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Friday, December 18, 1998

Fodder scam: Gujral tried to stall probe, says Joginder

NEW DELHI, DEC 17: Former CBI director Joginder Singh has accused then Prime Minister I K Gujral of trying to torpedo the investigations in the fodder scam.

Singh, in his forthcoming book "Inside CBI" (to be released shortly by Chandrika Publications), makes a direct and scathing attack on Gujral, who as Minister in charge of the personnel department, was also his immediate boss.

``When Gujral became Prime Minister,'' Singh writes in the chapter entitled `Reminiscence,' ``he gave an impression that he would not interfere in the working of the CBI. But this kind of impression was not only false but also shortlived.''

Elsewhere he writes about Gujral and his stand on corruption. In fact, he goes to the extent of alleging that the former Prime Minister encouraged the evil of corruption.

``In fact, as seen from the top rung of the CBI, things have deteriorated to an extent that the liberal use of Article 311 of the Constitution for summary removal of the awfully corrupt needs to resorted to,'' hesays, adding, ``But this could never be done by a government whose Prime Minister I K Gujral wrung his hands in helplessness in public over the issue in the second week of July, 1997. If the Prime Minister of the country feels helpless in tackling any problem, then Gods save India from such people. Although Gujral had been fulminating against corruption in public, he supported it to the hilt in private.''

Singh then proceeds to write: ``Gujral was never a weak Prime Minister. He was (is) actually an extremely cunning person who would put a fox to shame in the battle of wits. Taking advantage of the contradictions in the United Front, he tied himself to the apron strings of Congress president Sitaram Kesri. As a press report put it on June 24, 1997, this was the price he had to pay for his survival. It has been said that actions should speak louder than words. But not in his case where words speak the loudest. If corruption could be banished by giving speeches and pious wishes, this problem would havevanished long time ago.''

The former CBI director virtually accuses Gujral of trying to stymie the investigations in the fodder scam in an effort to shield Laloo Prasad Yadav. ``When he was away in Nepal on an official tour, there were frantic inquiries from his office whether we were going to arrest Laloo or had conducted searches at the houses of senior officers belonging to his state (Bihar). As there was no such proposal at that time, I answered that we did not intend to so,'' Singh observes.

The former CBI director also reveals enormous pressure was mounted on him not to chargesheet Laloo in the fodder scam. ``......In the meantime,'' he writes, ``the draft chargesheet had been received in the office of the CBI director. By this time, Gujral had taken over as Prime Minister. Earlier on the proposal of the joint director, I had approved the arrest of the political bigwigs including the then Chief Minister and others.''

He does not spare N N Vohra, then OSD in the Prime Minister's office. ``Iattended a meeting with the PM on June 18, 1997.....It was also attended by Vohra, a retired IAS officer who was resurrected nearly three years after retirement. Also present was T R Satish Chandran, the Principal Secretary to the PM. Vohra said that I should send a fax stating that Chief Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav would not be arrested. I said that I would not do that unless the government gave the order to me in writing.''

``Incidentally,'' Singh points out, ``during the period he was in the Home Ministry, he had authored a report on the criminal-politician nexus. He was also included in the committee constituted for its follow-up. Now the same gentleman was pleading the case of a politician involved in the outright loot of Bihar treasury. Perhaps Vohra was only carrying out the orders of the PM. In retrospection, I think he had little option.''

He also states that he had to pay a heavy price for annoying Gujral by defying his wishes on the scam. ``I was also aware that my transfer orders would be soonon their way,'' he mentions. Needless to say, he was shunted out from the CBI soon.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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