Where the Swamy vs Chidambaram war all began

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To mark the Modi sarkar’s third anniversary of acche din — which was feted by the country’s business summit media — the government laid out a day of “Raid Raj”. Two key players in the Opposition — Bihar politician Lalu Prasad Yadav and former Home Minister P. Chidambaram — faced Income tax and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raids.

Lalu has been in the dock for a while (recently the Supreme Court ruled that he will face trial in the Fodder Scam case). The bigger target is Chidambaram: It is no secret that this government has been circling around the top Congress spokesperson.

As home minister in the UPA, it appears that Chidambaram had leaned on RK Raghavan, who headed the Supreme Court-appointed S.I.T to look into the 2002 Gujarat riots. Some culpability was sought to be put at the door of Modi (chief minister of Gujarat when the riots took place). At the end of the day, the SIT gave Modi a clean chit. But this government has clearly not forgotten or forgiven.

It is relying on information provided by the irrepressible Subramanian Swamy, who has had his sights on Chidambaram for a while. In the 2G scam days, Swamy put the spotlight on Chidambaram’s role in the whole mess — this was validated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself, who said in a press conference that he relied on the advice of telecom minister A. Raja and the then finance minister P. Chidambaram. Make no mistake: Chidambaram (who has been shouting from the rooftops that he is being punished for his strong political views) has a leading role to play in the demise of the UPA.

But then, as always, I digress. Swamy has been making wild allegations against Chidambaram (and his tennis-loving son Karti). He says the former FM has illegal bank accounts and properties in 18 countries. Swamy has gone for the jugular, telling Times Now: “He (Chidambaram) is a crooked, mean liar.”

The bigger question is: why on earth does Subramanian Swamy harbour such deep hatred for his former “student” at Harvard?

Well, we get an answer via an amazing story recounted by Punjab Kesri journalist G.S. Chawla:

“According to an article he wrote in 2011, the rift between Swamy and Chidambaram originated in the H.D. Deve Gowda government in the mid-1990s. Chidambaram was finance minister then.

Writes Chawla: “People do not know that Subramanian Swamy has been close to the controversial godman Chandraswami and Dr Prathap Reddy of Apollo hospital. All of them were members of a trust founded by Chandraswami. The enforcement directorate had found serious irregularities in the accounts of the trust in which some foreign currency was deposited. The finance ministry planned to act against all the three trustees.”

Chawla writes that one of the three approached former attorney-general G. Ramaswamy at midnight to find a way out, but Chidambaram didn’t listen. It took an intervention by former prime minister Chandra Shekhar to ensure that Deve Gowda stayed proceedings against the three trustees.

Swamy has not forgiven Chidambaram since, or so that story goes.

(This anecdote was first printed in 2012, in an Outlook cover story on Subramanian Swamy.)

Given the two sharp minds at work, this battle is far from over.

 

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