Is Kalmadi the only one?
Suresh Kalmadi’s arrest in connection with allegations of irregularities in the award of a particular contract for the Commonwealth Games is perhaps giving nightmares to many others.
It is true that Kalmadi had become the face of corruption allegations in the CWG primarily because many others who could have faced similar allegations cleverly deflected attention from themselves to him. The end result is that the former Chairman of the CWG organizing committee is spending time in detention for allegedly receiving kickbacks while many others associated with handling many times more money than him are roaming like free birds.
I am certainly not suggesting that everyone associated with the Games is a crook but I also believe that Kalmadi cannot be the only one who was the beneficiary of alleged kickbacks. He has already named Manohar Singh Gill, the then sports minister for okaying the contract and this seems to be just the beginning.
I will like to make it abundantly clear that as per the law of the land, no one can be presumed to be guilty till it is proven in a court of law. Kalmadi therefore has been arrested in connection with a case registered against him and it is for the CBI to establish his guilt in a proper court of law. Yes, he is in custody and also under suspension from his own party. But similar allegations have been made against departments headed by many of his party colleagues like the then urban development minister, Jaipal Reddy, the then sports minister, Manohar Singh Gill, the Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, the Delhi Lt. Governor, Tejinder Khanna and the union tourism minister, Kumari Selja. It is a matter of time that they too will come under the scrutiny of the CBI like Kalmadi and B S Lalli, the former Chief of Prasar Bharti.
Kalmadi has stated on record that he was only handling Rs 1600 Crores while everyone else was handling budgets of Rs 25,000 crores and above. The Shunglu committee appointed by the Prime Minister to go into the allegations of corruption has in its report pointed out many glaring loopholes in the award of contracts. The Shunglu report findings have been marked to the concerned ministries and the home ministry for necessary action. Action could mean registration of cases by the CBI and also possible arrests. Since Kalmadi has been arrested, a similar fate could await others if they is a prima facie case made out against them on the basis of the Shunglu committee and the subsequent investigations by the CBI. In other words, the matter is going to go beyond Kalmadi’s arrest and in the process many skeletons are going to come tumbling out of many cupboards.
There are two ways of looking at the issue of corruption. One is that the UPA government under Dr Manmohan Singh is not sparing anyone and has already booked a Cabinet minister (A Raja), several Corporate honchos and has sent packing a chief minister (Ashok Chavan) in the Adarash Housing scam and has now arrested Kalmadi. The Congress is using this argument to put the BJP on the defensive for shielding the allegedly corrupt regimes in Karnataka and Uttaranchal.
The second way of looking at it is that with so many important people being arrested, the Central government seems to have been in the thick of hugely corrupt activities by many of its functionaries out of which some have been arrested and others may join them soon.
There are also questions being raised that the enforcement agencies have been selective in dealing with corruption allegations. In case of Kalmadi and some corporate honchos, the action has been firm but in case of Kanimozhi and some others it has been soft. While it is for the CBI to answer these allegations, there is no denying that the perception of the government having a strong corrupt dimension is gaining strength. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh against whom there has not been any charge of financial corruption seems determined to clean his stables. He seems to have resolved that he will not allow any person perceived to be corrupt to continue in his or her office.
Therefore it is being assumed that after Kalmadi more arrests may take place in the CWG related scams. There have also been allegations that many top bureaucrats both at the Centre and in Delhi are trying to absolve themselves even before full investigations have started. But this is going to be of no avail in face of a determined effort by the Prime Minister to bring the guilty to book and to also redeem his sagging image.
It has to be expected that many more arrests of important personalities may follow and the Congress party will have to keep its contingency plans intact for appropriate replacements.