Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a jan sabha in Gujarat on Saturday: “Days of looting poor, exploiting middleclass will soon be history”. Perhaps, he was attempting a self-deprecating joke. The NDA government’s demonetisation drive, intended to fight black money and bring its hoarders down to their knees, has been nothing but the exploitation of the poor.
While ordinary citizens stand in serpentine queues, struggle to get their hands on their own hard earned money, and even die (thanks to the drive), we have the uber-rich one per cent who seem to be doing everything in their power to mock the other 99, with a toxic display of wealth and grandeur, as the nation recently witnessed with the wedding of former BJP minister in Karnataka, Gali Janardhan Reddy’s daughter, which reportedly cost close to Rs 100 crore.
As if that weren’t enough, on the one-month anniversary of the demonetisation drive, Union minister for transport and highways Nitin Gadkari too indulged in an extravagant display of wealth on the occasion of his daughter’s wedding reception. According to reports, Gadkari had chartered 50 private aircraft to ferry the guests to Nagpur for the wedding whose guest list included the who’s who of Indian politics. There were an estimated 10,000 guests at the event.
In the aftermath of the demonetisation drive, at least 80 Indians have lost their lives, and several weddings cancelled – it is but obvious that this peacock feather display of one’s wealth will not only garner criticism, but also questions and, hopefully, even an official investigation. And that is exactly what former IAS officer and an ex-advisor in the Planning Commission, EAS Sharma has attempted.
In his letter to Modi, Sharma urges the PM to investigate such flagrant display of lavishness by his own ministers and party members.
He has also served the prime minister an ultimatum: “If you do not act quickly and firmly on these letters of mine, I will be constrained to seek judicial intervention, as every citizen in this country has the right to question the basics of governance.”
Here’s the full text of his letter:
Shri Narendra Modi
Dear Shri Narendra Modiji,
I enclose two news reports, one that appeared today in Hindustan Times on “50 chartered planes to ferry VVIPs to Nagpur for Gadkari’s daughter’s wedding”, and the second in today’s Times of India, “Weddings put off as families struggle to tide over crash crunch”.
Apparently, there is one set of rules and standards for NDA ministers (please see my letter addressed to the enforcement directorate, forwarded here on a similar wedding equally lavishly celebrated last week by your minister Mahesh Sharma) and another set of rules and standards for the common man on the street.
As a result of the prevailing cash crisis, many families have put off their scheduled weddings. Many other weddings have broken down. But, Gali Janardhana Reddy, Mahesh Sharma and Gadkari feel no crisis whatsoever, as they seem to have the blessings of bigwigs from both BJP and the NDA. While your ministers are indulging in such unhealthy extravagance, is it not ironic that you yourself should exhort the common man to stand in queues to uphold your grandiose mission to fight against black money?
Those that stand in the queues like me feel that your intentions are great and temporary inconveniences should be ignored. At the same time, we feel perplexed to find no Janardhana Reddy’s, Mahesh Sharma’s and Gadkari’s in the queues. Adding insult to injury, they flaunt their wealth and mock at the public at large. Are we living in a civilised society, Mr Modi?
I am asking the enforcement directorate to investigate the source of every rupee that these super-citizens have spent and the cash component of every expense they have incurred. I am not sure whether the enforcement director has the authority or an inclination to carry out an impartial investigation, as the numerous cases of overseas accounts standing in the names of some of your chief ministers brought to their notice by me, are yet to be investigated by the central investigation agencies till now.
I do not think that any marriage in the West can boast of 50 chartered flights being arranged as it seems to be the case with Gadkari.
Are these chartered flights paid for by the corporate houses? Who are those corporate houses? Are there quid pro quos involved? How many five-star rooms have been booked on behalf of Gadkari at Nagpur? How many air-conditioned cars are deployed to ferry the VIPs to and fro? Who has paid for the same? What was the expenditure incurred on the wedding celebrations?
Have Gadkari and his associates withdrawn cash from banks at the expense of all those languishing for days in long serpentine queues in front of banks and ATMs?
Have the local senior Income-Tax officials already compromised their position by attending the wedding reception as honoured guests?
Who are the NDA, RSS and BJP bigwigs who attended the wedding and endorsed the extravagance? This calls for a full-fledged investigation, Mr Modi.
I am marking a copy of this letter to Hasmukh Adhia, the union revenue secretary so that he may feel that he too has the obligation to order an investigation into this conspicuously celebrated Gadakari wedding, especially at a time when his department is harassing small jewellers and petty contractors in the name of “tightening” the noose around the necks of “black marketeers”.
I believe that in a democracy like ours, we need an explanation on this questionable wedding from the highest level in your government. I believe that the CBDT and the enforcement directorate should investigate and report on this. The public at large have not yet fully digested the initial “clean” certificate provided by the Income-Tax Department on the details of Gali Janaradhana Reddy’s spending on his daughter’s wedding. This has certainly eroded the credibility of your government in regard to the demonetisation measures.
If you do not act quickly and firmly on these letters of mine, I will be constrained to seek judicial intervention, as every citizen in this country has the right to question the basics of governance.
I am circulating this letter widely to generate a public discussion and a debate on NDA’s true stance on profligacy and conspicuous expenditure in the context of demonetisation.
Just days after the extravagant wedding organised by Reddy, evidence of his dubious dealings have emerged. KC Ramesh, the driver of a state official, allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison, but not before leaving a suicide note linking Reddy to black money laundering.
In his note, Ramesh has claimed he helped the mining baron convert ₹100 crore of his black money into white. The money was to be used for Reddy’s daughter’s wedding.
A formal investigation is, of course, necessary – considering the involvement of a former BJP minister. But as was pointed out by Sharma in his letter to Modi: ”Have the local senior Income-Tax officials already compromised their position by attending the wedding reception as honoured guests?”
… As published in dailyo.in