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Cronyism in the times of Modi? Congress asks Modi to fire four senior ministers

Catch Team | Updated on: 4 November 2017, 23:14 IST

After having been embarrassed over the phenomenal rise in the turnover of BJP President Amit Shah's son's company since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, another expose on four Union ministers and senior government officials being listed as directors in a think tank run by Shaurya Doval, son of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, has left the government red faced yet again.

A conflict of interest

A day after news portal The Wire broke the story of four ministers listed as board of directors in India's most influential think tank, India Foundation, Congress demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should ask these ministers to resign over conflict of interest and for holding an office of profit.

Run by Shaurya Doval, son of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, and BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, India Foundation has Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, and Minister of State (Civil Aviation) Jayant Sinha and Minister of State (External Affairs) MJ Akbar listed as directors.

“Can a minister be a director? How can they be directors? It is a direct conflict of interest and they must be taking benefits because of their position as director. This may well be an office of profit,” senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said.

Earlier on Saturday, taking pot shots at both Shaurya and BJP President Amit Shah's son Jay Shah, whose company's turnover 16,0000 times since Modi became prime minister, Congress vice president tweeted, “ शाह-जादा की 'अपार सफलता' के बाद भाजपा की नई पेशकश - अजित शौर्य गाथा"

Congress leader and Lok Sabha Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor too raised questions over ministers getting permission to serve as directors in India Foundation. He pointed out how Congress leaders had to resign from charitable and non-profit organisations during the UPA government.

Tharoor was referring to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who was forced to resign after BJP stalled the Parliament over her role as the chairperson of the National Advisory Council (NAC) during the UPA government's tenure. Sibal said that she resigned and contested again and demanded that these ministers do the same.

'Crony capitalism'

Adding to it, Sibal said that if any of the Congress minister in the previous UPA government was listed as a director in Teesta Setalvad or Indira Jaisingh's NGO, BJP would have stalled the Parliament, demanded a CBI inquiry and filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL). Calling it a violation of law, he referred to this as an act of corruption, which he said should be duly investigated by the CBI.

Raising questions on the Prime Minister's silence over this, Sibal said, “We are raising this issue because may be the the PM is busy. We want to ask the PM when will he remove these four ministers. When will the CBI start its investigation against these four ministers and Prasar Bharti Chairman A Surya Prakash, and Ram Madhav?”

Calling it a serious case of crony capitalism, Sibal questioned as to when will the Prime Minister tell the public about this in his 'Mann ki Baat'. “It is very important because he promised that during our tenure, there would be no crony capitalism and there cannot be any bigger example of it than this.”

Taking jibes at Doval and Jay Shah, Sibal said, “These days its Jay ka Shaurya or Shaurya ki jay.”

Moreover, Sibal questioned as to how these ministers can be directors while they have such important portfolios to handle. “A minister sitting in North and South Block is also a director of an NGO. I have never seen anything like this is democracy,” he said.

Highlighting Section 3 of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), Sibal mentioned that Madhav, who is an office bearer of the BJP, should be asked to resign.

“It is a violation and will result in prosecution and imprisonment,” he said.

Accusing these ministers of furthering the interests of corporate and business houses, Sibal pointed that India Foundation has sponsors like Boeing and Israeli defence companies which could be pushing their agenda with these ministers. He accused that since defence companies are sponsors, so the defence minister is a director.

“Big business houses are sponsors so commerce minister is a director. Since Boeing is a sponsor so civil aviation minister is a director,” he added, while pointing at a conference being organised by the Foundation in Goa on 16 December which will see participation of several ministers, business houses, among others.

“When defence or civil aviation minister will be there and sitting across the table with members of Boeing Enterprises. I want to ask what will be the result of this. Is our Commerce Minister running a business? Is the civil aviation minister does Boeing's work and helping them? If you are aware there is a Rs 70,000 crore investigation against Boeing and it is working with India Foundation as well. How can this happen?”

Accusing India Foundation of running a cocktail of government and private business, Sibal asked how there can be public interest when government and business are on the same platform and talking to each other for the benefit of business.

After these revelations, Congress is planning to use legal recourse to proceed against the ministers and others who are involved in it. “May be some others may approach courts,” suggested Sibal.

First published: 4 November 2017, 23:14 IST