On 4th December, sometime around 6:00 PM, a pall of gloom descended over Lutyens’ Delhi. As it became known that Christian Michel was on his way to India, the media classes froze and fretted, desperately trying to take stock of the situation.
Some of them went into denial and then an overdrive of tweeting on every other possible issue. You could feel their hearts pounding inside. They looked like they were thrashing about in quicksand. Only this was a quicksand of their own making.
When they finally spoke, they came across as irritated and nitpicking, asking all sorts of obtuse questions that nobody cares about. One wanted to ask why the NSA Ajit Doval had been given credit for the CBI’s work. Another sounded pathetic as she wanted to start an argument over the technical definition of the media term “scoop”. One “expert” went to a channel and began blabbering incoherently about how Indian police is very good at extracting confessions.
As I said, you could feel their hearts pounding inside.
Not a single one of them wanted to ask any real questions. Like what is “Fam”? And who could “AP” refer to?
There are so many detailed observations that one could make on the arrest of Christian Michel. But here is a quick rundown.
First of all, the arrest shows that PM Modi is very serious about winning 2019. For a while now, India’s most legendary scamsters have grown to believe that the window for action against them has closed. In their boldness, some of them are trying to actually pass the buck for their decades of shady deals and ‘phone banking’ based loans to PM Modi himself.
All of them sat up and took notice last night. If Christian Michel starts singing like a canary, they know what will happen to them.
Secondly, the arrest of Christian Michel has led to a twang of fear across the world, straight to economic fugitives elsewhere. Just listen to Vijay Mallya’s changed tone as he “humbly requests” for a chance to settle. Maybe he thinks he is next?
There is one question, however, that I was dying to ask. So who are going to be Christian Michel’s lawyers in India? Will it be the same team of high society politician-lawyers who are always working for various causes in their “individual professional capacity”?
Now, we know who they are. The same group of folks who are fighting against Ram Mandir but in favour of allowing female genital mutilation. Will they be defending Michel as well? The answer came shortly when we found that Aljo Joseph, the national in-charge of Youth Congress’ legal department was representing Michel. In a bid to ‘manage’ the headlines, perhaps, Congress promptly dismissed him from the party after a severe backlash. Some journalists (the usual suspects) also wondered why Congress would do such a self-goal. They are well-wishers of Congress, after all.
And don’t you forget this:
6 million euros to “manage” Indian media? Hmmm…
Remember the talking heads on TV and those moralizing on Twitter and in newspaper columns? Some of those 6 million euros have been sitting in their bank accounts for years, gathering interest. Or perhaps they have been routed into other investments, whether in India or offshore.
We don’t know who took the money and where that money is right now. But surely those who took the money know exactly who they are. Would this account for some of the nervousness seen in media classes last night? I would guess so.
In the next few days, I suggest people look at media reports very closely and try to read between the lines. I don’t think it will be too hard to guess who got that money.
Most importantly, the arrest of Christian Michel has shown that India is no longer a helpless third world country that it used to be in times of Bharat Ratna winning Nehru Dynasty rule. India now has long arms that stretch across the world. Today we got one from Dubai. Those who are hiding in London could be next.
Growing up in India, we have internalized the belief that those who plunder the country never actually have to pay a price. At most, they leave the country and escape to a lifetime of luxury abroad. This is why Michel’s arrest appeals to every Indian on a very deep structural level. Times are a changing.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.