Prithviraj Chavan, the erstwhile Chief Minister of Maharashtra, the most prosperous state of the country, gave an explosive no-holds-barred interview to a Kolkata newspaper as the campaign for the last Maharashtra legislative assembly elections came to an end earlier this month. It was a tell-all interview and the revelations made presumably were born out of disappointment and frustrations of having been ditched by his seemingly corrupt coalition partners. The interview clearly reveals how unscrupulous have a field day in coalitions. It happened at the Centre and it also happened in Maharashtra, both being ruled till recently by Indian National Congress-led coalitions.
Chavan agreed to be interviewed late in the night after campaigning ended during which he happened to confess that he did not take action against two of his predecessors, late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan for allegations against them in the now (in)famous “Adarsh” building scam as, he thought, sending them to jail would have “decimated the Congress in Maharashtra”. Curiously,, he expected the Congress to be returned to power despite its wrongdoings – a hope that predictably proved to be false. The party has tumbled down to a miserable 42 seats from 82 it had in the outgoing Assembly. In protecting the two of his predecessors (the third was being probed by Central Bureau of Investigations) he hoped to save the Congress and expected to survive as chief minister. But voters seemed to have had other ideas and jettisoned Chavan and his Congress from the government. Only time will tell whether the party will survive in the state as a political entity
Likewise, Chavan also confessed that he did not initiate action against Ajit Pawar, his deputy chief minister from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), only to save his coalition government. Pawar, also a nephew of his party chief, Sharad Pawar, was involved in a serious irrigation scam that is yet to be properly investigated. Chavan said, “I did not order a police inquiry, I did not ask for a judicial commission report — all for the sake of keeping the alliance intact…” It is such a nice repeat of what Manmohan Singh did, who too remained a mute and blind spectator to all the shenanigans of several of his ministers, saying his inaction was because of the “coalition compulsions”. However, despite Chavan’s good turn, the NCP walked out of the coalition, pulling down the state government. Curiously, this happened almost simultaneously as the years-old compact between the Bharatiya Janta Party and Shiva Sena, too, broke down. Perhaps, the NCP had sniffed an opportunity for foraging in new pastures.
The Congress, especially its President, Sonia Gandhi, has always been accusing its political opponent, BJP, of having an acute hunger for power (satta in Hindi). But the revelations of Manmohan Singh a few years ago in front of the national media and now Chavan’s confessional interview clearly indicate that the lust for power is more evident in the Congress than in any other political party. As has become evident, the Congress permitted loot and plunder of the nation’s resources without any qualms just for the sake of wielding political power and authority. The loot need not only be by its party men; even its allies could help themselves and make unscrupulous money. Manmohan Singh’s regime was exposed doing it in Delhi and now Chavan has gone and confessed doing the same in Maharashtra. A very poor commentary for a party that has wielded power at the Centre and in the states for most of the post-independence period! Presumably, whenever it had to relinquish power it probably bequeathed its expertise to its successors who also made merry. No wonder the political class is so rich today. And again, unsurprisingly ambitious people would give away their right hands to be in politics only for its power and consequential pelf
Although Chavan expressed regrets for the interview, yet its candidness was remarkable. Politicians are generally circumspect with journalists and mouth inconsequential inanities, taking care not to be offending anybody, especially a political partner with whom a government was run till only the other day As they say, there are no permanent friends and foes in politics and nobody knows when today’s enemy becomes a political supporter tomorrow. And, yet the interview was marked by its forthrightness, actually calling a spade a spade. Perhaps, hereafter the Pawar clan and its NCP or even Ashok Chavan, another of Prithiviraj’s predecessors, will think hard before associating themselves with the likes of the latter in the Congress.
Admitting in the interview that the “Adarsh” probe had brought as many as three of his predecessors, viz. Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan under the scanner, Prithiviraj said that if he had sent all of them to jail it could have hit the Congress organisation leading to probably a “split”. He also said that as the Central Bureau of Investigation was already looking into Ashok Chavan’s role his government could not have possibly instituted another inquiry.
He literally nailed Ajit Pawar, his deputy in the government. The great Irrigation scam had been festering for quite some time – actually ever since Ajit Pawar got the charge of water resources department. Curiously, he was in charge of the department for as many as 15-odd years, apparently first as a minister and then as deputy chief minister during which, according to the government’s Economic Survey, there was nothing to show for the Rs. 42000 crore (Rs. 42 billion) that were spent during his long tenure. Chavan, instead of ordering a probe, seems to have asked the department to produce a white paper with all the facts. This was construed as a charge sheet by Ajit Pawar. Then, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) comprising, inter alia, all parties was set up the findings of which, too, were scuppered by Pawar. Chavan said, “I could have been proactive and I could have insisted that it was a judicial commission and that Pawar should be summoned and questioned. But I was running an alliance… my hands were tied.” Pawar found setting up of SIT obnoxious and resigned but, as an afterthought, quite shamelessly rejoined the cabinet. “I could not have put my foot down. The government would have come down at that moment. I was also the leader of the alliance”, said Chavan.
The NCP is known to be a corrupt party. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described it as a “naturally corrupt party”, which is largely true. Sharad Pawar holding the Food portfolio at the Centre for two terms of five years was never investigated for his wheeling and dealings. Even Prafulla Patel the former Civil Aviation Minister in the Indian Government, allegedly the killer of “Maharaja” of Air India, too, was never investigated. Perhaps, at the Centre, too, the same considerations, as in Maharashtra, prevailed and the Congress too helped itself to part of the loot. After all, Congress has been a big-timer in corruption!
The evidence that is, however, compelling is that in India corruption is always embedded in coalitions and junior partners milk the system keeping the major constituent under constant threat.