India is a land of surprises, say many.
And how can Bihar, which they say has been witness to a glorious past, be an exception. Of course nobody could have imagined that ‘surprise of surprises’ or (should I call) ‘mother of all surprises’ would be reserved for the Bihar police. In fact it was one life time experience for all of them there where they found how ‘Rs 50,000 can balloon into Rs 1.14 crore’.
The central character in the still unfolding drama is Giriraj Singh, a RSS activist since his childhood days, and a senior leader in the state, who has already carved out a name for himself nationally for his controversial statements. People would remember how he proposed to Modi opponents to go to Pakistan during election campaign or how he eulogized Brahmeshwar Singh, leader of Ranveer Sena, the private army of landlords which had been allegedly responsible for hundreds of killings of innocents as ‘true Gandhian of our times’ when the dreaded figure was killed in a gang war. As an aside it needs be mentioned here that Giriraj Singh was one of the first in the state who had vouched for Mr Narendra Modi’s PM candidature also.
What happened has been in the public domain but it would be interesting to recapitulate the chain of events. A few days back it was reported that there was a theft at Giriraj Singh’s house – an ex-minister in the Nitish Cabinet and presently a MP from Nawada – where ‘around 50,000 Rs and some jewellery’ was stolen. Bihar police, which always receives battering for its alleged inefficiency, swung into action and managed to crack the case, caught the burglar with a suitcase – who confessed his role in the theft – packed with Rs 1.14 crore in cash, 600 US Dollars, two gold chains, three gold rings and seven luxury watches etc. Photos of the police officials with the recovered cash and other items were promptly published by the media.
As the matter was debated hotly in the media, with former Chief Minister and RJD MLC Rabri Devi alleging that the “recovered money must have been earned by Singh through corrupt means during his stint as animal husbandry minister”, Giriraj Singh, who had lodged the complaint of the theft flatly denied that the amount belonged to him and breaking his silence over the matter called it a “part of criminal conspiracy to tarnish his image”.
As the state government led by JD(U) was contemplating to review all the purchases made when Singh was in-charge of the Animal and Fisheries Resources Department between November 2010 and June 2013, while the BJP was part of the ruling coalition and deciding to put under the scanner the purchase of ambulances for animals for Rs 500 crore then, the state BJP found itself in a very embarrassing situation. How was it to explain things, as a very senior member of the party was being made a butt of jokes. At this point, we witness a typical Bollywood style turn in the whole episode.
Enter Rakesh Kumar Singh – a cousin of the M.P. with “the flourishing real estate business” in Nagpur. On Saturday (12 th June 2014) Singh went to the Police Station, where the case was lodged and told the police that Rakesh had kept the cash at his home “with some business expansion purpose”. What was puzzling to any onlooker was that it was the first time that Rakesh found mention in the case.
To cut a long story short, Bihar Police, which is patting its back for successfully cracking a case, has heaved a sigh of relief, has claimed that for them the job is done and it is up to ‘other agencies to find out the real owner of the recovered cash’. The Enforcement Directorate and I-T department are likely to question the MP soon. The state police have asked its Economic Offences Unit to investigate the matter.
We hope all these investigations also look into the changing statements of Mr Giriraj Singh and also look into the fact that the said monies were sourced from three different banks from three different states with the stamps of the said branches very much visible on the bundles of notes. Perhaps the bank people would be able to throw more light on the case.
While one expects that this riddle of ‘Rs 50,000 to 1.14 crore to 0’ will be solved and the truth behind the ‘mother of all surprises’ will be revealed, one can have little hope in the matter. As days pass on and people lose interest in the case, perhaps the matter will be silently buried.
In fact, if past is any guide, and if one looks at the party to which Mr Giriraj Singh belongs, instances galore which show tremendous opacity in such cases involving its leaders or the party higher ups themselves. It is a different matter the BJP claims lineage to a ‘cultural organisation’ which likes to advertise itself as ‘character builders to the nation.’
Perhaps a look into a few year old case where ‘Rs 2.5 crore were stolen from the BJP Headquarters’ itself would be instructive.
Yes it is the same place where the then President of the party Mr Bangaru Laxman was caught on camera ‘accepting’ bundle of notes from a ‘arms dealer’. There is no point in repeating the aftermath of the Tehelka exposes which witnessed unceremonious exit of Bangaru Laxman from the top echelons of the party and the RSS declaring him to be a ‘failed swayamsevak’. Later the party declared that Mr Bangaru Laxman was accepting donations for the party itself.
This ‘theft ‘ from the party headquarters had many interesting aspects.
According to reports the theft was reportedly detected on December 26 (2008) by the deputy accounts officer, Nalin Tandon, when the office reopened after Christmas. The mystery surrounding the heist deepened when it turned out that neither the locks to the accounts office nor the safe had been broken. There was absolutely no sign of a break- in, suggesting an insider’s involvement.
A SMS which was circulated widely in the media then would give an indication of the story. ‘Na Taala Toota na tijori, Phirbhi BJP Mukhyalaya se dhai karod chori‘ (Neither the lock was broken nor the safe, Still 2.5 crore Rs were stolen from the Party headquarters.)
– A recap of the reports which appeared then also remind us that only notes of 1,000 Rs denomination were found to be missing from the party’s treasury. Notes of the 500 Rs denomination had been left untouched.
– People asked a simple question if the said amount really went missing then why none noticed the bag or packet of 31 kgs – weight of Rs 2.5 crore – if one decides to have the whole amount packed in the denomination of Rs.1,000 notes – which would have supposedly passed out through the gate.
– Most notable feature of the ‘theft’ was that it was leaked to the press by some insiders only. It is up to critics to see why insiders of the party engaged in leaking secret information to the outside world which definitely brought the party in further disrepute.
– Perhaps the best way to investigate the case and catch the real miscreants would have been to entrust the job to any federal investigating agency but that did not happen. The matter was not handed over to the police but the party roped in private detectives to solve the case. The reason then given by the BJP for not lodging a police complaint about the theft was that it seemed like an “inside job”. The party apparently wanted to avoid the embarrassment of discovering a thief from within its ranks, whose name would be made public if the case were handed over to the police.
– Later one learned from the treasurer of the party that there was no cause of worry and once the ‘ankeshan” (auditing) would be over then only something definite could be said about it. Then came the news that the amount supposedly missing from the party coffers has been reduced without any further explanation.
Interestingly, this incident which had left many party people red faced and brought into sharp focus the inability of the party to have people with unblemished careers is largely forgotten now. There have been many changes in the party dispensation since then with new players to the front. None from the party would like to remember the incident today – while it is holding reins of power at the centre – which had put a big question mark its ability to manage coffers of the nation if it could not manage its own coffers properly.
Perhaps the private detective agency has submitted its report to the party higher ups about which nobody would be able to know anything.