Rahul Gandhi & Arnab Goswami: The interview that wasn’t – Anand Ranganathan

Rahul Gandhi & Arnab Goswami

Arnab Goswami: Mr Rahul Gandhi, welcome to Frankly Speaking.

Rahul Gandhi: Thank you, Arnab.

Arnab: So finally … here we are – your first one-to-one interview in 10 years.

Rahul: Yes.

Arnab: Why?

Rahul: Why what?

Arnab: Why has it taken you 10 years to give an interview?

Rahul: Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve always …

Arnab: Now you’ve probably heard about me.

Rahul: Yes.

Arnab: I don’t ask any easy questions, Mr Gandhi.

Rahul: So I’ve been told.

Arnab: You might not like it.

Rahul: I’m ready.

Arnab: In which case, may I ask Mr Jairam Ramesh and Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia to kindly leave this room?

Rahul: … [Looks at the two men uncomfortably. Gestures with his eyes for them to leave.] …

Arnab: Thank you, Mr Gandhi.

Rahul: This wasn’t my idea, by the way. I was prepared to face you on my own. Just that …

Arnab: Mr Gandhi, we should begin. We have plenty to cover.

Rahul: Yes. I’ve been wanting to elaborate on the idea of India that …

Arnab: Do you think Congress was responsible for the 1984 riots?

Rahul: What?

Arnab: Straight question.

Rahul: … Thousands were killed. I profoundly regret the loss of even a single life. And let me tell …

Arnab: Do you think Congress was responsible for the 1984 riots?

Rahul: This has been debated umpteen times. Answer is no.

Arnab: No?

Rahul: … Some Congress leaders were, yes.

Arnab: Who?

Rahul: Some.

Arnab: Name them, please.

Rahul: It’s public knowledge.

Arnab: All the more easier for you to name them, then.

Rahul: It’s in the court records. The guilty will be punished.

Arnab: Have they been?

Rahul: They will be. I have full faith in the Indian judiciary.

Arnab: Have they been, Mr Gandhi?

Rahul: My faith in Indian democr …

Arnab: How long has it been since the anti-Sikh riots?

Rahul: … 28 years … no …

Arnab: How long?

Rahul: 30 years …

Arnab: Have the guilty been punished?

Rahul: We have certainly punished them.

Arnab: Have you?

Rahul: Yes.

Arnab: By “we”, you mean?

Rahul: Congress. Indian National Congress.

Arnab: How?

Rahul: Sorry?

Arnab: How? By giving them tickets to fight elections?

Rahul: No.

Arnab: No? Remember the Chidambaram shoe-throwing incident?

Rahul: … We … Look – my faith in the justice system is unshakeable.

Arnab: Really? Did your mother receive a summons from the United States of America Justice System?

Rahul: What? No.

Arnab: No?

Rahul: She was there on medical treatment.

Arnab: That wasn’t the question.

Rahul: What was the question?

Arnab: Did Ms Sonia Gandhi receive a summons or not?

Rahul: Might have …

Arnab: Sorry, could you be louder? …

Rahul: I said, she did. Happy?

Arnab: And what happened to it?

Rahul: I have full faith in the Indian Judiciary not the American one.

Arnab: Really?

Rahul: Really.

Arnab: Tell me. Do you hold Mr Modi responsible for the 2002 riots?

Rahul: Yes. Undoubtedly.

Arnab: Why?

Rahul: Why? Because he orchestrated the whole pogrom.

Arnab: Who said so?

Rahul: Everyone says so. The people, the politicians, the media – your own correspondents have told me so.

Arnab: What about the Supreme Court?

Rahul: What about it?

Arnab: Has it held Mr Modi guilty?

Rahul: Sorry?

Arnab: You just now said that you have full faith in the Indian judiciary.

Rahul: I do.

Arnab: So I’m asking you this again. It doesn’t matter what you or I think. I’m asking you whether the Supreme Court has held Mr Modi guilty.

Rahul: It hasn’t.

Arnab: And do you respect the Supreme Court verdict?

Rahul: … I do.

Arnab: So he isn’t guilty, then.

Rahul: … Ok, he isn’t.

Arnab: Please repeat that for the benefit of our viewers.

Rahul: Yes, he isn’t guilty. But he should certainly apologise.

Arnab: What about Jadgish Tytler? Is he guilty?

Rahul: Mr Modi should certainly apologise.

Arnab: That is a matter of choice for an individual. I might want him to apologise. You might want him to apologise. But the question here is whether the Supreme Court of India has held him guilty of a crime or not.

Rahul: He should apologise.

Arnab: I ask again. What about Jadgish Tytler? Is he guilty?

Rahul: The courts haven’t delivered their verdict yet.

Arnab: Correct. So he might be guilty.

Rahul: … He might be.

Arnab: So Tytler might be guilty but Modi isn’t.

Rahul: … Yes, I suppose that is correct.

Arnab: … Moving over to another …

Rahul: Thank you. Let me start off by saying that through the RTI and the NREGA, we have …

Arnab: Tell me, Mr Gandhi, do you think Mr Vadra – your brother-in-law – do you think he got undue favours from DLF in the land deals?

Rahul: What?

Arnab: I am asking about Robert Vadra. Do you think DLF gave him undue favours?

Rahul: No.

Arnab: No? Mr Vadra purchased 31 properties amounting to 300 crores in a frighteningly short span of time.

Rahul: He might have. He is a businessman. Business people buy stuff all the time. Do you question Tatas or Birlas?

Arnab: Do Tatas get unsecured loans? What about the unsecured loan?

Rahul: That’s between Robert and DLF.

Arnab: Nothing to do with you?

Rahul: Nothing.

Arnab: What about the Sky Light cheque that was never encashed?

Rahul: Precisely. It was never encashed.

Arnab: Yes, why wasn’t it?

Rahul: I’m sorry. You must realise that the young generation of this country wants a …

Arnab: Sky Light – Mr Vadra’s company – had Rs 1 lakh in their account, yet they wrote a cheque for 7.5 crores towards Onkareshwar Properties. Corporation Bank cheque number 607251 for Rs 7.5 crores. Why?

Rahul: It was strictly above-board.

Arnab: You know anything about Onkareshwar Properties?

Rahul: They are legitimate.

Arnab: Onkareshwar is owned by Govind Kanda, member of Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee. Brother of Congress legislator Gopal Kanda who is in jail.

Rahul: Unfortunate.

Arnab: Within two months of the presentation of 7.5 crore sham cheque, Mr Vadra sold the land to DLF for Rs. 58 crores. He shortly began receiving this money in instalments, first of which arrived in June of 2008. This advance money went into paying sums to Onkareshwar. Magically, Sky Light didn’t put any of its money to buy land and yet was receiving money into its coffers.

Rahul: What’s all this got to do with me?

Arnab: Your family member indulges in such activities. He wants to join politics, he said so a while ago. You might become the PM of this country. You mean to tell me all this has nothing to do with you?

Rahul: Of course not. Look, these are police and judicial matters. I have full faith in the judiciary.

Arnab: The problem is they haven’t been made into police or judicial matters.

Rahul: Why haven’t they?

Arnab: Good you ask that. They should be, isn’t it?

Rahul: … Yes.

Arnab: Sorry? What was that again Mr Gandhi?

Rahul: I said, yes. They should be.

Arnab: Thank you. Now about the other matter that …

Rahul: Thank you, finally. I’ve been wanting to say this for some time now. India stands on the threshold of a destiny that …

Arnab: Who was Quattrocchi?

Rahul: What?

Arnab: I asked you a simple question, Mr Gandhi.

Rahul: I didn’t hear it.

Arnab: So I’ll ask again.

Rahul: Ask me about 2G, about CWG, about Coalgate …

Arnab: Who was Q?

Rahul: Ask me about the corruption of others in the Congress party. Ask me about Adarsh.

Arnab: Who was this Q?

Rahul: Corruption is a problem. I know it is. I want to deal with it with an iron-hand. We’ll spare no one. Ask me about CWG.

Arnab: Who was Q? Who was he?

Rahul: I’ll straighten the corrupt out, I promise. 2G, Coalgate …

Arnab: Mr Gandhi, we haven’t much time. Please answer the question.

Rahul: What question?

Arnab: Who was Q?

Rahul: Yes, he was a family friend. So?

Arnab: Did he receive kickbacks from Bofors AG?

Rahul: I …

Arnab: What was his relationship with you father Mr Rajiv Gandhi?

