The lessons we can learn from this great man are simply invaluable
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Did the dealings between the BJP’s Nitin Gadkari, under cloud for corruption charges and discredited business group IRB, really show a nexus between corporates and netas to hide various ‘quid pro quo’ deals?
Nitin Gadkari, president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who is under a cloud for serious breach of ethics and propriety over the way he has grown his business while ostensibly being in public life, has come under the scanner as the Registrar of Companies (RoC) is likely to inquire about the alleged funding of the companies associated with him. However, Ajit Sawant, the former general secretary of the Mumbai Pradesh Congress Committee, who was instrumental in unearthing the shell companies of the BJP president, said that Gadkari, Purti group and Ideal Road Builders (IRB) group are just the tip of an iceberg and feels there could be hundreds of such companies being used for money laundering.
“In Purti Power & Sugar (Purti), over 80% shares are held by about several dummy companies. Some of these companies not only share the same email ID, but also have same directors and even same addresses. Of course, some in the media have found that several addresses provided by these companies do not exist, while four are from slum areas where nobody even heard the name of these companies,” Sawant said.
According to the former Congress leader, Gadkari’s driver Manohar Panse, accountant Kaurav Pandurang Zade, Sagar Kotawaliwale and Nishant Agnihotri (both employees of Purti) are directors of several shell companies. As per the information procured from the RoC, about 19 of these investor companies of Purti, show same email ID—email@example.com.
While pointing out that the investigation of shell companies on such a large scale is not the job of a common citizen, Sawant said, “It (the detailed investigations) should be carried out by a government agency. I am planning to file a complaint against these malpractices with the RoC.” Two other agencies that should be involved in the investigation are Economic Offences Wing of the state government and Serious Frauds Investigation Office, set up by the central government. But will these two agencies actually act or will there be a deal to save Mr Gadkari?
During 1995-99, Gadkari was a public works minister in the Shiv Sena-BJP government, in Maharashtra. Incidentally, during this period, IRB, whose owners are said to be close to Sharad Pawar, witnessed a phenomenal growth and was awarded hefty contracts for road building. When Gadkari demitted office, IRB founder Dattatrey Mhaiskar invested in Gadkari’s Purti group. He bought around Rs2 crore worth of shares or 8% of the group.
Similarly, in 2010, Purti group, which had got a hefty loan of Rs164 crore, was provided funding by Global Safety Vision Pvt Ltd, another company related to the IRB founder. IRB Infrastructure Developers (IRB Infra) issued a denial, stating that Global Safety Vision was never a subsidiary of the company.
“Neither IRB Infra nor any of its downstream subsidiaries have ever committed or made any investments in Global Safety Vision Pvt Ltd. We are not privy to business decisions or information on investment made by Global Safety Vision and therefore unable to comment on any investment made or money lent by it to any other entity,” the release said.
However, this is only a half truth. Global Safety Vision is not subsidiary of IRB Infra, because it is one of the promoter entities of the company. IRB Infra said, “In the prospectus dated 8 February 2008, it is disclosed on its page 163 that Global Safety Vision is a Promoter Group Entity.”
Interestingly, Global Safety Vision gave a loan of Rs164 crore to Purti group at 14% interest, after mortgaging several assets (land) of Purti. India Against Corruption (IAC) has made several allegations against the land allotment to Gadkari’s Purti group.
According to media reports, Sudhir Dive, the managing director of Purti and a close associate of Gadkari, said that the loan was to be paid back in 73 instalments and most of it had been repaid.
Surprisingly, Global Safety Vision might require financing. In its last regulatory filing, the company had paid up capital of just Rs1 lakh. How could a company with a tiny capital base, lend Rs164 crore when the land is not even owned by the loanee?
Earlier, in a regulatory filing, IRB Infra had said that Ideal Power or Ideal Energy Projects were never part of the IRB group and it neither committed nor made any investment in Ideal Energy. However, Sawant alleged that Ideal Energy Projects is promoted by the Mhaiskar family and has a power unit, with 540 megawatt capacity, at a close distance from Purti's sugar mill.
