Long article but every bit interesting.
This is what Swami RAMDEV
is fighting against!
World's #9 Most Powerful Person Now Accused of Corruption -- Will She Fall?
Cleo Paskal <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cleo-paskal>
New Delhi : Some of India's biggest fish are getting caught up in the
country's fast-growing wave of anti-corruption activity. In what could be
India's equivalent of a judicial jasmine revolution, previously invulnerable
politicians, business icons, and pillars of the community are all nervously
keeping their lawyers on speed-dial.
The anti-corruption push is an unprecedented coming together of myriad
facets of Indian society. Religious leaders are concerned about the effects
on morality and spiritual growth. NGOs speak of the effects on the poor. The
middle class is angry about its future being stifled by a smothering blanket
of day-to-day corruption. The intelligence services see corruption a clear
threat to national security. And the business community, thanks to
globalization, has seen how efficiently things can operate without having to
constantly pay bribes or be tangled in red tape, and they want the same
thing at home.
Even the Supreme Court is fed up, with Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy saying
about the vast
sums of Indian money being illegally hidden away in Liechtenstein Bank:
We are talking about the huge money. It is a plunder of the nation. It is a
pure and simple theft of the national money. We are talking about
The scandals are bursting on to the front pages fast and thick. Suresh
Kalmadi, a Congress Party politician and the former head of the
corruption-plagued Commonwealth Games, was arrested April 25. According to a
report by the Indian Comptroller and Auditor General, the 2G spectrum scam
alone, in which 2G licenses were sold off in a manner that was, to say the
least, less than transparent, cost close to $40 billion
cag-dishnet-wireless-and-vodafone-essar> in lost revenue.
All across India, people are saying enough is enough. And suddenly the
unthinkable is starting to happen. People considered above reproach, or at
least untouchable, are coming under the judicial cross-hairs. 2G alone has
seen charges laid against one former government minister and several
captains of industry.
And the latest high profile target is one of the biggest fish of all,
Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, currently
#9 on Forbes list of the
'World's Most Powerful People'.
Sonia Gandhi has one of the most remarkable life stories in international
politics. Born Edvige Antonia Albina Maino into a family of modest means in
rural Italy, she didn't even get a chance to complete high school before
heading to the UK for work. There she met Rajiv Gandhi, son of Indian Prime
Minister Indira Gandhi. She eventually married him and the young family
moved in to Indira Gandhi's New Delhi's home, putting her literally in the
heart of Indian politics.
After Indira Gandhi's assassination
Sonia's husband Rajiv became Prime Minister. Following Rajiv's 1991
Tamil terrorists, there were rumors that Sonia was going to put herself
forward as Prime Minister.
As she herself later said
, she "could not walk past the portraits of my husband, my mother-in-law
her father and not feel that I had some responsibility to try and save the
party they had given their lives to."
Given her focus on the party, it was fitting that instead of becoming Prime
Minister, she ended up as President of the powerful Congress Party.
Politically, it proved to be a smart move as it gave her power without
direct responsibility -- while she is #9 on Forbes list of power people, the
actual Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, is only #18
. According to Forbes,
"Gandhi remains the real power behind the nuclear-tipped throne [...] she
has cemented her status as true heiress to the Nehru-Gandhi political
Her image is of a dutiful, submissive Indian wife, now widow. When her
husband was alive, she would walk behind him. In public she wears saris.
Although a devout Catholic, she is often photographed at Hindu Temples. And
like a good Indian mother, though she has decorously pulled herself out of
the race for Prime Minister, she is happy to encourage her son, Rahul, to
take the job.
However there have been growing, persistent murmurs about questionable
business deals and inexplicable exponential jumps in the personal wealth of
her and her family.
The allegations came out in the open in 1995 when M. D. Nalapat
, then Resident Editor
(Delhi) of the world's largest English language newspaper, the Times of
India <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/?> ,
began a groundbreaking series
of articles about Sonia.
The articles made the controversial (at the time) claim that the public
docility was just a ploy, and that Sonia actually had serious political
ambitions (later confirmed by her role in Congress). Also, crucially, the
series said that her desire for power wasn't simply altruistic and that the
wealth not only of her, but of her Italian relatives, rose stratospherically
after Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1984.
Nalapat's articles could not be ignored as he was one of India's most
respected journalists and had, throughout his career, taken on corrupt
politicians, social inequity and institutionalized discrimination.
This however was a 'topic too far'. While the facts in the article were
never refuted, Nalapat was forced out of journalism in 1998 and moved into
Next came public questions from another highly reputed source, Sten
Lindstrom, Sweden's special prosecutor investigating the pay-offs associated
with the sale of weapons by Bofors
to the government of India.
His investigation showed that a close friend of Sonia's, Ottavio
Quattrocchi, has received kickbacks in the millions.
In 1998 Lindstrom gave an interview in which
the Gandhis, particularly now Sonia, should explain how Quattrocchi-owned
companies got such fat sums as payoffs from the Bofors deal. After all, what
is the connection of Sonia and the Gandhi family to Quattrocchi? Who
introduced Quattrocchi and his AE Services to Bofors? At least one thing is
certainly known now. A part of the payoffs definitely went to Quattrocchi.
[...] the papers all pointed to the Gandhi family.
Not only have the questions not been answered by Sonia, but in spite of
substantial evidence against him, Quattrocchi has managed to evade
prosecution in India,
and has even had his kickback funds unfrozen
Part of the genius of Sonia Gandhi is her ability to present herself as a
helpless victim, convincing even her political rivals not to fear her as she
is fatally flawed. In 1998, India was being led by BJP Prime Minister
Vajpayee. When Nalapat spoke with him about Sonia, he was bluntly told to
lay off, as, "so long as a white Christian lady is head of the Congress
Party, I [Vajpayee] and my party will always be in power". Vajpayee and
party lost power to Sonia's Congress in 2004.
But the most serious threat to Sonia -- and, as she is at the apex of the
Congress Party, and so to Congress itself -- is now lying on the desk of
#18, the Prime Minister of India.
On April 15, former Law and Justice Minister and Harvard Professor
Dr. Subramanian Swamy asked
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for leave to lay corruption charges against
In a meticulously researched 200+ page
submission Dr Swamy
alleges Sonia Gandhi has been involved in corruption in India since 1972 and
personally benefited from the Bofors scam (1986), has held billions in
non-Indian bank accounts since at least 1991, illegally profited from the
Iraqi oil-for-food deals (2002), and even accessed KGB payoffs during the
The Prime Minister has three months to decide whether or not to grant
sanction to prosecute. If he doesn't, Dr. Swamy can take the case directly
to the Supreme Court, which under Chief Justice Kapadia
rupt-judges-justice-kapadia-india-s-h-kapadia> is showing a
proclivity towards facilitating corruption cases.
While, so far, the corruption cases in India have caught up some pretty big
fish, if charges are laid against Sonia Gandhi, it won't just be part of a
wave, it will be a sea change.
Sonia Gandhi is not just an individual, she is the steely core of a pillar
of Indian politics. If she crumbles, it will shake the foundations of the
venerable Congress Party, and possibly leave a gaping hole in the political
scene. Meanwhile, a range of polarizing and regional parties are ready to
rush in and stake their claim. Given the growing importance of India in our
heavily globalized world, this is not just an Indian story, this is one all
should be following very closely indeed.