Rahul: Look …

Arnab: How did this simple unassuming middleman for the company Snamprogetti suddenly win more than 50 contracts in an era when foreign companies were a no-no? What is AE Services?

Rahul: You …

Arnab: It was his company, wasn’t it? A company with no employees and a paid up capital of 100 liras.

Rahul: I …

Arnab: He was a family friend, you say. And he received kickbacks. How does that reflect on you, your family?

Rahul: He never.

Arnab: Never what?

Rahul: He never received kickbacks.

Arnab: Mr Gandhi, are you aware that it was proven beyond doubt that his company received money from Bofors AG? This is not drawing room gossip, Mr Gandhi. Q received 3% kickbacks for the Bofors deal.

Rahul: So?

Arnab: So I want to ask you again. Who was Q? Why was he close to your family? Why did you let him get away?

Rahul: You should ask that to the BJP as well.

Arnab: Don’t you worry, Mr Gandhi, I will. I will ask Mr Advani about the alleged quid pro quo – of course, I will.

Rahul: Good.

Arnab: But right now I have you in front of me. So let me ask you again.

Rahul: No you may not.

Arnab: Sorry, didn’t hear you …

Rahul: I said, you may not … if you want this interview to carry on.

Arnab: Yes, of course, I want it to carry on …

Rahul: Good. So let me ask you something. Why is it that whenever we talk of crippling poverty and economic models for development …

Arnab: Mr Gandhi, you didn’t let me finish. I said, I want this interview to carry on, but ultimately it is your choice whether you want it to carry on … So, now … please tell me what the relationship between Quattrocchi and your father was.

Rahul: Do you want me to call off this interview?

Arnab: And why would you do that?

Rahul: Because you keep asking me irrelevant questions.

Arnab: They are not irrelevant, Mr Gandhi. They may appear irrelevant because every Indian journalist who has ever, and I mean ever, interviewed you or your sister or your mother, has never ever, never, ever, never, never, ever asked you these questions.

Rahul: I think we are done here.

Arnab: Who was Q, Mr Gandhi? Why did he take kickbacks from Bofors?

Rahul: Mr Goswami, there’s a limit.

Arnab: Why did your family protect Q? Why and how did he get away?

Rahul: Bas … enough … [gets up] … dosti bani rahe …

Arnab: All that is fine … but who is Q?

Rahul: [Detaches the mic and leaves the room.]

Arnab: … [shouts after him] … Thank you, Mr Gandhi … [Stares blankly at the Husain opposite].

Post-interview panel discussion:

Arnab: Vinod Mehta – welcome to the debate. First question coming to you, Siddharth Varadarajan, welcome as well, Vinod – your first comments.

Vinod: Arnab, I’m very sorry to have to tell you this, but I didn’t like the interview at all.

Arnab: Sorry, what, Vinod?

Vinod: I mean, Arnab, you asked him every irrelevant question you could think of! I mean, this is preposterous! It really is. You disappointed me, Arnab, you really did. The whole nation wanted to hear about Rahul’s grand idea of India, and here you were, bothering him with ridiculous questions …

Arnab: Alright, the debate is heating up … as we slip into a short break … don’t go anywhere, ladies and gentlemen … – News Laundry, 28 January 2014

Anand RanganathanAnand Ranganathan is the author of The Land of the Wilted Rose, of the The White Mahatma Quartet. He studied Chemistry at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and went on to pursue a doctorate from Cambridge. A man of varied interests, he is researching dengue and tuberculosis at the International Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology at Delhi. He can be reached at anand.icgeb@gmail.com or on Twitter @ARangarajan1972

See also

Ask Rahul Baba a question!


Ottavio Quattrocchi: The Italian who stained three Indian prime ministers – M. D. Nalapat

Ottavio Quattrocchi and the people he stained.

M.D. Nalapat“The upright PM Manmohan Singh now seeks to roll back the Right to Information Act so as to make it more rather than less difficult for ordinary citizens to access information about state shenanigans. Honesty is of zero value to the citizen unless the PM can enforce it across his government, a task that Manmohan Singh has failed to do.” – Prof. M.D. Nalapat

Ottavio QuattrocchiLast week, Ottavio Quattrocchi, who for decades was in India as the representative of Italy’s Snam Progetti industrial conglomerate, passed away. He was very successful in winning contract after contract for the company from the 1970s onwards, especially in the state-controlled fertiliser industry. When Quattrocchi entered a government office, even Secretaries to Government used to quake in their boots, aware that the Italian could either boost or damage their careers. Those who helped him get juicy contracts got promoted while the few who opposed the many concessions given to Snam and other Italian companies suffered.

Ottavio Quattrocchi and his wife Maria being from Italy, and in Delhi at a time when there were few from that country resident in that city, it was not surprising that Rajiv Gandhi’s Italian wife Sonia got to know them, or that the two families became close to each other socially. In India, anything connected with the Nehru family is covered by a veil of secrecy maintained by successive governments, so there are few records of the contact between Indira Gandhi’s son and daughter-in-law with Quattrocchi and his wife Maria.

Rajiv Gandhi and the Bofors gun.These days, those close to the presiding matriarch of the Nehru family, Sonia Gandhi, claim that neither she nor Rajiv was in any way close to the Quattrocchis. That the Italian and his wife were just acquaintances. They deny reports that Ottavio, Rajiv, Maria and Sonia met frequently in India, the UK and Italy, and that their families went on holidays together. If it was not his closeness to Rajiv and Sonia, it must have been his magnetic personality that worked such miracles for Ottavio Quattrocchi, enabling him to get file after file cleared so that his principals landed juicy contracts. Although a stranger to the defense trade, Mr Q was chosen by Bofors to be a commission agent in the howitzer deal that company had with the Government of India, a deal that netted him millions of dollars in commission. What he did was obscure, but Bofors landed the contract, to the anger of the French competitors.

Ottavio Quattrocchi & Maria QuattrocchiThat French companies are masters in information and disinformation in furtherance of their commercial interests is known to every serious analyst in India, and it was not long before items began to appear in the international and the national press about alleged kickbacks being paid to top politicians and officials in India to grab the contract. If this were true, it would hardly be a surprise. Bribes are the norm rather than the exception in government contracts in India, especially those involving large sums of money, such as defense or energy deals. Indeed, there are credible sources who claim that a percentage of every dollar that is paid by certain companies for importing crude oil into India gets transferred to secret bank accounts operated by nominees of a powerful political family in the country. However, an examination of the tax returns filed by the members of this family shows that their annual Sonia Gandhi & Ottavio Quattrocchiincome is less than the cost of a month’s foreign travel by them, in a context where some members of the family travel abroad on an average of twenty-seven times each year. Of course, no details of such travel (and the places of stay) to Dubai, London, New York and Bangkok are ever furnished by any government in India. Politicians in the country are unlike those in Pakistan, who go after each other. Here, they each protect the other while publicly professing to expose them.

Manmohan Singh, who is known to be personally honest in a government steeped in bribery, is no exception. Indeed, the upright PM now seeks to roll back the Right to Information Act so as to make it more rather than less difficult for ordinary citizens to access information about state shenanigans. Honesty is of zero value to the citizen unless the PM can enforce it across his government, a task that Manmohan Singh has failed to do.

Ottavio's financer son Massimo and Rahul Gandhi grew up together.Coming to Ottavio Quattrocchi and his mysterious power over successive Prime Ministers of India, perhaps owing to the natural charm that is present in most Italians, on July 29,1993 then Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao personally intervened to enable Quattrocchi to flee the country despite being a subject of enquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation. This columnist knew the Prime Minister (and let it be confessed, admired him in many respects), and he spoke to him about Mr Q, pointing out that it would be wrong to allow a man considered to be at the heart of illicit deal-making in India to leave Delhi for London en route to Milan. The Prime Minister mentioned that a powerful politician had sent a lady Minister of State to meet him with the promise that (the politician) “would forever be an ardent backer” of Mr Rao, should he allow Mr Q to escape. The PM had made up his mind.

