The BJP MP from Dharbhanga, Bihar, Kirti Azad, was suspended on Wednesday. This took rather a long coming.
—by Shabab Khan
He had made an utter fool of himself, taking the old and rejected allegations against Arun Jaitley pertaining to the time the latter was the non-executive head of the Delhi and District Cricket Association. So long as Azad harped on the alleged wrong-doing, along with a few other disgruntled elements in the DDCA, without in any way conspiring with rival political elements, the BJP leadership chose to take scant notice of his frustrated monologues. But when he began to openly collude with the adventurist Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress leadership, he left the BJP with no option than to take stern disciplinary action against him.
Reportedly, his accusations against Jaitley at the specific prodding of the Congress leader, Sonia Gandhi, in the Lok Sabha sealed his fate. The BJP was no longer willing to suffer a Trojan horse in its ranks.
It is significant that the DDCA-related charges are about a decade old and were duly probed by the Serious Fraud Investigations Office of the Corporate Affairs Ministry when the UPA was in power. Yes, they did find some discrepancies in accounts, some technical shortcomings, but nothing serious enough to warrant strictures or penal action against any office-bearer of the DDCA, least of all its non-executive head.
Indeed, Jaitely, who quit as DDCA President at the end of 2013, was fully cleared of any wrong-doing, with the SFIO report maintaining that there was nothing against him. If after this, a charade about corruption and worse in the DDCA was kicked up by Azad in collusion with the scandal-mongers of the AAP, it was only to target the Union Finance Minister for wholly extraneous reasons.
Azad has been disgruntled against the BJP leadership for a long time ever since his wife was denied the ticket to contest the parliamentary poll. Besides, as he himself said, his brothers despite the fact that he was a senior party MP had been denied plum posts in government which, he believed, were theirs by right.
Personal pique was being served up as a faux crusade against corruption. Indeed, it was curious that the Congress Party did not utter a word edgeways against Jaitley when it was in power for ten years, though the DDCA-related allegations pertain to the 2003-09 period. Clearly, as an after-thought it decided to egg on Azad who in his frustration thought nothing of re-cycling the old charges.
Meanwhile, the holier-than-thou Kejriwal Government has controversially set up a one-man commission of inquiry to look afresh into the charges which were earlier disposed of by the SFIO. The man chosen to head the inquiry is a senior Supreme Court lawyer whose nomination for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court was nixed by the NDA Government on account of an adverse intelligence report.
Aside from the credibility of such an inquiry, the Delhi Government may be on slippery ground on the question of locus since being a B-category State it does not enjoy unfettered powers in this regard. The matter is bound to become further contentious if the Delhi Lt. Governor with holds assent. Meanwhile, the BJP leadership cannot absolve itself for having allowed the Azad tirade against Jaitley to fester all these years. Even though it was centered around the working of the DDCA, the fact that the one-sided feud had spilled into the news media ought to have persuaded the party leadership to intervene in the matter.
Indeed, if all other parties, barring probably the Communists, remain one family — or one-leader-controlled, including the AAP, the BJP tends to give its errant members too long a rope. This results in unpleasant situations. Had the party leadership moved early against Azad when he failed to stop the anti-Jaitley campaign even after the SFIO inquiry, it would have spared itself the trouble of suspending him at this stage. In fact, it should immediately draw the line for others like Shatrughan Sinha the crossing of which would automatically attract disciplinary action. Internal democracy cannot mean a free-for-all to the detriment of the party’s public standing.
(Author is an Export Entrepreneur, Journalist, and Social Activist)