//Moneyed members

Moneyed members

Politicians have been using corrupt means to feather their nests.. No wonder they have become targets of their jealous siblings

Sanjay Kapoor,  Hard News Media, Delhi

How come many of our politicians are stinking rich without ever doing normal boring jobs, that you and I are forced to do all through our working years to make ends meet?  
Politicians are said to have bizarre amounts as their personal wealth.

Praveen Mahajan, who shot his famous elder brother and top BJP leader, Pramod Mahajan, recently claimed that his brother was worth more than Rs 2,000 crores. His grievance: Pramod did not share with him his considerable booty. Interestingly, no one really doubts Praveen’s allegations. Every one knows that Pramod was a rich man of very refined tastes and outlook. He was very well turned out and led a “high life”. When he travelled abroad he was known to wear expensive Saville Row suits.

His riches obviously consumed his sibling with violent rage. Being an extremely powerful politician, there were not really many people who questioned his conduct as an important fundraiser for the party during its formative years. Only Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leadership, to their credit, objected to his ways and the inordinate influence that he enjoyed over former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s office. For them he represented a typical case of a self-effacing worker getting snared by the corruption-ridden politics. He was a bad example to all those gullible Sangh faithful who dutifully assemble every morning in khaki knickers and sticks in neighborhood parks to work towards building a Hindu Rashtra. He was antithetical to the life of self-abnegation and parsimony that the RSS professes.

Pramod Mahajan’s earlier jobs sent very little money to his bank account. He was first a teacher in a primary school and later a hack with party newspaper. So, if his brother is to be believed, then he allegedly created all the wealth in the last 15 years after he accompanied L K Advani during his rath yatra in 1990-91 and thus created a big splash in national politics.

His role in tweaking the organisation and greasing the wheels of the Hindutva juggernaut came for high praise from top BJP leaders. So overwhelmed was Vajpayee during the last Mumbai session of the BJP that he anointed him as the person who would take over from Advani.

He held important portfolios like Defence, Telecommunications and IT during the time the BJP was in power. As telecom minister he was accused of helping Reliance Infocom, a matter that compelled some people to file public interest litigation in courts.

Why blame only Pramod for being rich? Politicians cutting across party lines have perfected the fine art of making money without holding any job. Some of them have been caught with their hands on the till like Bangaru Laxman and Sukhram. There are others like Mayawati and Tamil Nadu’s Jayalalithaa who have had to face tough questions from investigating agencies about their source of considerable funds. Jayalalithaa is the best person to explain her wealth as she was a high earning actress in Tamil films. But what about others?

 The savings of these politicians are parked in scores of blue chip companies (including TV channels) and it is their money earlier stashed in foreign havens that is coming through foreign institutional investors (FII) for investment in the booming Indian stock market. Little wonder that no one is willing to reveal whose funds are bloating the sensex.  

So well crafted is the subterfuge that every time there is an election, these politicians file a statement about their finances which reveals nothing. If one goes through these documents then it would seem that many of them share a common chartered accountant. Invariably, the fixed deposits would be shown in the vicinity of Rs 20 lakhs and Rs 30, 000 in saving bank accounts. The land they own are never valued realistically and so are their frequent travels abroad. Some also state that they do not even own cars!

Many of these politicians- at the state level– make money from transfers and postings of bureaucrats. Others at the centre get kickbacks from mega defence and infrastructural deals. Some of them, like in the case of the health ministry, siphon off money from procurement of drugs and health equipment. Recently, World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz froze $ 850 million worth of funds in the health ministry meant for reproductive and child health programme (RCH) and constructing of roads in Mumbai. His investigators had found Indian ministers belonging to the BJP government making money from this programme. Wolfowitz, disliked for organising the Iraq war, is pressuring governments like India that the Bank would not release these funds till there was greater transparency in their use. Building on Francis Fukuyama’s thesis he believes that an external push could bring policy changes break the back of the local venal vested interest that gets richer from these bulky Bank loans. Can he be faulted for talking sense?