CBI HQ New DelhiFlash forward ten years, to the period when BJP stalwart A. B. Vajpayee was Prime Minister. A court in Malaysia was hearing the extradition request of the Central Bureau of Investigation (an agency more political in its functioning than any political party). While the hearing was going on, this columnist was having lunch in Bangalore’s West End hotel with a high official from Malaysia, there to visit a friend. When he spoke about Mr Q finally being forced to come back to India, the high official laughed. “Do you know that Quattrocchi’s lawyers are preparing the briefs for the other side? That they are in close touch with each other? There is no chance that he will lose the case”. The official went on to allege that Mr Q was boasting that Prime Minister Vajpayee himself had sent a private assurance that “no harm would be allowed to come to him”. Hopefully, the Malaysian official was either not telling the truth or had been the victim of rumours. To believe that Vajpayee or his Law Ministry would so subvert the course of justice so as to save Quatrocchi strains credulity. However, clearly the CBI lawyers botched up their case, for evidence that had been found compelling by a Swiss court was rejected by the Malaysian judge. By 2003, Quatrocchi was able The Qongress Partyto leave Malaysia, a free man. Had he brought back Ottavio Quattrocchi, Prime Minister Vajpayee would have been a hero to civil society in India. Instead, many began to believe that Mr Q had been deliberately let off, whatever be the truth or otherwise behind such a perception. The whiff of impropriety that wafted over Team Vajpayee led to the BJP’s defeat the next year, at the hands of the Congress Party. Mr Q had felled yet another politician. – Pakistan Observer, 19 July 2013

» Professor Madhav Das Nalapat holds the UNESCO Peace Chair at the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations at Manipal University in Manipal, Karnataka, India.

Amitabha Pande

Chitra Subramaniam Duella and Indian ambassador to Switzerland  K.P. Balakrishnan

Chitra Subramaniam, investigative journalist who broke the Bofors story in 1987, and Indian ambassador to Switzerland K.P. Balakrishnan with a sealed box of secret documents from Swiss banks that were being sent to the Government of India. Where are these documents now? Read Chitra’s story on News Laundry here.

See also

Neglecting National Interest: From Nehru to Sonia-G – N.S. Rajaram

Dr. N.S. Rajaram“At the time of independence Mahatma Gandhi forced Sardar Patel to withdraw to anoint Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister at great cost to the nation. It has now culminated in Sonia Gandhi and her associates simultaneously appeasing anti-national forces while looting the nation, with Manmohan Singh an impotent bystander.” – Dr. N.S. Rajaram

Indian Triumvirate: Gandhi, Nehru, Patel.Gandhi’s impact on the nation’s future

B.R. Nanda, in his authorized (by Congress) biography of Mahatma Gandhi writes: “It was inevitable that Gandhi’s role as a political leader should loom larger in the public imagination, but the mainsprings of his life lay in religion not politics. … His deepest strivings were spiritual.” The claim is absurd. It is as a politician that Gandhi has left his mark on history; unlike say Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda no one today reads his ‘spiritual’ writings. His interpretation of the Bhagavad  Gita is a perversity. And the Gandhi family today is not known for its spiritual leanings.

Coming to specifics, it was Gandhi the Politician and not Gandhi the Saint who dominated the national scene in the decades leading to independence. It was Gandhi the Politician, and not the Saint who turned Swaraj into a movement in support of the theocratic aims of the Khilafat; it was Gandhi the Politician and not the Saint who expelled Subhash Bose after his election as Congress president; it was Gandhi the Politician and not the Saint who imposed Pandit Nehru over Sardar Patel as prime minister of India against the wishes of the party; it was also Gandhi the Politician and not the Saint who imposed his will on the newly formed Indian Government to release funds for Pakistan which was then at war with India, the act that was the direct cause of his assassination (as well as the death of many soldiers fighting Pakistani invaders in Kashmir).

Viewed against this background of this legacy instead of the Congress-created Gandhi mythology, it is easier to see him as a theocratic political leader than a spiritual seeker. Those who had to work with Gandhi—Dr. Ambedkar for example—were keenly aware of his tyrannical, even blackmailing tactics to force things his own way. An Iranian friend of mine saw little difference between Mahatma Gandhi and Ayatollah Khomeini. A scholarly study along those lines should be most interesting.

Sardar PatelNehru over Patel: Gandhi’s greatest error?

But that is not the point of the present essay which is to look at the impact of Gandhi’s fateful act in persuading Vallabhbhai Patel to withdraw as candidate in favor of Jawaharlal Nehru just in the 1946 election for the Congress presidency. The election’s importance stemmed from the fact that the elected President would lead free India’s first Government. Gandhi asked all 16 states representatives and Congress to elect the right person and Sardar Patel’s name was proposed by 13 states representatives out of 16— the other three stated no preference, but Gandhi put pressure on Patel to withdraw in Nehru’s favor.

This means Nehru became prime minister without the support of a single state. Unlike Patel or Subhas Chandra Bose, Nehru had led no major movement nor done much organizational work. He rose mainly through privilege and patronage of his father Motilal Nehru and Gandhi— not unlike Rahul Gandhi today. There were no compelling reasons why he was needed as Prime Minister at that juncture in history. Patel on the other hand was the one indispensable man at the dawn of Independence.

Let us look at the records as leaders of the two men— Patel and Nehru. Patel’s achievement integrating the states into the Indian union remains unmatched. The one state that was kept out Patel’s hands was Kashmir, which Nehru insisted on dealing with personally. Even Kashmir was saved only when Patel pushed the dithering Nehru to air lift troops to the Valley. General Thimayya saved the day for India but Nehru on Mountbatten’s advice took it to the United Nations with consequences that are still with us.

Nehru wanted to take Hyderabad also to the UN, again on Mountbatten’s advice, but Patel stood firm and ordered the army in. To keep it Lord Mountbatten, Nehru & Edwina Mountbattenwithin the purview of the Patel’s Home Ministry, it was called ‘Police Action’ in place of the military action that it was. Patel’s other great contribution was filling the vacuum in administration as the British left. So he created the administrative infrastructure that gave India a functioning government.

Nehru’s dreams, Sardar’s visionary letter

That was an awesome achievement, but Patel might have achieved even more had he lived longer. While Nehru pursued dreams— socialism, secularism (badly compromised when he introduced the Haj Bill giving subsidies to Muslims), and above all Pancha Sheela, Patel saw the reality of Chinese threat when China occupied Tibet and wrote Nehru the following letter outlining the threat (Excerpted from November 7, 1950):

My dear Jawaharlal:

Ever since my return from Ahmedabad… and after the cabinet meeting the same day which I had to attend at practically fifteen minutes’ notice and for which I regret I was not able to read all the papers, I have been anxiously thinking over the problem of Tibet and I thought I should share with you what is passing through my mind.

I have carefully gone through the correspondence between the External Affairs Ministry and our Ambassador in Peking and through him the Chinese Government. I have tried to peruse this correspondence as favourably to our Ambassador and the Chinese Government as possible, but I regret to say that neither of them comes out well as a result of this study. The Chinese Government has tried to delude us by professions of peaceful intention. My own feeling is that at a crucial period they managed to instill into our Ambassador a false sense of confidence in their so-called desire to settle the Tibetan problem by peaceful means. [Sic: This ambassador was K.M. Panikkar, a Communist sympathiser as was Nehru’s major advisor V.K. Krishna Menon. – NSR]

There can be no doubt that during the period covered by this correspondence the Chinese must have been concentrating for an onslaught on Tibet. The final action of the Chinese, in my judgement, is little short of perfidy. The tragedy of it is that the Tibetans put faith in us; they chose to be guided by us; and we have been unable to get them out of the meshes of Chinese diplomacy or Chinese malevolence. From the latest position, it appears that we shall not be able to rescue the Dalai Lama.

Our Ambassador has been at great pains to find an explanation or justification for Chinese policy and actions. As the External Affairs Ministry remarked in one of their telegrams, there was a lack of firmness and unnecessary apology in one or two representations that he made to the Chinese Government on our behalf… [China’s conduct] indicates that even though we regard ourselves as the friends of China, the Chinese do not regard us as their friends. With the Communist mentality of “whoever is not with them being against them”, this is a significant pointer, of which we have to take due note.

