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From Gujarat riots to foiling Lalu’s bid to become PM, Jaya Jaitly’s startling claims in autobiography

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From joining politics under firebrand leader George Fernandes, to becoming the president of Samata Party — a key ally in the first National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government, Jaya Jaitly’s rise in mainstream politics invited both awe and envy. Her autobiography, “Life Among the Scorpions” makes a series of startling claims that may have lasting political implications.

She claims that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, was in constant touch with then Defence Minister Fernandes during the Gujarat riots of 2002. According to her account, Fernandes was at Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s residence when they received a fax from Modi, “asking for the army to be sent urgently to Ahmedabad to quell the violence”. Fernandes, she mentions, stayed at Raksha Bhavan for most of the night and early the next morning was in Ahmedabad.

“I know for a fact that Narendra Modi was in constant touch with the Defence Minister and even supported and cooperated when he later organised a citizen’s peace march of 7,000 people, including Muslims, through the city. I too was present. Modi addressed the marchers at the end of its journey, thanking everyone for working towards peace… There was not a moment’s tension or frustration in the relationship between Modi and Fernandes, whether before or after, and this is a fact even if this has annoyed many Modi-haters and some of Fernandes’ socialist compatriots,” Jaitly writes.

Jaitly goes on to refer to Modi as “quiet”, “serious” and “very respectful”, saying that he was “not given to small talk” which was “a pleasant change from useless banter that many men adopt with women in television studios”. This was when Jaitly often sat with Modi, who was then General Secretary of the BJP, to discuss election trends and results at television studios.

Jaitly also recalls how Lalu Prasad Yadav’s bid to become Prime Minister was foiled in 1996.

“The alliance in the ensuing election saw no campaigning on the Ram Mandir, Article 370 or any other contentious issue. There were no slogans of Jai Sri Ram that had filled the air a few years earlier. It was purely about the condition of Bihar. As usual, I was active behind the scenes. The result of the Bihar alliance was that we succeeded in ensuring that Lalu Yadav had fewer seats than H.D. Deve Gowda in the Janata Dal combine, enabling Gowda to be the Prime Minister,” she writes in the book.

Jaitly mentions that when Deve Gowda later “stepped down” in favour of I.K. Gujral, the latter telephoned her to seek George Fernandes’ and her support to be the Prime Minister.

“He had a good relationship with us, having attended our then-seen-as-maverick international conferences on Tibet and Burma when many others had stayed away.

“We were happy that our election strategy had saved the Party (we had six members in Parliament, including Nitish Kumar) and saved the country from having Lalu Yadav as Prime Minister,” she adds.

She further blames Lalu Prasad for protecting the attackers of Bhagalpur riots of October 1989. “It was clear to me that it was the large Muslim population that had been attacked and many of those who joined in doing so were part of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s caste. It was because of his interest in protecting the attackers (as was widely believed because of his failure to take any action) that even though some eye-wash commissions were set up later to get to the truth of these riots, they never got off the ground,” she maintains in the autobiography.

Jaitly also accuses Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of having given the Rajya Sabha seat, earlier promised to her, to a businessman in 2005.

“On the morning of the very last day for filing nominations, just after the last flight had left Delhi for Patna, George Sahib received a call from the Chief Minister saying he could not give me the seat as he had decided to give it to ‘King Mahendra’ (Mahendra Prasad), a businessman who had moved from Congress to RJD to Congress and now JD(U). He said he had helped the Party in the elections. George Sahib tried to argue that I too had done a lot for the Party over the years and that they all owed it to me. I watched him speak from across the room. His face became stiff and after a few moments of silence, he put the receiver down.”

Among other controversial issues that find elaborate mention in her book are “Operation West End”, which she calls farce and a shoddily created tale; her reference to Nitish Kumar as somebody who always puts his interest first; that BJP lost 2004 elections due to “arrogance” and “disrespecting alliance partners”; some shocking anecdotes of how defence deals are done in India; her revelation of how alleged arms middleman Christian Michel offered her an opportunity to make a “huge pile of money” for her party; and that Sonia Gandhi had asked then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to shield Tehelka magazine’s financiers.

(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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‘Clown prince’ vs ‘court jester’: BJP-Congress spat gets uglier

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New Delhi, Sep 20 (IANS) The war of words between the BJP and the Congress over the Rafale deal and bank NPAs got uglier on Thursday with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley calling Congress President a “clown prince” and in turn getting dubbed a “court jester” by the grand old party.

Countering Congress’ relentless attack on the Narendra Modi government over the France-made jets and bad loans of banks, Jaitley took to the social media to accuse Gandhi of “concocting lies” on the twin issues and blamed him for “polluting” public discourse.

“His strategy is simple, concoct a lie and repeat it as many times as possible,” said Jaitley dismissing as false Gandhi’s claims of Prime Minister Modi waiving off Rs 250,000 crore of 15 industrialists.

“The world’s largest democracy must seriously introspect whether public discourse should be allowed to be polluted by the falsehood of a ‘clown prince’,” he wrote.