Over the years, IRB group built the ‘Ideal’ brand and seems unlikely that anyone but the family will use the brand. If IRB says that Ideal Power or Ideal Energy were never part of the group, then a pertinent question arises: Why has it not taken any action against them for using its ‘brand’ name?
In a separate incident, corporate affairs minister M Veerappa Moily said that the Registrars of Companies will “definitely inquire into it”, after the information on alleged funding of companies with which Gadkari is associated had been made public.
When asked by reporters whether the business dealings of Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, will also be scrutinised, Moily said that the two issues were separate and that there was no link between them.
The BJP has endorsed Gadkari’s stand that the party was open to any investigation by any competent authority and accused Union ministers of taking a partisan position on issues relating to corruption.
Like a boxer who is roughed up by the underdog in the first round and comes out swinging in the second and third round, President Obama hit back in both the second and third debates
Like a boxer who is roughed up by the underdog in the first round and comes out swinging in the second and third round, President Obama hit back in both the second and third debates. The second debate was moderated by Candy Crowley of CNN and the third debate was moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBC.
Luckily for President Obama he got on assist at the beginning of the second debate when Candy Crowley made a fact check in favour of President Obama on whether he had talked about the attack in Benghazi being caused by terrorists in his speech in the Rose Garden the day after the attack after consulting her computer. Candy Crowley said yes that President Obama had indeed said it when Governor Romney challenged the assertion. This was actually quite surprising as the initial reaction of the Obama administration was to blame the violence stemming from the anti-Mohammed film for the attack. Further Candy Crowley’s call was also surprising because as she said later she was present at the Rose Garden ceremony where the President made those comments. She later tried to defend herself by saying that Romney used the wrong word—Candy Crowley should have known better.
This gave a wind to President Obama on which he sailed for the next two debates. Candy Crowley’s call was doubtful at best and was taken out of context. Had she corrected President Obama about his statement in the Rose Garden at that early stage, it is quite possible that the course of the debate could have changed. It is also quite possible that President Obama may have regained his footing .That is now histories call but I am sure that 50% of Americans think it was the wrong call.
But President Obama was thereafter quite comfortable in the town hall format and made an effort to court the women’s vote which was found to be slipping away after the first debate. He pointed out that he was instrumental in the equal pay act for the sexes and that is where the Governor is trying to burnish his credentials with women got caught in a verbal faux pas. He said that when he was the Governor of Massachusetts he had asked the women’s groups for names of women and had gotten binders full of women and that had helped him to choose candidates for positions in his administration .This comment immediately went viral to show somehow that Romney does not respect women but in this political season Romney just can’t get the words right. There was also plenty of aggression in display as President Obama seemed to over compensate for sleepwalking through the first debate. But the Governor held his own and the debate was widely perceived to be a narrow victory for Obama.
The third debate was on foreign policy and President Obama really came out swinging as he accused the Governor of changing his position all the time. He sought to teach a lesson to Mitt Romney when the latter complained that there were less ships than at any time after 1916. Obama said, “Yes and there are less horses and less bayonets and also Governor there are quite different type of ships, there are aircraft carriers and there are nuclear submarines.”That was really a put down.
Similarly he came back when the Governor accused the President of visiting several countries in the Middle East in his first trip but not Israel and the President said, “I went to Israel when I was a candidate but did not go there with a fundraiser”.
In an interesting reversal of roles the Governor talked almost passionately about nation building abroad (he does not want to do it in America) and drew a titter from the crowd when he said that his deficit-cutting plan was on the website. President Obama also provided that America’s military spending was more than the next ten nations combined. Both candidates tried to bring in domestic policy as often as possible. But the Governor tried to tone down the rhetoric. Even on Libya the Governor did not push this case too hard.
It seemed that both sides would be satisfied with a draw and that is what it turned out to be with 62% saying in a CNN poll that Obama would be a strong leader and 60% saying that about Mitt Romney.
But the polls are getting closer by the day and in the swing states like Florida and Ohio the race is tightening and getting within the Governor’s reach.
Were the ninety minutes of the first Presidential debate ninety minutes that will change America?
(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier's College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master's in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)