During the last several months, outside the Russian camp, we have practically been alone in championing the cause of Chinese entry into UN and in securing from the Americans assurances on the question of Formosa. We have done everything we could to assuage

Chinese feelings, … In Peking we have an Ambassador who is eminently suitable for putting across the friendly point of view. [Sic: Nehru had earlier rejected the possibility of permanent membership of the Security Council in favor of China! – NSR]

In the background of this, we have to consider what new situation now faces us as a result of the disappearance of Tibet, as we knew it, and the expansion of China almost up to our gates. Throughout history we have seldom been worried about our north-east frontier… The Chinese interpretation of suzerainty seems to be different. We can, therefore, safely assume that very soon they will disown all the stipulations which Tibet has entered into with us in the past. That throws into the melting pot all frontier and commercial settlements with Tibet on which we have been functioning and acting during the last half a century…

McMahon Line: Undefined border between Tibet and India.Chinese ambitions in this respect not only cover the Himalayan slopes on our side but also include the important part of Assam. They have their ambitions in Burma also. Burma has the added difficulty that it has no McMahon Line round which to build up even the semblance of an agreement. Chinese irredentism and communist imperialism are different from the expansionism or imperialism of the western powers. The former has a cloak of ideology which makes it ten times more dangerous. In the guise of ideological expansion lie concealed racial, national or historical claims. The danger from the north and north-east, therefore, becomes both communist and imperialist. While our western and north-western threat to security is still as prominent as before, a new threat has developed from the north and north-east…

Our northern and north-eastern approaches consist of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling and the tribal areas in Assam. From the point of view of communication, there are weak spots. Continuous defensive lines do not exist. There is almost an unlimited scope for infiltration. Police protection is limited to a very small number of passes. There, too, our outposts do not seem to be fully manned. The contact of these areas with us is by no means close and intimate. The people inhabiting these portions have no established loyalty or devotion to India.

I am sure the Chinese and their source of inspiration, Soviet Union, would not miss any opportunity of exploiting these weak spots, partly in support of their ideology and partly in support of their ambitions. In my judgement the situation is one which we cannot afford either to be complacent or to be vacillating. We must have a clear idea of what we wish to achieve and also of the methods by which we should achieve it. Any faltering or lack of decisiveness in formulating our objectives or in pursuing our policies to attain those objectives is bound to weaken us and increase the threats which are so evident.

It is of course, impossible to be exhaustive in setting out all these problems. I am, however, giving below some of the problems which, in my opinion, require early solution and round which we have to build our administrative or military policies and measures to implement them.

a) A military and intelligence appreciation of the Chinese threat to India both on the frontier and to internal security.

b) An examination of military position and such redisposition of our forces as might be necessary, particularly with the idea of guarding important routes or areas which are likely to be the subject of dispute.

c) An appraisement of the strength of our forces and, if necessary, reconsideration of

our retrenchment plans for the Army in the light of the new threat.

d) A long-term consideration of our defence needs. My own feeling is that, unless we assure our supplies of arms, ammunition and armour, we would be making our defence perpetually weak and we would not be able to stand up to the double threat of difficulties both from the west and north-west and north and north-east.

e) The question of China’s entry into the UN. In view of the rebuff which China has given us and the method which it has followed in dealing with Tibet, I am doubtful whether we can advocate its claim any longer. There would probably be a threat in the UN virtually to outlaw China, in view of its active participation in the Korean War. We must determine our attitude on this question also… [1]

Nehru did not bother to reply to this letter (or even discuss it with Patel). Unfortunately for India, Patel died on December 15. This freed Nehru from the only strong opposition he had and left him free to pursue his dream of courting Mao with his Pancha Sheela fantasy that led directly to the disaster of 1962. Its legacy is still with us.

Field Marshal Cariappa Bofors, a new paradigm

Most of what Patel wrote sixty years ago still makes sense, but he was not the only one to caution him about Chinese intentions. The Army Chief General (later Field Marshall) Cariappa did too, advising Nehru that the northeast should be developed to bring its population into the national fold. But a British missionary called Verrier Elwin advised Nehru that the region that had many tribal communities should not be interfered with to preserve their pristine character. This left the field open for foreign Christian missionaries who went on to dominate the area.

Indian historians, many of them sponsored by the Congress (and the Nehru-Gandhi family and institutions that carry their name) studiously ignore all this especially Sardar Patel’s contribution while upholding Nehru’s supposed ‘idealism’. To take an example, the Nehruvian author Ramachandra Guha in his compilation Makers of Modern India completely leaves out Sardar Patel Ramachandra Guha: Blinded by Nehru worship!while devoting many pages to his own hero Verrier Elwin! It is an example of how blind hero worship can cloud judgment—or willing blindness driven by prejudice.

Who was this Verrier Elwin by the way? Elwin was a British missionary who exploited tribal girls, sometimes under-aged, in the guise of being an anthropologist. When he was 40 Elwin married a 13 year-old tribal girl Kosi who was his student. He treated her like a guinea pig, the subject of his anthropological studies including publishing intimate sexual details in what is called participant observation. After nearly nine years of marriage, Elwin left her and married Leela, a tribal girl in NEFA (Arunachala Pradesh) leaving Kosi in dire poverty. In the process it undermined national security by creating a vulnerable northeast.

Verrier ElwinWith the advent of Rajiv Gandhi and Bofors there was a paradigm shift. Defense services from being an instrument of national security became a source of personal enrichment. The scope was extended to international operators, especially Sonia Gandhi’s friends and relatives. It has now reached mammoth proportions. Many vital military acquisitions are being held up by the bureaucracy, while the plunder goes on unhindered.

Corruption has always been there, but what is striking today in the Sonia Gandhi regime is its brazenness. She and her family and friends have extended the loot far beyond defense procurements as was the case during Bofors. It now includes national assets like the Nehru founded National Herald. In the face of this daylight robbery, what are national leaders doing? Manmohan Singh is a prime example. He is so grateful to Sonia Gandhi for making him prime minister he is willing to assist any of her partners in loot from Quattrocchi to Robert Vadra. He is happy to be little more than her mask.

National interest has no place in this conundrum. Where Nehru neglected national interest in pursuit of his dreams of personal glory, his successors—political and dynastic—have gone on to subvert national institutions for personal profit and plunder. Even the East India Company was not so venal. Robert Clive was nothing compared to the present breed.


  1. Patel’s letter to Nehru is found for example in Claude Arpi’s brilliant book The Fate of Tibet. It is very famous but biased commentators calling themselves historians ignore it just as Ram Guha ignores Patel in his Makers of Modern India. – NSR

» Dr. N.S. Rajaram, a scientist and historian, is Contributing Editor of FOLKS

Sonia Gandhi is in Bofors’ range now – Virendra Parekh

Bofors Ghost“Why rake up the Bofors mud now? Because there are worrying similarities between 1980s and now: a rudderless government, a faltering economy, an insurgent anti-corruption movement, and weakness on the external economic front. As then, so now, India’s defence procurement is insufficiently transparent, and open to misuse by influence peddlers. India is still not proactive enough in catching those using offshore accounts to bypass Indian law. And the central figure in the Bofors saga continues to call the shots.” – Virendra Parekh

Ottavio Quattrocchi & wife MariaLike Banco’s ghost at Macbeth’s table, Bofors refuses to go away. Every time Congress thinks the gun has fallen silent for the good, it booms again. The barrel of the Bofors gun now points unmistakably towards Sonia Gandhi, if journalists would only show the courage and perspicacity to collate facts and interpret them correctly. Politicians as a class are too compromised to attempt this.

With characteristic shamelessness, some Congress leaders demanded an apology from the opposition parties for leveling allegations against Rajiv Gandhi of accepting a bribe in the Bofors gun scandal. They did so following the recent interview given by Mr. Sten Lindstrom, former chief of Swedish Police who inquired into the Bofors swindle, saying that there is no available evidence that bribe money made it to Rajiv Gandhi’s bank account.

Sten LindstromFamily loyalists glossed over a far more damaging assertion by the same investigator: Rajiv Gandhi watched the massive cover-up in India and Sweden and did nothing. Why?

The clue to the political beneficiaries of Bofors payouts is money received by the British company A.E. Services. In criminal law parlance, A.E. Services is the smoking gun. In November 1985, Colonel Bob Wilson, A.E. Services’ lawyer who had served in the Gorkha Regiment, wrote a letter to Bofors MD, Martin Ardbo, offering to help him secure the gun contract from the Indian government by 31 March 1986 in return for 3 per cent commission.

The offer was clear: pay us if and only if you get the contract by 31 March 1986. Nothing was to be paid if the contract was not secured at all or secured after that date. When the offer was made, French company Sofma was the front-runner among the shortlisted companies. As it happened, Bofors secured the contract on 24 March 1986. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi then handled the defence portfolio himself.

We now know that behind A.E. Services stood Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi. Money paid to A.E. Services found its way into bank accounts controlled by Quattrocchi and his wife. Over $7 million was paid from A.E. Services to Colbar Investment of which Quattrocchi was the direct beneficiary.

