Nehru, Corruption and the Prince on a Quixotic Adventure

While there are interesting stories around Teja Loan Scam and Mundhra Scam under Nehru, looking at Rahul Gandhi's fascination with Defense deals, this was the most pertinent. This could possibly in a way explain how Rahul Gandhi is battling these personal demons in his own dynastic family, and as Nietzsche wrote that if one gazes into the abyss long enough, the abyss gazes at the person. I guess the abyss is gazing into Shri Rahul Gandhi.

“Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty, we can begin to enrich ourselves. This is noble, righteous warfare, for it is wonderfully useful to God to have such an evil race wiped from the face of the earth.”

“What giants?” Asked Sancho Panza.

“The ones you can see over there,” answered his master, “with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long.”

“Now look, your grace,” said Sancho, “what you see over there aren’t giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone.”

“Obviously,” replied Don Quixote, “you don’t know much about adventures.”- Cervantes, Don Quixote

When dynastic Prince Rahul Gandhi declared after losing Delhi election to the Prince of Propaganda, Arvind Kejriwal, that Congress ought to learn the tricks of the trade from the AAP, not many realized that he was looking to learn the worse of Arvind Kejriwal’s media-heavy politics.

The new political strategy of Rahul Gandhi was built around the politics of continuous throwing of charges on the opponent, without any care in the world about the authenticity of them, in a hope that some of it will stick.

Even though, Rahul Gandhi still thinks it is a fun game of sorts to keep throwing charges on the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and keeps on promising the people Abhi Aur Mazaa aane waala hai (There is more fun down the line); to the common citizen, it is fast getting tiresome. As the leader of India’s oldest political party, he does not care the way his baseless charges are destroying institutions in India.

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He has always been a non-serious politician, even during the time when his own party was in power and he was busy tearing away the cabinet-cleared ordinance. When he began walking down Kejriwal’s path, media as the fourth Pillar of democracy, ought to have censured him; but with their own ax to grind against Narendra Modi, they rather hailed this careless conduct of the man-child who claimed to be ready to become the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy in the world’s oldest civilization.

When one hears Rahul Gandhi, one wonders as to from where he gets these fanciful ideas wherein he claims that Rafale is a case of corruption, whereas per him INR 30,000 Crores have been given to Reliance of Anil Ambani and the Aircraft has not arrived. Why is he appearing like a desperate man who disbelieves every person in authority chasing the Windmills?

His speeches are getting more and more repetitive. He keeps on harping about Rafale, only the figures involved in the corruption keeps changing based on his memory and mood. With all the privileges of being part of a family, known for corruption, political and financial both, he seems to have turned into what Cervantes called in his Seventeenth Century novel, Knight Errant, tilting at the windmills. Having read the novels of Chivalry, like the brain of fifty years old has dried up, in the novel as he goes about chasing imaginary giants with his neighbour Sancho Panza in the tow. I was thinking yesterday from where Rahul Gandhi gets the idea of his imaginary giants. One does not need to go too far.

This is the unfortunate start, India as a democracy got with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, as the first of the dynasty at the head of an infant democracy, who believed that with his own imaginary hardships during the freedom struggle, earned him a right to rule the nation as his personal fiefdom (A well-researched book, The Forgotten Gandhi by Bertil Falk mentions the episode the communication between Nehru and his daughter, Indira, while he was under British imprisonment, as to how he liked the Electric Razor sent in by Indira during his imprisonment and how Indira was sent to the UK and later spent almost a year in Switzerland, stuck there during the war, while on vacation, in the best of the Hotel while the freedom-fighter father languished under British atrocities).

When one lives among demons for long, one begins to imagine them. This seems to have happened with Rahul Gandhi, given his own family history. A conniving and subservient media created an image of infallible hero out of Nehru. By ensuring that we forget the past, as the saying goes, we, as a nation, were condemned to repeat it, again and again.

What Nehru gave to us immediately after independence was an immediate brush of scams in defence deal, courtesy VK Krishna Menon, often called as the second most powerful man in post-independent India, after Nehru. VK Krishna Menon came from a background similar to that of Nehru, both belonging to the influential and rich lawyer family. Post-independence how Nehru parked his near and dear ones in governmental positions of power, is a long story. To look only at corruption in defence deal, could give us an idea as to from where Rahul Gandhi might be getting his ideas and it might not only be Bofors.

In the year 1948, India came under attack from Pakistan in Kashmir. The Indian Army was short of around 4000 Jeeps. While 1000 were imported from the US, the initiative to procure remaining 3000 Jeeps began in the earnest. A team of Defense Secretary, Commander of Chief of Army and Financial Adviser were sent to the UK but were unsuccessful to obtain the required vehicles.

