New Delhi | 27th Nov
It was 1977 and the Janata Party had astonished media pundits by coming to power on the distaste created by the Emergency for the Congress party. A slim lawyer from Tamil Nadu shyly came up to the Stormy Petrel of the period, Subramanian Swamy, who had just been elected to the Lok Sabha from Bombay, the city his Parsi wife Roxna regarded as home. During the Emergency, Swamy had stealthily entered Parliament House, quickly signed the attendance register, and vanished before policemen could apprehend him. Swamy was, because of his opposition to the Emergency, one of that period’s Most Wanted.
Although regarded with less than affection by A.B. Vajpayee, he was a favourite of Morarji Desai, and had come back to India after giving up a teaching career at Harvard. Palaniappan Chidambaram, the lawyer from Tamil Nadu, was one of the editors (together with N. Ram of the Hindu) of the Radical Review, a left publication strongly in favour of nationalisation of private assets (the Hindu and the Chidambaram family’s assets presumably excluded). Chidambaram reminded Swamy that he was one of his appreciative Harvard pupils, only to get a cold stare from the newbie celebrity, and a “who are you?” look
Although it failed with Swamy, Chidambaram’s youth and clipped accent, so different from the denizens of Mylapore or Egmore, impressed Rajiv Gandhi. He was inducted into the Central Council of Ministers in 1984, as Minister of State in the Home Ministry, no less. Some of his joy at the elevation in his status was probably tempered by the sight of the forgetful Harvard professor, who seemed to have won the affection of the PM to an even greater degree than Chidambaram. What was Swamy doing, meeting the PM? Discreet warnings about the opposition element who had “opposed Indira Gandhi” had little effect on Rajiv Gandhi, who liked to surround himself with those who had taken a political line different from that of the Congress party. Swamy continued to meet with the PM regularly, and even do secret missions for him, tasks that were not confided to the Minister of State by either Swamy or the PM.
The situation was made intolerable for Chidambaram by (the then Rajya Sabha MP) Swamy raising the Hashimpura massacre in Parliament in 1987. The killing of more than 40 Muslim youth by the UP Provincial Armed Constabulary had sickened the nation, and both officials as well as politicians sought to distance themselves from the foul deed. Swamy did not allow Chidambaram such a luxury. He accused the minister of doing an “aerial reconnaissance” of the killing field, the implication being that the lawyer-turned-politician was behind the massacre. This was crossing a huge red line, and it was dangerous to be so foolhardy with Chidambaram, whose memory for slights rivals that of a Pathan tribal elder.
Although on the record, backers of the current Union Home Minister deny any role in Swamy’s travails, others claim that Chidambaram waited for an opportunity to strike back. He was clearly patient, holding his fire when Swamy briefly became Commerce Minister in the Chandrashekhar government. The Tamil Nadu politician, whether because of the presence within it of Swamy or not, was one of the most persistent advocates of the Congress party withdrawing support to Chandrashekhar, advice that Rajiv Gandhi finally took in 1991, forcing the election that caused him his life.
Palaniappan Chidambaram is aware that he is a gift of nature to humanity, and is generous with advice to acolytes. It must rankle that Swamy has never, not even once, turned to him for guidance. To Chidambaram’s chagrin, although he was Minister of State for Commerce with independent charge in the Narasimha Rao ministry, Swamy was made chairman of the GATT Commission set up to assist in the negotiations with that international trade body. Worse, he was given Cabinet rank, a slight that Chidambaram held against Rao thereafter, finally breaking with the PM in 1996 in the company of his old benefactor, Govindaswamy Karuppiah Moopanar. When H.D. Deve Gowda formed a government in 1996, Chidambaram became the Union Finance Minister.