The logical question to ask is: who can make such an offer and also fulfill it? How can an Italian businessman swing such a large deal which had a direct bearing on Indian national security? It is an understatement to say that he was very close to the decision maker(s). It may be more accurate to say that he was acting as a dummy for them. That alone could give him the confidence to make the kind of offer he did.

Rajiv Gandhi and the Bofors gun.How Rajiv Gandhi and subsequent governments beholden to the Gandhi family tried to shield Quattrocchi is by now well-known and well documented. How he was allowed to slip out of the country by the Narasimha Rao government, how nobody in Sweden or Switzerland was allowed to question him, how he flew out of Malaysia over the weekend before a plea for his extradition to India could come up in court on Monday, how after being arrested by Interpol in Argentina he walked free because CBI goofed up in furnishing documents, how his bank accounts in London were allowed to be de-frozen and how he cleansed them the next day – all this is too well-known to need repetition.

The relevant question is: Why was this Italian businessman of such tremendous importance to the Prime Minister of India that he staked the survival of his own government to ensure that he never opened his mouth? Whom was Rajiv Gandhi trying to protect by shielding Quattrocchi? Would he do all this for an Italian businessman or for someone far nearer and dearer? The answer is easy to guess, though only Quattrocchi can confirm the same.

It would not have been difficult to establish the truth if even one government since had taken genuine interest in getting to the bottom of the case. Congress governments headed by Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh could hardly have been interested in pursuing the case, for obvious reasons. Governments beholden to Congress, such as those headed by Chandrashekhar, Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujaral would also not wonder in the vicinity of the truth for their own survival.

Arun NehruThat leaves only the V.P. Singh and A.B. Vajpayee governments which could have followed the case in a meaningful manner. V.P. Singh had Arun Nehru as an important member of his cabinet and party. Arun Nehru was directly linked to the deal and even found a mention in Martin Ardbo’s diary under the code name N and Nero. V.P. Singh himself was more interested in milking the scandal for political gains. His government registered a case and had some Swiss accounts frozen, but did little else. Lindstrom tells us that Indian investigators who came to Sweden were more interested in implicating Amitabh Bachchan in the case than anything else, for reasons that remain unclear to this day.

Atul Bihari VajpayeeThe country had high hopes from the Vajpayee government. Not only was it beyond the shadow of the Gandhi family (or so one thought), but it also included Arun Shourie who had played a major role in exposing the scandal as firebrand editor of Indian Express. But its record on Bofors was no better than that of others. Who tied its hands? For whose benefit? The Hindujas were recipients of the Bofors commission and were said to be close to some BJP leaders. The BJP leadership therefore cuts a sorry figure when it demands a fresh probe into the scandal.

Why rake up the mud now? Because there are worrying similarities between 1980s and now: a rudderless government, a faltering economy, an insurgent anti-corruption movement, and weakness on the external economic front. As then, so now, India’s defence procurement is insufficiently transparent, and open to misuse by influence peddlers. India is still not proactive enough in catching those using offshore accounts to bypass Indian law. And the central figure in the Bofors saga continues to call the shots.

Tailpiece: “In 2004, when I asked Lindstrom to name some living persons who had full details of the Bofors kickbacks he responded without hesitation, ‘Martin Ardbo, Ottavio Quattrocchi and Sonia Gandhi,’” reports Seema Mustafa, DNA, 27 April 2012. – Vijayvaani, 5 May 2012

» Virendra Parekh is Executive Editor, Corporate India, and lives in Mumbai

Bofors: Swedish investigator Sten Lindstrom remembers the scam – Chitra Subramaniam-Duella

Chitra Subramaniam-DuellaApril 2012 marks the 25 anniversary of the Bofors-India media revelations, which began on April 16, 1987 with revelations on Swedish state radio. The Hoot presents an interview with the man who decided to leak over 350 documents to former Indian journalist Chitra Subramaniam-Duella, then with The Hindu and later with The Indian Express and The Statesman.

The documents included payment instructions to banks, open and secret contracts, hand written notes, minutes of meetings and an explosive diary. They led to the electoral defeat of Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and blew gaping holes in Swedish prime minister Olof Palme’s record as a champion of peace and disarmament. Above all, they formed the basis for the first ever transfer of secret bank documents from Switzerland to India.

Sten Lindstrom is the former head of Swedish police who led the investigations into the Bofors-India gun deal.

In this interview to Chitra Subramaniam-Duella, he reveals himself as the Swedish deep throat and explains why he chose to turn whistle-blower. – The Hoot

Sten LindstromQ – Why did you decide to identify yourself now?

A – Twenty five years is a good land-mark. We have had some time for reflection. Now it is time to speak again. Corruption levels in the world are increasing. There is new business around corruption with companies selling products that measure corruption instead of questioning why it is there in the first place. In a world of shrinking resources and ruthless ambition, we have to ensure that survival instincts that brought us out of the caves do not push us back in there because of a few greedy people. I hope I can contribute to the global struggle against corruption by sharing what I know.

Q – Tell us something about yourself.

A – Like many Swedes of my generation, my wife Eva and I were raised in the best traditions of social-democracy. Swedes are a hard-working people. Equity and justice for all is something we hold dear and for which we have strived as a nation. We built our institutions, our political and social systems around principles that were gold standards. We led the world as much in business forums as in the social arena.

Bofors gun Q – Nostalgia?

A – No, I base myself on hard evidence that is even more relevant today than it was 25 years ago. We are still world leaders in many fields, but somewhere our guiding principles have fallen by the wayside. No one is against successful businesses and it can be done. Here in Sweden we have the Wallenbergs, in India you have the TATA group. These are global companies and institutions. Their business ethics and corporate social responsibility work is not a slide on a power-point. It is generations of hard work. Bofors was a good company. Their products were good. Unfortunately in the race to expand business, they resorted to illegal shipments, bribery and corruption. They claimed a tax-deduction for the money they had to pay as bribes.

In my long career as a police officer I have seen many things. What was shocking in the whole Bofors-India saga was the scale of political involvement in Sweden breaking all rules including those we set for ourselves. Bofors was a wake-up call for most Swedes who thought corruption happens only far away in Africa, South America and Asia. There was disbelief and hurt when they found that some of their top politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen were no better than others. The $1.3 billion deal with India for the sale of 410 field howitzers, and a supply contract almost twice that amount was the biggest arms deal ever in Sweden. Money marked for development projects was diverted to secure this contract at any cost. Rules were flouted, institutions were bypassed and honest Swedish officials and politicians were kept in the dark. Our former Prime Minister Olof Palme was talking peace, disarmament and sustainable development globally, while we were selling arms illegally, including to countries that were on our banned list. My office, the office of Hans Ekblom, the public prosecutor in Stockholm, our National Audit Bureau – everything was ignored. So was the Swedish tax-payer.

The Managing Director of Bofors Martin Ardbo had worked very hard for this deal. He brought over 900 jobs to Karlskoga where Bofors is headquartered for at least a decade. When the stories started appearing Ardbo was a shaken man. He knew that I knew that he had made a political payment even more secretly than the rest to close this deal. He told me he didn’t have a choice.

Q – How did the India angle in Bofors crop-up?

A – It was an accident. We were conducting several search and seize operations in the premises of Bofors and their executives. I have some experience in this area, so I asked my team to take everything they could find. In the pile were one set of documents to Swiss banks with instructions that the name of the recipient should be blocked out. An accountant doing his job asked why anonymity was necessary since the payments were legal. Bofors was unable to explain and then we found more and more documents leading to India.

Q – Looking back, what would you say are some of the lessons learnt?

A – There are several, but I could mention a few. The role of the whistle-blower is a part of democracy. When all official channels are clogged, you have to take a decision. We have a culture here that it is okay to blow the whistle. I have met other whistle blowers. I knew what I was doing when I leaked the documents to you. I could not count on my government or Bofors or the government of India to get to the bottom of this. My only option was to leak the documents to someone we could trust.

There needs to be a free and fair discussion in the media about itself. The media is the watchdog of our society – but who is watching the media? Most whistle blowers around the world leak information to the media because they feel they owe it to their country, their job or the position they are elected to.

Genuine whistle-blowers also expect the media to be responsible and according to me this means that the media has to understand the motives of whistle-blowers. Not everyone is driven by the same motive. This is where investigative journalism comes in. Every role has its limits. I cannot become a journalist, a journalist cannot become a judge and a judge cannot become a politician. Who controls the media, what are their interests? What happens if a reporter is also part of the management? Do journalistic ethics compete with business and political interests of the media organisation? Can an ombudsman be the answer? If not, let us all work together globally to find a solution we all respect and understand.

