Politics

Why The Victimhood Narratives Of The Chidambarams, Jr And Sr, Won’t Wash

Karti Chidambaram and P Chidambaram.
Snapshot
  • While it is fair to suggest that the arrest of Karti may be a diversionary tactic, it can’t be proven.

    The rest of the criticism of the CBI’s handling of the case is clearly an attempt to build a victimhood narrative by father, son and the holy ghosts of the Lutyens ecosystem when they have much to answer for.

The Congress party has cried foul (vendetta politics) over the arrest of Karti Chidambaram, whose smoking guns in the INX Media case may end up pointing in the direction of his father, P Chidambaram.

While some of the criticism – that this may be a diversionary tactic to shift media attention away from the Nirav Modi-Punjab National Bank scam – may well be valid despite Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) denials, the other critiques are largely nonsensical. And if you believe that whatever the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) does against opposition politicians is “vendetta politics”, you should equally believe that all the actions against BJP politicians (Narendra Modi, B S Yeddyurappa, Nitin Gadkari, et al) during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) tenure from 2004-14 also constituted vendetta politics. You can’t make one allegation today when you are in opposition without implicitly accepting that you did the same when you were in power.

Now let us look at the main Congress criticisms. First, it is said that there was no need to arrest Karti when he was willing to cooperate with the CBI. Now, quite apart from the CBI’s claim that he is not cooperating, the question of whether to arrest someone or not depends largely on what the CBI thinks it hopes to achieve by doing so. If it was purely a political gambit based on prodding from the government, certainly the arrest was not needed. But if the CBI wanted to do so in order to confront him and quiz him in police custody since this may bring better results, it is well within its right to do so, as long as the courts play along. So, the question of whether Karti needed to be arrested or quizzed without arrest is merely a matter of difference of opinion.

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The second criticism, that the section 164 statement by Indrani Mukerjea, that Chidambaram Sr wanted INX to help his son’s business, is sought to be invalidated by claiming that Indrani and her husband Peter Mukerjea are the main accused in the murder of their daughter Sheena Bora. By implication, they can easily be influenced by pressure from the CBI to falsely implicate the Chidambarams in return for help with their murder case. There are three problems with this objection: one, cooperating with the CBI will not absolve them of their crime, if proven in court. Two, both Mukerjeas are co-accused in the INX-Chidambaram case, and can thus seek to be approvers in this case. It is upto the courts to accept or reject their statements, assuming they want to help the CBI nail the bribery case. Third, Indrani’s section 164 statements will have to be corroborated by other documents and evidence (including their claim that they met Chidambaram in Delhi) before it is accepted as part of the evidence. So, Chidambaram loyalists are barking up the wrong tree right now.

The third criticism is fairly ridiculous. Abhishek Singhvi, Karti’s lawyer, claims that Karti had no intention of leaving the country, and, in fact, he is a Hindustan “Returner”, not a “Leaver.” While it is true that Karti Chidambaram has indeed returned as planned, the reason for his return should be obvious to any politically savvy person: Karti cannot afford to scoot like a Nirav Modi or Vijay Mallya for the simple reason that it would automatically prove his guilt and reduce his father’s political chances in a future Rahul Gandhi administration to zero. This is the reason he cannot run away, not any noble intention to face the law. A necessity has been converted into a virtue.

The fourth criticism, often offered by Chidambaram himself, is plain rubbish. Chidambaram has repeatedly claimed that he is being targeted because of his columns in The Indian Express, which are critical of the government. (read his tear-jerkers here and here). This is trying to pretend he is a victim when he is part of the well-protected Lutyens ecosystem and power elite. There is no chance in hell that Chidambaram’s voice can ever be silenced, and even if newspapers were somehow arm-twisted into rejecting his columns, he can blog till kingdom come.

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While it is fair to suggest that the arrest of Karti may be a diversionary tactic, it can’t be proven. The rest of the criticism of the CBI’s handling of the case is clearly an attempt to build a victimhood narrative by father, son and the holy ghosts of the Lutyens ecosystem when they have much to answer for.

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