Soon afterwards, a chance presented itself to send Subramanian Swamy to jail. The stormy petrel of Emergency days had taken over in 1997 as chairman of a trust set up by “spiritual guru” Chandraswamy, after Dr P.C. Reddy (the founder of the Apollo Group) resigned after Chandraswamy was targeted by the Finance Ministry for FERA violations, the godman’s real offence being his closeness to one of Chidambaram’s betes noire, former Prime Minister Rao. Although Swamy had just been inducted into the trust, and therefore had no role in any of the transactions being investigated, an arrest warrant was issued for him. Was it to be checkmate? Would Chidambaram succeed where Indira Gandhi had failed during the Emergency? Unfortunately for him, before Swamy could be arrested, Prime Minister Deve Gowda learnt of the warrant, and got it cancelled. Till recently, Swamy had been Gowda’s nominal boss as president of the Janata Party, of which Gowda had been the Karnataka state boss, till he quit to join hands with the Janata Dal.
While Chidambaram may be a Pathan in his outlook, Subramanian Swamy is Sicilian. Soon after escaping from the prospect of jail in 1997, he filed a complaint against Chidambaram, alleging that the Finance Minister had misused his position to get promoters shares in Fairgrowth, an investment subsidiary of a nationalised bank. The Delhi High Court issued notice to the minister, who admittedly had been allotted the shares. However, masterful arguments by counsel Arun Jaitley led to the court asking Swamy for a fresh complaint, because of a technicality. Fortunately for Chidambaram, the Lok Sabha elections took place soon afterwards, in 1998, and Swamy lost interest in pursuing the case. Litigation is a full-time job in India, not a task one can attempt in one’s spare time.
Although there were rumours that Chidambaram would join the BJP in 2003, a year later he re-emerged as Finance Minister in the Congress-led government headed by Manmohan Singh. From that lofty perch, he could perhaps afford to ignore Private Citizen Swamy, who by the 1999 polls was out of both government as well as Parliament. However, the converse was not true, especially after 2008, when a group of Telecom Ministry officials secretly called on Swamy at his New Delhi residence and gave him details of what they claimed was massive fraud in the allocation of 2G spectrum. By the beginning of 2011, Swamy became convinced that the scam had been perpetrated by both Raja and Chidambaram, with the Congress stalwart being the “senior partner”. According to Swamy, it was Chidambaram who told Raja about the escape route that the companies that had been allocated spectrum could take to get over the three year lock-in period. Rather than sell the spectrum, they could sell the entire company, and thereby the spectrum.
Was Chidambaram told in writing by then Home Minister Shivraj Patil about security concerns regarding Etisalat and Telenor, the two foreign companies that bought two of the Indian entities that had been given 2G spectrum by A. Raja sans an auction? Are there minutes of meetings between Raja and Chidambaram that show that the decisions taken were arrived at jointly, rather than (as numerous media plants claim) Chidambaram opposing Raja? Swamy says yes. On 26 August 2011, Swamy went to the Supreme Court asking for Chidambaram to be included as a culprit in the 2G scam. The very next day, the Crime Branch of the Delhi police (which directly reports to the Home Ministry, headed by Chidambaram since 2008) registered an FIR against Swamy for an article that he had written in DNA. The game of Catch between the two Tamil politicians thus goes on, so far with neither man succeeding in sending the other to jail.
“During the Emergency, Swamy had stealthily entered Parliament House, quickly signed the attendance register, and vanished before policemen could apprehend him. Swamy was, because of his opposition to the Emergency, one of that period’s Most Wanted.” — M.D. Nalapat (See above oped).
Some pictures from Subramanian Swamy’s political album (and a video)
One photo missing from the album is the heroic entry he made into Parliament to defy the emergency regime and police raj imposed by Indira Gandhi.
RainmakerIndia on Jan 10, 2011
Dr. Subramanian Swamy is the President of the Janata Party and was Union Minister for Commerce and Law between 1990 and 1991 in the Chandra Shekhar Cabinet.
“When I was at Harvard, JP had come in 1968, and hardly anybody recognised ‘JP’. It was very sad, how in India people forget so quickly. The man was a great freedom fighter, gave up being Deputy Prime Minister for Jawarharlal Nehru and sacrificed his life for Sarvodaya. He made me spend six months in Sarvodaya and I told him that in India nothing works without politics. Even social work you need politics He was angry with me for suggesting this since it was a negation of his life.”