There is also a lot of debate in the world about the role of middlemen in arms deals. Some say they should not exist at all, others say they have a role. I believe they have a role insofar as marketing a product is concerned and they should be remunerated accordingly in a transparent way so that the cost to the buyer is not circulated as kickbacks. Where it becomes illegal and dangerous is when the ambit of their work includes paying politicians and bureaucrats and in some cases journalists to push their product. Once you are in their clutches, it is very difficult to extricate yourself.

Q – What is your view on Wikileaks?

A – All leaks have a motive and they play a role. Wikileaks went up to a point and it is welcome. I have not seen many instances of journalists or governments taking the leaks further to the next level. It is not enough for journalists to ask questions. In their privileged positions as watchdogs, they have to take the leaks further without fear or favour.

Q – With time and distance, how do you view your leaks?

A – I believe I did the best I could. I watched you work for almost one year before I took my decision to leak the Bofors-India documents to you. You were one of many journalists from India and Sweden as well as many politicians from India who visited me during this period. I was lectured to and told how to do my job. Many mentioned Rajiv Gandhi’s involvement and that the guns were duds hoping I would react. I am used to these tricks. I told everyone the guns were excellent. The problem was in the procurement process.

People trust people. Trust is built over time. The one and only visit by your former editor N. Ram of The Hindu to my office in whose presence I handed over the documents is a detail. I would have leaked the documents to you even if you had worked for any other newspaper.

N. Ram of The HinduThe Hindu’s role in all this was that of a medium of communication. I met them because you insisted. I was disappointed. They published the documents as and when they wanted without any respect for the risks other people were taking to get the facts out.

The most explosive documents that involved the political payments were Ardbo’s notes and diary. The Hindu published them several months after they had them. In the meantime there was a serious difficulty. I got a message that my name was circulating in Delhi’s political circles as the whistle-blower. This caused a lot of stress and difficulty for me. You will recall the month you were not allowed to call me while we investigated who leaked my name as the whistle-blower in India. There were consequences for me and my family. The Hindu seemed unconcerned.

Q – Any regrets?

A – No. I took an informed decision to give you the documents. But I will say this much – when newspapers think they are more important than the story, journalism suffers. When editors cross their limits, it can be dangerous.

Q – Tell us something about those days, people’s reactions, your difficulties.

A – People in Sweden were shell-shocked. Bo G Andersson of the Dagens Nyhetter (DN), Burje Remdahl and Jan Mosander of the Swedish Radio are investigative journalists of repute. They were exposing illegal sales of arms to eastern Europe, the middle-east, even Vietnam through Australia. There was total disbelief in Karlskoga. The Indian deal was the straw that broke the camel’s back because it showed that corruption had reached right to the top in Sweden and in India. They were very brazen about it. There was no evidence of any bribe being paid to Palme, but he and some of his ministers knew exactly what was going on.

Q – Quarter century later, any reflections on why Rajiv Gandhi’s name came up?

A – There was no evidence that he had received any bribe. But he watched the massive cover-up in India and Sweden and did nothing. Many Indian institutions were tarred, innocent people were punished while the guilty got away. The evidence against Ottavio Quattrrocchi was conclusive. Through a front company called A.E. Services, bribes paid by Bofors landed in Quattrocchi’s account which he subsequently cleaned out because India said there was no evidence linking him to the Bofors deal. Nobody in Sweden or Switzerland was allowed to interrogate him.

Ottavio Quattrocchi & Rajiv GandhiArdbo was terrified about this fact becoming public. He had hidden it even from his own marketing director Hans Ekblom who said marketing middlemen had a role, but not political payments. Ardbo was also concerned about the role of Arun Nehru who had told Bofors in 1985 that his name and Rajiv Gandhi’s name should not appear anywhere. As the stories began to appear, Ardbo knew what I knew. He had written in his notes that the identity of N (Nehru) becoming public was a minor concern but at no cost could the identity of Q (Quattrocchi) be revealed because of his closeness to R (Rajiv Gandhi). He had also mentioned a meeting between an A.E. Services official and a Gandhi trustee lawyer in Geneva. This was a political payment. These payments are made when the deal has to be inked and all the numbers are on the table. I spent long-hours interrogating Ardbo. He told me Nehru was the eminence grise but not much more. He said often that he would take the truth with him to his grave. I met him a little while before he passed away.

Under pressure from Swedish and Indian media and with the threat of a cancellation of the contract hanging over them, Bofors sent its top executives to India with the one-point task of giving out the names. Nobody of any consequence received them.

Schweizer IllustrierteQ – What was your experience with the Indian investigators?

A – The only team I met in early 1990 damaged the seriousness of my work and the media investigation. I met them on a courtesy call. They were in the process of filing a letter-rogatory (LR) in Switzerland. Without an official request from Switzerland, Sweden could not intervene. They gave me a list of names to pursue including the name of Amitabh Bachchan. They also told me they did not trust you entirely because you had refused to link the Bachchans to the kickbacks. During that trip to Sweden, the Indian investigators planted the Bachchan angle on DN. The Bachchan’s took them to court in the UK and won. DN had to apologise and they said the story had come from Indian investigators. I was disappointed with the role of many senior journalists and politicians during that period. They muddied the waters.

After the LR was lodged in Switzerland, I was waiting for the official track with India and Switzerland to begin. It never did. Whenever the public prosecutor Ekblom and I heard of any Indian visits to Stockholm, we would speak to the media expressing our desire to meet them. Can you imagine a situation where no one from India met the real investigators of the gun deal? That was when we saw the extent to which everyone was compromised. Many politicians who had come to my office claiming they would move heaven and earth to get at the truth if they came to power, fell silent when they held very important positions directly linked to the deal.

Q – Any final thoughts?

A – There cannot be final thoughts on something like this. False closures of corruption bleed the system. Every day has to matter. When something like the scale and violence of Bofors happens, you begin to question your own faith as a professional and a human being. When you start losing faith, you begin to lose hope. When hope is lost, everything is lost. We cannot afford to let that happen. Maybe we will get nowhere, but silence cannot be the answer. – The Hoot, New Delhi, 24 April 2012

Sonia Gandhi: World’s 9th most powerful person accused of corruption – Cleo Paskal

Cleo PaskalPart 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 [Times of India correspondent] 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 his party lost power to Sonia’s Congress in 2004. – Cleo Paskal

Sonia GandhiNew 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 mind-boggling crime.

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 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 in 1984, Sonia’s husband Rajiv became Prime Minister. Following Rajiv’s 1991 assassination by 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 and 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 dynasty.”

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.

M.D. NalapatThe 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, 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 academics.

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.

Quattrocchi & Sonia GandhiIn 1998 Lindstrom gave an interview in which he said: 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 from overseas accounts.

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 his 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.

Subramanian SwamyOn 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 Sonia Gandhi. 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 Cold War.

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 is showing a definite 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. – Huffington Post, April 25, 2011

PM’s permission sought to prosecute habitual offender Sonia Gandhi – Subramanian Swamy


Dr. Subramanian Swamy, Janata Party President and former Union Cabinet Minister for Law &Justice, today (April 15, 2011) submitted a Petition of 206 pages, seeking from the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh the required Sanction to prosecute Ms. Sonia Gandhi under Sections 11 & 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Sanction is required under Section 19 of the Act because she is Chairperson of the National Advisory Council with Cabinet rank.

In his Petition to the PM, Dr. Swamy has made out a prima facie case on documentary circumstantial evidence that Ms. Gandhi abetted Italian businessman and close family friend Ottavio Quattrocchi to obtain an illegal commission in the Bofors Gun Purchase deal, and then influenced the government of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao to enable Mr. Quattrocchi to escape from the country in July 1993. Thereafter she directed the Union Law Minister in 2005 to enable Mr. Quattrocchi to get his London accounts de-frozen and decamp scot-free with over $ 200 million [about Rs 1000 crores].

Dr. Swamy has also made out a prima facie case that Mr. Gandhi has illegally held in Swiss bank accounts illegal monies of about Rs. 10,000 crores received as a legatee in 1991 following Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. He also produced an admission on record of the spokesperson of the Russian government that KGB had provided funds to Ms. Gandhi and her family, as also evidence that she had received commissions on Indo-Soviet trade, which were illegal under Indian law.

In his Petition, Dr. Swamy has also catalogued a list of offences prima facie committed by Ms.Sonia Gandhi since 1974 which shows that she is an habitual offender who deserves to be prosecuted and punished.

