CBI.

Nirav Modi, however, along with his brother Nishal and uncle Mehul Choski, have fled, following the footsteps of Vijay Mallya. Interestingly Nirav Modi ensured his present was felt at Davos on January 23 , where he met PM Narendra Modi and other industrialists. This was after he had fled India, although the scam had not come to light till then. We are now made to believe that he infiltrated the delegation, and let us not dignify this claim by refuting it.

Modi and Choski have both been close to PM Modi since his Gujarat days. Did the two of them get a free pass because of their intimacy with the Prime Minister? The CBI conveniently filed an FIR on January 29, after the Davos meet. PNB complained only after Nirav Modi had safely escaped. After the news broke, the CBI claims to have seized Rs 5100 crores of items from Nirav Modi’s outlets. How beautifully it has all fallen into place.

It is hard to believe the senior Modi wasn’t aware of the scam unfolding for all this while. Haridas, a businessman in Bangalore, had been duped by Choksi in a deal, and he went on to alert the concerned authorities, from banks to the CBI. When he received no response, he knocked on the doors of PMO in 2016, which forwarded the complaint to ROC, only to be forgotten by the authorities. Narendra Modi should clarify, maybe through a Mann Ki Baat, the reasons behind this lacuna.

After having promised, ‘Na Khaunga, Na Khane dunga’, an end to corruption by being the chowkidar for India, PM Modi has presided over two major escapes. Junior Modi has put the senior in a soup, and the timing couldn’t be worse with 2018 being the election year before the general elections in 2019.

The BJP betrayed its nervousness when it sent out Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Ravi Shankar Prasad, who have nothing to do with the scam, to defend it. They tried their best to pass the buck on to UPA, but unfortunately for them, even the “caged parrot” disagreed, noting that most of the LOUs were issued in 2017. Former chairman of PNB went to the extent to say the scam began in 2011 but tripled under the new government. Amidst all this, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley remained tight lipped for four days. BJP’s ally Shiv Sena has even accused the party of having sought huge donations from Nirav Modi.

The issue, though, has a larger context. In all likelihood, this particular case would not be too different from Mallya’s, but we need to examine whether this incident is representative in nature. Businessmen and politicians have long been benefiting of each other. The ones loitering around UPA ministers now hang around Narendra Modi.

But is this the new face of corruption in new India? Big scams by equally big industrialists. Take a look at the biggest wilful defaulters in the list of RBI. Most will be found frequenting the corridors of power and acquiring legitimacy in the process.

The dust over Rafael Deal hasn’t settled either. The scams continue to unfold at an alarming rate.

Narendra Modi and BJP captured power riding on the anti corruption wave. Nirav Modi and gang has thrown a serious credibility crisis at them. The self proclaimed chowkidar needs to come up with satisfactory answers, otherwise the ghosts will haunt him when the country goes to the polls.
 

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