In 1972, when “JP” was recovering from a heart attack, he called for Dr. Swamy and asked him to tell his people what he had told him a few years ago. Jaya Prakash Narayan’s colleagues pounced on Dr. Swamy and called him immature and Americanised. JP supported Dr. Swamy. “The JP movement suddenly caught fire. JP was a hallowed name, forgotten but hallowed. Mrs. Gandhi became nervous, tried to malign him. In the end she lost the elections and that was how the emergency was declared.”
Dr. Swamy, refusing to get arrested, went underground and lived that way for months. On the night of June 25, 1975 after having dinner with “JP”, Dr. Swamy got an anonymous call from the police asking for him. Sensing that the arrest was impending, Dr. Swamy went underground. He refused to live in a dictatorship. It was on JP’s insistence that Dr. Swamy went abroad.
“Those days security did not exist. I went to Madras, went straight to the airport, got a ticket for Colombo at the counter. Those days you could go to Colombo without a passport. Fortunately I had an American Express card and bought my ticket to London and that is how the whole ‘Friends of India Society’, which I founded, began.”
“I used the Harvard platform and went to all the elite places in London — The Royal Institute of International affairs, Chattam House, Institute of Strategic studies. The British elite was completely swayed. I was an instant hit.”
Speaking about how he came into Parliament and made the one-minute speech on August 10, 1976, he said, “I bought a ticket on Pan American to Bangkok, which stopped in Delhi. I was a transit passenger and hence my name did not come in the passenger manifest. So the police had no idea I was coming. I got down, went to the transit lounge. There was only one policeman at three a.m., I showed him my Parliament pass and walked past. He even saluted me.”
Narrating the dramatic events leading up to the one-minute speech in Parliament, Dr. Swamy said, ” I checked into a hotel, then in a disguised voice called my wife. As a contingency I always keep a sardarji pagdi and a false beard with me. I asked my wife to come to the hotel for breakfast with these things and a tool-box. She came and gave me the things.”
Dr. Swamy disguised as a television mechanic went to his house and walked past the policemen stationed outside his house. “I knocked on the door and asked if the television was out of order, my wife said yes, yes. I went in and stayed five full days in my house. Imagine, the police never questioned what this lady is doing with a television mechanic.”
At the end of the fifth day, I sat in a car with my wife and drove to Parliament. I went in, signed the register and walked into the house. The Speaker was reading the last name on the obituary list. Everybody was shocked to see me, Bansi Lal, Om Mehta… They all looked at me and thought that perhaps I was there to throw a bomb or something. I said, “Mr. Chairman, on a point of order, you are on obituaries, Democracy has also died, kindly include that also in the list. They lost two minutes standing in silence while I walked out of there.”
The escape thereafter, became even more difficult for Dr. Swamy. “It required nerves, that is all,” he said. He reached Bombay, where the RSS offered him assistance and supported him. “There was such a man-hunt for me. Everyone connected with me was put to trouble.”
This meant that he had to leave the country again. The only way of escape was by getting to Nepal. “As luck would have it, Mrs. Indira Gandhi was addressing an AICC meet in Guwahati and so all the police were there. I wore Nepali clothes and walked past the border and nobody stopped me. From there the King’s people picked me up and took me Kathmandu and then the King sent me to Bangkok from where I caught a commercial flight to United States.”
Subramanian Swamy has only been consistent about one pursuit in life – the desire to bring down corrupt governments. But now he’s basking in the glory of being the unraveller of the 2G scam. When Swamy did not find a place in Vajpayee’s dispensation, he organised a tea party for Sonia Gandhi that brought the government down.
After Jayalalithaa got the Kanchi Shankaracharya arrested for murder, Swamy defended the Acharya.
AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa quickly dumped Swamy after using him to pull down Vajpayee’s government.
People can never write him off. Subramanian Swamy makes national headlines, pulling down corrupt government functionaries, one by one.
Swamy became a cabinet minister in the Chandra Shekhar government, supported by Rajiv Gandhi of Congress in 1991.
Swamy was the old Jan Sangh mate of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Photos sourced after: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/gallery/janata-party-chief-subramaniam-swamy/1/5594.html