For Janata Party

Pran Nath Mago
PA to Dr. Swamy

Manmohan SinghThe Petition

15 April 2011

Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister as Sanctioning Authority
u/s 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (1988) [PCA]
South Block, New Delhi.

Re: Sanction to prosecute Ms. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson (in Cabinet Rank), NAC, under Prevention of Corruption Act (1988).

Dear Sir:

1. Ms. Sonia Gandhi MP, wife of the deceased Rajiv Gandhi, was first appointed as Chairperson National Advisory Council [NAC] in May 2004. She resigned in 2006 but was re-appointed by an Order of the Cabinet Secretariat dated March 29, 2010, read with Order dated October 8, 2010 [Annexure 1].

2. As per Order of May 31, 2004 [Annexure 2] the Prime Minister’s Office will provide Central Government funds to meet the expenditure of the NAC, and service the NAC for its secretarial needs. Hence she is a public servant as defined in Section 2 ( c ) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (1988).

3. You, in your capacity as deemed appointing authority are therefore the Designated Authority under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act for granting Sanction to prosecute the said Ms. Sonia Gandhi. As you know, there are no laches or statute of limitations for prosecuting offences of corruption.

4. Your Sanction is required by me for prosecuting Ms. Sonia Gandhi on a private complaint proposed to be filed by me in the criminal court under Prevention of Corruption Act (1988), based on the materials available to me (and enclosed with this letter/application) with reference to two issues:

Congress Party Chair Sonia GandhiFIRST ISSUE:

5. Ms. Sonia Gandhi holds office which enables her to give direction to Government departments and Ministries and also call for confidential reports from CBI, and according to the then Union Law Minister, she can even call for files [Annexure 3]. She has been as Chairperson of NAC giving directions to several ministries and departments.

6. It is charged that she obtained for, and colluded with family friend, Mr. Ottavio Quattrocchi — an Interpol Red-Corner Noticee & a proclaimed offender under Indian criminal law, to obtain for him the pecuniary advantage from defreezing of his CBI-frozen account, thus committing offence u/s 13 (1)(d) of the PCA, and also conspired with Quattrocchi to enable him to escape prosecution in Bofors Gun Purchase scam.

Sonia Gandhi (L), Ottavio Quattrocchi & Maria Quattrocchi7. Bofors scam that occurred in 1986 represents corruption in very high places and the key figure in the scam is Mr. Ottavio Quattrocchi, the Italian family friend and fixer. The then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi was manipulated by Ms.Sonia Gandhi, his Italian born wife, to abet the crime in Bofors gun purchase committed by Quattrocchi against the nation.

8. Ms. Sonia Gandhi stationed Mr. Walter Vinci, her brother-in-law, in Sweden to influence her husband and then Prime Minister, when on a visit to Sweden to finalize the Bofors Deal. Also present in the same hotel was the Italian fixer, small arms supplier, and Snam Progetti agent, Mr. Ottavio Quattrocchi, [who was hailed as the catalyst in the deal by the CBI in their Letters Rogatory documents], and who had in return for a hefty commission prevailed on the Prime Minister to sign the deal before March 31, 1986.

9. Thereafter when the arm of the law began reaching near him, he escaped from India in 1993, then from Malaysia in 2002 via a rigged court judgment obtained by collusion with as yet unnamed parties and from Argentina — by the CBI fudging the records — all achieved under the influence exerted by Ms. Sonia Gandhi under three different and consenting Prime Ministers.

10. This is further confirmed in the interview conducted by Ranjit Bhushan of Outlook magazine [Annexure 4] in 1998 with Mr. Sten  Lindstorm, the Chief of the Investigation Division of Swedish National Bureau of Investigation and Special Prosecutor of the Swedish Government into the Bofors payoffs. The Swedish National Audit Bureau which he assisted concluded after an independent probe that bribes had indeed been paid in the Bofors deal.

11. Lindstorm states in the inview, which has not been contradicted by anyone including Ms. Sonia Gandhi, that: “The Bofors Papers all point to the [Sonia] Gandhi family” and further that Ms. Sonia Gandhi should “explain how Quattrocchi-owned companies got such fat sums as payoffs from the Bofors deal.”

12. This report is corroborated by another interview given by Lindstorm to Chitra Subramanian [Indian Express, March 22, 1998] wherein he stated; “All information we had at that time pointed to the Gandhi link—Sonia Gandhi should place her cards on the table. The bribes have been traced to her friend and this is not something out of the blue. This is no coincidence.”

13. Headlines Today is in possession of the written statement of then Intelligence Bureau officer Naresh Chandra Gosain made before CBI Inspector Ghanshyam Rai on March 29 1997. Between 1984 and 1987, Gosain was posted in the Special Protection Group[SPG] of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He was part of the escort team. Between 1987 and 1989, Gosain served as the Personal Security Officer or the PSO of Sonia Gandhi.

14. During the tenure of Prime Minister Deve Gowda in 1997, Gosain deposed before the CBI. This deposition has so far never been made public. Headlines Today dug out this deposition, in which Gosain talks at length about the close family ties between the Gandhis and the Quattrocchis.

15. In his testimony Gosain says, “Mr. Quattrocchi and his wife Ms. Maria Quattrocchi were very close to Mr Rajiv Gandhi and Mrs Sonia Gandhi. When Shri Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister, Mr. Quattrocchi and his family members used to visit PM house and the family members of Shri Rajiv Gandhi also used to visit the house of Mr. Quattrocchi.”

16. He adds: “In the initial period of Prime Ministership of Shri Rajiv Gandhi, the children of Shri Rajiv Gandhi used to stay at Mr. Quattrocchi’s house during the foreign visits/domestic visits of the Prime Minister. We used to perform our shift duties at the residence of Mr. Quattrocchi on such occasions. Sometimes, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has also stayed in the house of Mr. Quattrocchi and at that time we used to perform our duties there.”

Gosain goes on to add that Mr. Quattrocchi and his wife Maria enjoyed free access to the Prime Minister’s house. “At No. 5 & 7 Race Course Road, private cars were not allowed to enter inside the bungalow. Only the ferry cars of SPG, after severe security checks, used to carry such visitors from reception to porch and back. Mr. Quattrocchi and Mrs. Maria Quattrocchi were very close to Shri Rajiv Gandhi’s family and they got free access to the PM’s House.”

He further added: “All visitors to No 5 & 7 Race Course Road were issued passes at the reception near the alighting point. Every time, a card was kept ready for Mr. Quattrocchi and his family members as and when they visited the PM’s house. Everybody in SPG posted at PM house knew Mr Quattrocchi and his family members. Hence, there was no question of identifying them.”

17. Ottavio Quattrocchi’s proximity to the Gandhis is well known. What is also known is this proximity continued even after Quattrocchi began to be linked to the Bofors scandal. What documents show is that despite the cloud of suspicion surrounding Quattrocchi’s involvment in the Bofors paybacks, he continued to have unfettered access to 10 Janpath, the residence officially assigned to Ms. Sonia Gandhi, which in itself makes her a public servant under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

18. It is important to recollect that by January 25, 1990, a team of CBI officials was already in Switzerland with a list of suspected recipients of the Bofors payback. According to a Frontline magazine story of the time, Ottavio Quattrocchi was the first name on that list. Between 1988 and 1990, the media too carried many stories about the involvement of Quattrocchi as a middleman in the Bofors deal.

19. It is clear from records that Mr. Quattrocchi was the direct beneficiary of bribe payments in the Bofors scam. It is now confirmed by the ITAT Report of the Hon’ble Tolani & Sharma Bench [Annexure 5].

The testimony of Mr. Sasi Dharan is crucial in further unravelling the proximity of Quattrocchi to Ms. Sonia Gandhi.. Sasi Dharan worked as a driver in Snam Progetti. Snam Progetti was an Italian public sector giant that was represented in India by Ottavio Quattrocchi. Sasi was Quattrocchi’s personal driver. He drove Mercedes No. DIA 6253. In his testimony before the CBI, Sasi details the frequent meetings between the Gandhis with the Quattrocchis.

20. In his testimony Sasi says: “Shri Quattrocchi and Mrs. Maria Quattrocchi were very close to Shri Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and his family. I do not know what type of relation they had but Quattrocchi and his wife Maria used to frequently visit the house of Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. I knew it since 1985 when I joined service. At that time they used to visit the house of Rajiv Gandhi twice or thrice in a day. Whenever Sonia Gandhi’s mother or father visited India, I used to drive them to the house of Quattrocchi. They used to remain there for the whole day and Mrs. Maria Quattrocchi would take them for shopping. They used to come to India four or five times in the year.”

