On Arvind Kejriwal going after corruption

Arvind Kejriwal has been in the news recently. First DLF and Robert Vadra, then Salman Khurshid and Nitin Gadkari. Just today was the latest:

“It appears that Mukesh Ambani and not the PM runs the country,” Mr Kejriwal said, wearing his trademark cap inscribed with main aam admi hoon (I am the common man). “The PM’s heart beats for Reliance and not the people of India,” he declared.

This is what Mulayam Singh Yadav said recently about Kejriwal:

“Let him enter politics and fight elections. He will understand how things work. There is no need to give him so much of attention. He has not left out anyone and believes that everyone is corrupt. Let him continue to do what he does, he will soon exhaust himself.”

On the one hand, this is the quiet confidence of an experienced man. Let the new guy be here for a bit; he won’t stay honest for long. He’ll toe everyone else’s line soon enough.

On the other, I can’t but read this as a veiled threat—Toe the line, mister, or your new-fangled political party won’t find the oxygen it needs to survive.

For India and its anti-corruption campaign, the hope is that Yadav is wrong; that Kejriwal won’t change his ways. But what happens when every corrupt politician in India gets tired of his antics and decides to band together and come after him?

The fact that these guys have all been defending themselves says one thing, though—Kejriwal doesn’t have many skeletons in his closet. Good on you, sir.

I just hope he takes care of himself in the shark infested waters he’s waded into.

‘The CAG is at it again’: More corruption reports

After the explosive unraveling of the recent 2G spectrum scandal, the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) has published another report, this time on coal mining.

The numbers are staggering to say the least:

[…] the government has extended “undue benefits”, totalling a mind-boggling Rs 10.67 lakh crore, to commercial entities by giving them 155 coal acreages without auction between 2004 and 2009. The beneficiaries include some 100 private companies, as well as some public sector units, in industries such as power, steel and cement.

Rs. 10 lakh crore. Incredible.

Companies that find themselves mentioned in the report include Jindal Steel, Tata Steel, NTPC, Arcelor Mittal India and the Aditya Birla group. Big names, all of them.

But Jindal Steel and Power Ltd promoter Naveen Jindal responded, saying: “It is all project specific. Often you find (state-run) companies unable to start work. I am proud to say that JSPL has started two of our blocks and is contributing towards creating wealth for the country. For all these 155 blocks, Coal India did not have any mining plans as it found them unattractive… CAG may have its view but whether it is JSPL or any other private company, they are all Indian entities and are creating wealth for the country.”

Certainly, sir—it is a matter of pride that you are able to create wealth for the country, and are strengthening the economy. But considering that you are perfectly healthy, profit making companies, it’s certainly criminal of you to transfer to your private coffers some money that rightfully belongs to the exchequer—yes, you’re not the only party at fault, but you’re culpable too!

Rs. 10 lakh crore. That’s approximately $200 billion (if I counted the zeros right—there are way too many zeros in that figure).

I wonder how many other such ‘schemes’ are hidden in the woodwork. CAG—please keep digging!