In June 1948, Mr AK Chanda intimated back home to India that he was able to locate around 1500  reconditioned Jeeps at 300 Pounds a piece. He was given the go-ahead to procure 2000 of such Jeeps provided three years of spares availability could be ensured.   The supply was to begin in 6 weeks and complete in 5 months time. While the messages were being passed through Mr Chanda, then financial adviser, later he submitted that the entire transaction was negotiated and concluded by Shri Krishna Menon. Without running it through the process, the order of INR 8 Million placed on the Company, M/s Anti-Mistantes with the capital assets of merely 605 British Pound Sterling (something equivalent of INR 8022.00 at the 1948 Conversion rate).

Payment Terms negotiated by the Nehru prodigy, Shri Menon was also exceptional and a testimony of ease of doing Business in Nehru era. The terms were 65% on receipt of Pre-shipment Inspection certificate, 20% on production of Bill of lading and 15% within a month of receipt of the Jeeps (on Indian Port). An industry-friendly Nehru Government, however, could not bear the pressure of waiting for the pre-inspection certificate and released the 65% of payment within a month of ordering, ostensibly because Government believed without this funding, the company might not be able to produce the Jeeps for supply.

The officials appointed for the inspection were changed at the direction of Krishna Menon. Even before even they could inspect the goods, a payment of Sterling Pound 172000 was paid to the seller. Later, the inspection clause was relaxed to sample 10% inspection. As per the contract, the first date of shipment was 23rd August 1948 and the deliveries were supposed to end by December 1948. On 26th December 1948, Krishna Menon assured the Indian Government that 1300 Jeeps were on the way. 155 Jeeps reached Madras in March 1949 and not one was found serviceable. This was two months after the ceasefire in Kashmir. Regarding the support, instead of required spares for three years, 10 percent were delivered. In the meantime, Shri Krishna Menon, a man of indefatigable spirit, signed another contract with M/s SCK Agencies, London for the supply of 1007 Jeeps are the rate of 458£ per Jeep and the supplies were to be staggered as 68 Jeeps per month. Krishna Menon reduced this 68 to 12 a month for initial six months, and to be increased to 120 a month, thereafter. This meant around 72 Jeeps in 6 Months. The firm supplied 49 of them and backed out.

Unperturbed Krishna Menon signed another Contract of £ 19,44,000 with M/s JCJ Knott (with a capital of £100) for the supply of Rifles, deliveries to begin in 10 days of the contract and conclude in 120 days, given the state of ongoing turmoil in Kashmir. A week after the ceasefire, the order was cancelled since no delivery was made. Shri Menon also signed two contracts which remained unfulfilled, one for 25 Michell Bombers and another for Staghound Armored Cars. A mysterious character named EH Potter represented four of these firms. The final deal Shri EH Potter did with Mr Menon was for steel plates worth £400000 where as per the Ayyangar Committee, the margin for profit was £102,000.

After much hue and cry, Ayyangar Sub-Committee investigated the case and came with the data mentioned above in its report submitted to Nehru on 9th April 1951. The Public Account Committee took the cognizance and advised formal investigation in the matter by Two High-Court Judges.

On 18th December 1954, Government asked the Committee to reconsider its decision. When the PAC refused to agree, Government informed the committee on 30th September 1955, that the case was officially closed.

On 3rd February 1956, Krishna Menon was brought into the Cabinet as a Minister without portfolio. Within an year, looking at his exemplary record (well, he was in England, all through the pre-independence era; was Local Guardian not only to Indira, but also to Feroze Gandhi who spent five-six years in London, to gain a degree, but could attend classes for three months during the period, eventually leaving with unfinished degree), Nehru appointed Menon as Defense Minister. Shri Menon presided over the humiliating defeat of India in 1962 was and now his statue stands next to President’s House, watching over benignly and majestically at the Sena Bhawan, the seat of Indian Army.

While there are interesting stories around Teja Loan Scam and Mundhra Scam under Nehru, looking at Rahul Gandhi’s fascination with Defense deals, this was the most pertinent. This could possibly in a way explain how Rahul Gandhi is battling these personal demons in his own dynastic family, and as Nietzsche wrote that if one gazes into the abyss long enough, the abyss gazes at the person. I guess the abyss is gazing into Shri Rahul Gandhi.

We have remained blind to the history of our corruption that we have almost accepted it as a way of Indian life and politics. We now look for the demons even when there are none. No one should be above scrutiny. But as a sincere opposition, Rahul Gandhi should bring facts instead of crying wolf every other day. It is not funny anymore. Right now, the man seems to be troubled by his own past, on some Quixotic adventure with his party colleagues and media playing the part of Sancho Panza.

References:

  1. Shodhganga: Research Paper on Political leadership and Corruption
  2. The Hindu Article: Exponential Rise of Corruption– By Shri SL Rao.

A technology worker, writer and poet, and a concerned Indian

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