Majority stakes

Much has happened in the past week. On the political front, after the second phase of polling in Bihar the situation remains unchanged with Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) and Arun Jaitley of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) addressing joint meetings. The Congress is working hard to gain an advantage while the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief, Lalu Prasad Yadav, indulges in a great deal of hysteria. One can already sense insecurity in his poll speeches. Ram Vilas Paswan, on the other hand, is relatively quiet. I wonder if we will see another new alliance in the future for the Lok Janshakti Party.

The situation in Karnataka is chaotic as MLAs are traded for `25 crore a piece. Two Congress and one Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs have already resigned. In this “tit for tat” situation, no party can claim to have the moral high ground!
When financial mafia scores over political authority, all this is inevitable. We have seen similar scenes in the Northeast, in Jharkhand, Goa and Andhra Pradesh as political families acquire financial assets which defy economic logic. The situation is no different in other states as this phenomenon cuts across party lines.
But people value integrity and reward on an individual basis. Should anyone be surprised with the results achieved, or likely to be achieved, by Narender Modi in Gujarat, Shivraj Singh Chauhan in Madhya Pradesh, Raman Singh in Chattisgarh or Prem Kumar Dhumal in Himachal Pradesh? It’s because of the reputation of their leaders that the Biju Janata Dal in Orrisa and the Congress in Delhi and Assam are not worried.
Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamul Congress will win by a mile. But can anyone predict the outcome in Tamil Nadu where the battle will be between the “assets” of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam family and the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, with the Congress stuck in between.
The results of the local body elections in Kerala are no surprise as the United Democratic Front scores heavily over the Left Democratic Front. As I have mentioned earlier, I reckon the Left parties will shrink further and the number of their Lok Sabha seats could be down to a single-digit! The Congress and its allies will sweep Kerala Assembly elections and the Trinamul Congress and the Congress will sweep West Bengal, taking their Lok Sabha tally up. With no sign of recovery, the Left, which shrunk to 20 in 2009, will shrink further in 2014. The Trinamul Congress, on the other hand, will grow from 21 Lok Sabha seats to close to 30 seats and Ms Banerjee will play a major role in the future. I think the Bihar elections, followed by the electoral battle in Uttar Pradesh in 2011, will indicate if in 2014 we will have United Progressive Alliance-3 (UPA) or a majority government by the Congress.
We have an honest Prime Minister in Manmohan Singh and the highest integrity standards prevail in his economic team and senior Cabinet ministers. But the telecom scam is a huge blot on the UPA-2 government, as are the affairs of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) concerning Suresh Kalmadi and his team in the organising committee (OC).
The CWG probe is on and as the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Enforcement Directorate and the income-tax department become active I only hope that this will not lead to complications as all the agencies are very reluctant to share relevant information with each other. Hopefully the V.K. Shunglu Committee will get active at the earliest and proceed with the investigation.
The corruption issue involving Mr Kalmadi and his team in the OC should not be confused with the EMAAR/DDA controversy and the letter from lieutenant governor Tejinder Khanna giving reasons for bailing out EMAAR/MGF with the purchase of flats. That decision, he has said, was taken in consultation with the urban affairs ministry. So I cannot understand the media interview given by urban development minister Jaipal Reddy indicating that he was not consulted but “agreed” with the decision! The buck stops at Mr Reddy, who is the head of the Group of Ministers besides heading the ministry. The issue here is not the entire Games Village complex which, by any standards, is outstanding, but the residential flats which were not ready and figured in the media both in India and abroad and the Prime Minister had to put Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit in charge a few days before the Games.
Sports is in the news and while the affairs of the CWG and the Indian Premier League (IPL) issue will be relegated to the sidelines during the visit of US President Barack Obama next week, we can expect a great deal of action on the litigation between the former IPL chief Lalit Modi and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
We already have the Kochi controversy and, along with the possibility of a legal battle being mounted by Rajasthan and the Punjab teams, a fight is likely to ensue for the financial assets of the BCCI. There are very few innocents in this battle for control. The IPL Kochi battle may well unlock the money games within the BCCI and reveal details of the 25 per cent “free” sweat equity which in money terms is close to `400 crore.
All this indicates the high financial stakes in the IPL and there should be no surprise that several politicians are involved in the power games which cut across party lines. The battle is far from over and as one group prevails over another in the IPL soap opera, Mr Lalit Modi and the BCCI will score over the affairs of Mr Kalmadi and the OC and everything associated with the CWG! I wonder if the cricket war will spill into the political arena. I don’t think we have heard the last word on issues of offshore accounts, sweat equity, minority share holding and cash disbursements. There is no limit to greed and someone in the system will, I hope, have the nerve to spill the beans!

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

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