BJP leader Subramanian Swamy says that the late J. Jayalalithaa was against Chidambaram and wanted Swamy to promise that he would send PC to jail.
New Delhi: Most talk about the strange twist of fate that has Amit Shah as the Home Minister, at a time when former Home Minister P. Chidambaram is behind bars—strange given the fact that the roles were reversed when Chidambaram was the Home Minister. However, it is a little known fact that the current case against P. Chidambaram came to light at the instigation of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who was looking into the various FIPB clearances given by Chidambaram while he was Finance Minister in the UPA government. In this exclusive interview on NewsX, Swamy talked about his “feud” with Chidambaram and why he began investigating the Congress leader. Excerpts:
Q: While the focus is on the Amit Shah vs P. Chidambaram rivalry, it is also true that the INX case was instigated by you. What made you look into this?
A: It started this way; I took up the Aircel Maxis case where Mr Chidambaram gave the FIPB clearance. The bureaucrats only make sure that papers are in order and files are complete, the photostats readable. They don’t recommend anything. They just say these are the papers available for consideration and approval. The approval is done by the minister and under the Constitution and the Supreme Court judgement in the Shamsher Singh case (1974), the SC has held that whatever approval is given, the minister is solely responsible unless you can show that during the clearance stage, money was taken by any of the bureaucrats. Usually, the sole onus rests with the minister. So in the process I started looking at all the FIPB clearances he (Chidambaram) gave and I found 25 of them where it was clear that his son was the beneficiary. Money was not taken by him directly; they told the people to pay into Karti Chidambaram’s Advantage Strategic, which he indirectly controls. There is another company that controls 95% and he controls 100% of that company. These are normal things that crooks do all the time. It’s called shell companies. Money was being deposited in them. Then the question was that there are so many cases, which should be the first one to take up. The easiest was INX, because there the original clearance was for Rs 5 crore. Then without informing anybody, this Mukherjea couple brought in Rs 305 crore and the Income Tax got wind of it. They were given a notice and these people went running back to Chidambaram. Chidambaram then backdated the FIPB clearance, and where it was written 5, he put 30 in front of it and it became 305. And they got caught in that. The good thing in all this from our point of view is that Indrani has agreed to become an approver.
Q: Is this a good thing or a bad thing? You are taking the word of a murder accused against a former Finance and Home Minister?
A: You have to see what evidence she has given. She has said which bank accounts, she has shown us cheques by which she transferred money. She has given us a lot of data and in the process, we discovered 21 more bank accounts… Chidamabaram’s house in Cambridge, which he jointly owns with his son and grand-daughter, Metro bank in London where they have seven-eight accounts…all this has come out because of her (Indrani) being an approver. And yes, let them try to destroy her credibility, but the prosecutor’s stand would be that we have to examine the facts that she has brought out. The court has held many times it doesn’t matter how discreditable a witness is, but if the facts are correct, they should be taken into account. (Precedent is the famous Bhajan Lal case of 1992.)
Q: Abhishek Manu Singhvi had argued, making a case for bail, stating that Chidambaram was not a flight risk.
A: How do we know that? Mallya was also an MP.
Q: Surely there is a difference between Chidambaram and Mallya.
A: Are you willing to take a guarantee (that Chidambaram is not a flight risk)? Please give an affidavit. I will allow it to be introduced in the next bail application.
Q: His son is on bail, but Chidambaram is not.
A: We need Chidambaram for interrogation. His son has been under custodial interrogation and he has spilled the beans. He thought he could bluff his way (through), but he has finally got caught. Moreover, there is not just this case. There is the Air India case. It’s open and shut. Because IndiGo and GoAir paid 20% less than what Air India paid for the same Airbus planes. And it was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs and the chairman was Mr Chidambaram.
Q: So it’s not Praful Patel but Chidambaram who should be investigated in this case.
A: The call was that of the committee and the chairman was Chidambaram. The chairman took the stand. Even in that his son has got money.
Q: You are saying you can prove a money trail to Karti Chidambaram in the Air India case?
A: Ya ya. There are 21 accounts…that is why the FM in our time from 2014-2018 (Arun Jaitley) targeted some of the honest ED officers and tried to dismiss them, then the court reinstated them. That process is still going on as there are still Chidambaram’s chelas in our finance ministry.
Q: Yes, I have seen your tweets so have an inkling of what you are talking about. Tell me, what made you look into Chidambaram? There is talk of an old enmity between you two that dates back to you being part of a trust with Chandraswami and he was investigating that.
A: Well, anyone can investigate, but nothing came out of that. See, I have nothing against him personally because I hardly know him. In my life, I must have spoken to him three times. We have no connections in Tamil Nadu politics. I was with Jayalalithaa and if anyone who hated Chidambaram, it was Jayalalithaa. She was dead against him. She wanted me to promise that I would send Chidambaram to jail. I told her I am not going to promise you as I am going to do it anyway, so why should I promise you.
Q: Then what happened?
A: Yes, there is no doubt that Chidambaram has tried very hard to send me to jail, but he is a very incompetent fellow. First time was in 1997, saying I was a friend of Chandraswami. I didn’t realise being friends with anybody is a crime. I am friends with many people and if I am only going to be friends with “good” people, then I would hardly have any friends (laughs). I’ll have to find only divine people! See, everybody has some minuses and pluses. That’s human nature. Then again in 2011, he tried to get me on a Hindu terror charge. I had written a book on, How to Fight Terrorism, where I said that the Muslim population must accept that their ancestors are Hindus as DNA studies show that. He (Chidambaram) converted that into a hate speech. By the way, even (Arun) Jaitley tried to do the same, but he didn’t get anywhere thanks to the PM, (Nitin) Gadkari and Rajnath along with some of the others who stood up for me; otherwise, they were all aiming to send me to jail… Anyway, the issue is that Chidambaram was trying to put me under this Hindu terror business because of my book. Incidentally, Manmohan Singh (as PM) bought 500 copies and distributed it to all the embassies to read as the ideal book from India on how to fight terror. But he (Chidambaram) picked this book up and filed an FIR, but then I got it quashed by the Delhi High Court. He couldn’t get very far. But at that time I had said—now it’s my turn. And I got my turn.