21. What is clinching is the car log maintained by driver Sasi Dharan. In this log, Sasi details the exact dates when Ottavio Quattrocchi came to meet Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi at 5 and 7 Race Course Road or 10 Janpath. These logs are for the period 1989 to 1993. In this log book, Sasi Dharan has mentioned 41 occasions when Quattrocchi came to meet the Gandhis.

22. It is important to note that the meetings between Ottavio Quattrochi and Sonia Gandhi continued even after the death of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 even as Ms. Sonia Gandhi remained as a public servant under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

23. According to Sasi Dharan, Quattrocchi came to 10 Janpath 21 times after May 1991. Considering the long financial dealings of Mr. Quattrocchi since 1976 with LTTE (the assassins of Rajiv Gandhi), this fact is a subject of a future application for sanction as well.

24. Sasi concludes by saying: “Shri Quattrocchi left India on the night of July 29, 1993 and on this day also I had driven him to the airport. At that time he did not have any luggage except one briefcase and he told me he was going for an urgent meeting. Usually, whenever Mr. Quattrocchi wanted the car, he would tell me in advance, but the day he left, he did not tell me (in advance)”. Obviously he had notice of his impending arrest by CBI in advance.

25. As a consequence of the misuse of her office and position, Ms. Sonia Gandhi helped Ottavio Quattrocchi not only escape from the country, and in 2005 even to withdraw $29 million from his de-frozen accounts and thus let off scot free.

26. Hence, it is prima facie obvious that Ms. Sonia Gandhi had misused her office [she was Life President in the Government funded Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts Trust (IGNCA Trust) during 1991-2002] and thus a public servant with considerable influence in government to enable Mr. Quattrocchi to escape from India in 1993 and later in 2005 to benefit Mr. Quattrocchi to illegally gain monetarily at the expense of the Consolidated Fund of India, by defreezing his London accounts.


27. This complaint against Sonia Gandhi also includes the corrupt monies held under her control in the tax haven of Switzerland as a legatee of the corrupt money which was banked in the name of her late husband or deposited by her of funds obtained from the erstwhile KGB, the Soviet Union’s Intelligence Agency, or by sale of illegally exported antiques in the country. I retain the right to submit details of other illegal accounts in other havens such as Macao at a later stage in another application to you or before the court.

28. It is well-reported that Sonia Gandhi is the beneficiary of Rajiv Gandhi’s estate which includes the corrupt monies continued even now to be held in a tax havens. Why this money is held abroad (even if held as a trust to benefit family members) instead of its being held in India within the Indian financial system to benefit the nation is a question which Ms. Sonia Gandhi must answer.

29. Violations of FEMA have occurred as also under Prevention of Money Laundering Act. In case any transaction on this account which is not reported in the Income Tax Returns, and FCRA is also a violation. There may also be an issue of obtaining RBI prior permission for holding such large sums abroad if it is claimed to be a legitimate account.

30. It is clear that this wealth was not reported in Election Affidavits of Sonia Gandhi & Rahul Gandhi as a beneficiary of the monies so held [Annexure 6]. The total wealth of both Gandhis, as per their election returns, is just Rs 363 lakh, Sonia owns no car. “

31. When Schweizer Illustrierte a prestigious German-language Swiss magazine alleged that Rajiv Gandhi held an illegal account in Swiss banks of about US $ 2 billion, neither she nor her son, protested, or sued the magazine, then or later [Annexure 7].

32. When major papers, The Hindu and The Times of India included, had carried in the year 1992 the official confirmation of KGB payments to the Rajiv Gandhi family, adding that the Russian government owned the payments in the disclosures, neither of the two Gandhis challenged or sued them [Annexure 8].

33. Nor did they sue Dr. Yevgenia Albats, a member of the official Commission on KGB Operations set up by President Yeltsin, when she wrote about KGB payments to Rajiv Gandhi and family in her book The State within State [Annexure 9]

34. More than $ 2 billion in 1991 was being held by Ms. Sonia Gandhi as a legatee, or otherwise obtained by receiving stolen movable and immovable properties, monies and securities, kept illegally in tax haven banks of Switzerland and elsewhere, and which is disproportionate to her known sources of income. She thus has also committed offence u/s 13(1)(e) of PCA. It also attracts the IPC Sections for receiving stolen property.

35. The recent deposition of Hasan Ali, alleged to have siphoned money of the nation to Switzerland secret accounts admits to his close association not only with her but with Mr. Ahmed Patel MP and political adviser to Ms. Sonia Gandhi [Annexure 10].

36. Ms. Sonia Gandhi is also obviously culpable under Indian criminal law such as FCRA for the pay offs in the Iraqi Oil-for-Food scam of 2002. The United Nations had set up an independent inquiry committee under Dr. F. Volcker which found that the “Congress Party” headed by Ms. Sonia Gandhi as a beneficiary of a free oil quota from the now deposed and deceased dictator Saddam Hussein, which the beneficiary sold at market price through Marc Rich, the notorious swindler who had been convicted by a US Court for 350 years and several million dollars as fine. He was pardoned by US President Clinton in 2000 on Israeli Prime Minister’s intervention. He lives in Switzerland.

37. No one in Congress Party but Ms. Sonia Gandhi as party President could have been this beneficiary. The other beneficiary listed in Volcker’s Report was by name: Natwar Singh, who got much less [Annexure 11].

38. I reserve the right to further petition you to enlarge the scope of this sanction at a future date to include other violations and offences committed by Ms. Sonia Gandhi under Prevention of Corruption Act (1988), for which I will file with you a separate application if necessary.

39. But, in this application alone there is substantive prima facie evidence for an appropriate court to take cognizance of the offence committed by Ms. Sonia Gandhi under the Prevention of Corruption Act, and thus I seek your sanction to initiate the criminal law to prosecute her under the Act

40. Ms. Sonia Gandhi is habitually committing acts of corruption since 1972. On November 19, 1974, I brought it to the attention of the Rajya Sabha that Ms. Sonia Gandhi, then an Italian citizen had functioned as a benami insurance agent of public sector insurance companies, and giving her address as 1, Safdarjung Road, New Delhi which was then the official residence of the Prime Minister of India. She thus committed an offence under FERA. The then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi subsequently informed the Rajya Sabha that following my disclosure, Ms. Sonia Gandhi had resigned from this agency earning commissions.

41. Between January 25, 1973 and January 21, 1975 she held a post of Managing Director of Maruti Technical Services on a salary despite it being an offence under FERA. But then she had become Managing Director of Maruti Heavy Vehicles Pvt. Ltd. with an even bigger remuneration. For neither post she had the necessary qualifications having never passed even high school. The Justice A.C. Gupta Commission appointed in 1977 by the Janata Party Government found her guilty of multiple offences under FERA and IPC.

42. In 1980 and January 1983 Ms. Sonia Gandhi then still an Italian citizen enrolled herself as a voter in the New Delhi constituency despite having been struck off the list in 1982 upon the ERO receiving a complaint from a citizen. She thus committed an offence under Section 31 of the Representation of the People’s Act read with Form 4 of the Registration of Electors Rules (1960).

43. Ms. Sonia Gandhi’s Indian citizenship acquired in record speed in April 1983 is vitiated by her incomplete answers to mandatory questions in the citizenship forms. She did not submit documents from the Italian government of relinquishing her Italian citizenship required for Indian citizenship, stating in the Form that it was ‘not applicable” [Annexure 12]. Italian Embassy in New Delhi simply affirmed what she told them and hence that cannot be taken as a valid document of relinquishment for the purposes of citizenship. She also retrieved her Italian passport in 1992 after citizenship laws in Italy were amended which under Section 10 of the Citizenship Act (1955) means cancellation of her Indian citizenship.

44. All these facts stated above were put together and published in USA in a full page advertisement in the New York Times in 2008 by NRIs N. Kataria and others. The Congress Party unit in USA thereafter engaged the most expensive law firm and filed a $200 million defamation suit. However Ms. Sonia Gandhi refused to appear in the witness box and be cross examination. Therefore, Justice Emily Goodman of the New York State Supreme Court dismissed the suit since defamation suits in law have to be filed by the person claiming to be defamed, and therefore cannot be assigned to others [Annexure 13]. Ms. Sonia Gandhi had a case to rebut these facts, then why she failed to turn up in court?


April 15, 2011

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