Jaitley said the amount referred to by Gandhi was lent by the banks prior to 2014 during the UPA regime, which then “kept rolling over the loans to conceal them (as) loans despite the default”.

“The truth is that your government allowed the banks to be looted,” alleged Jaitley.

The Congress lost no time in getting back at the Finance Minister.

“Jaitley is desperate in his attempt to stay relevant as a court jester to Modi Sultanate. Abuse, diversion and deception are the desperate tools of a ‘Lying -Jait-LIE’,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said in a statement.

The Congress demanded Jaitley to coherently answer politically-relevant issues instead of “hiding behind the cloak of expletives for the opposition”.

It posed 10 questions to Jaitley on the “Rafale scam” that include as to why Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) was “superseded” for Rs 30,000-crore contract to benefit cronies, why transfer of technology was “sacrificed” and why “national security was compromised” by reducing the number of aircraft from 126 to 36.

“Since your answers to the 10 questions are zero, cuss words are your only refuge,” said the party which has been gunning for the Modi government over the Rafale deal which according to the party has caused “loss” to the exchequer and “endangered” national security.

Besides approaching Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) Rajiv Mehrishi for a special and forensic audit and demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the deal, the Congress has also sought the resignation of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman over the issue.

Alleging Modi government’s “collusion with bank looters”, the Congress also posed five questions on the issue of surging bank NPAs (non-performing assets).

Countering Jaitley assertions of NPAs being a UPA legacy, the Congress pointed to Finance Ministry’s July 2018 reply in Parliament claiming “NPA’s stood at Rs 2,51,054 crore when demitted power and they have increased to a whopping Rs 9,61,962 crore by March 2018. NPA’s now stand at Rs 12,00,000 crore”.

Wondering if Jaitley lied in his blogpost or in Parliament, the Congress dared him to publicly state the amount of loans given in the last 52 months of the Modi government along with details as to how much of those loans have become NPAs.

“How much worth of loans were ever-greened and restructured. How much worth of loans became defaults and wilful defaults. How many wilful defaulters escaped from India and with how much amount of money during 52 months of Modi government?” the party said.

“How many economic offenders, defaulters and looters did you bring back to India and jailed?” the party said yet again attacking Jaitley over his “meeting” with now fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya.

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Now Congress calls Arun Jaitley ‘court jester’

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Randdeep Surjewala

New Delhi, Sep 20: Hitting back at Arun Jaitley, the Congress on Thursday dubbed the Finance Minister a “court jester” who is “desperate to stay relevant”.

Amid the relentless trading of charges between the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the Rafale deal, Jaitley on the day took to social media to accuse Gandhi of “concocting lies” on the deal for the France made fighter jets and the bad loans of banks.

He said the Congress leader was “polluting” public discourse.

Hitting back, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, in a tweet, called the BJP leader a “court jester” and demanded answers on the Rs 41,000 crore Rafale “scam”.

“And yes ‘Jait-LIE’ ji (sic), the desperate quest to stay relevant of a ‘court jester’ by wasteful blogs continues.

“Please reply: Why hide behind abuse when trapped in Rafale maze? Why supersede HAL for Rs 30,000 crore contract? Why no answer on Rs 41,000 crore loss in Rafale Scam,” said Surjewala in his response to Jaitley’s tweets.

The Congress has been gunning for the Narendra Modi-led government over the Rafale deal. Besides approaching Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) Rajiv Mehrishi for a special and forensic audit and demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the deal, the party has also sought the resignation of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman over the issue.

The Modi-led government and the BJP have been dismissive of all the charges by the Congress.

IANS

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Rahul Gandhi concocting lies on Rafale, NPAs: Arun Jaitley

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Arun Jaitley

New Delhi, Sep 20: Calling him a “clown prince”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday accused Congress President Rahul Gandhi of “concocting lies” on the Rafale fighter jets deal and the bad loans of banks. The Congress leader was “polluting” public discourse, Jaitley said.

In a Facebook post, he said Gandhi first “lied” on the Rafale deal and was now lying on the non-performing assets (NPAs) claiming that the BJP government had waived loans of 15 industrialists amounting to Rs 2.5 lakh crore. Not a single rupee of any debtor had been waived, he said.

“His (Gandhi’s) strategy is simple, concoct a lie and repeat it as many times” as possible, Jaitley said and wondered whether a person with a “temperament to concoct facts” deserved to be a part of the public discourse.

“The world’s largest democracy must seriously introspect whether public discourse should be allowed to be polluted by the falsehood of a ‘clown prince’,” he added.

Referring to Gandhi winking at his party men after hugging Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the parliament, the BJP leader said the public discourse was a serious activity, not a laughter challenge, and that it could not be reduced to a “hug, a wink or repetition of falsehood”.

“In mature democracies those who rely on falsehood are considered unfit for public life. Many have been banished from political activity because they were caught lying. But this rule obviously can’t apply to a dynastic organisation like Congress party,” he said.

“If the Rafale concoctions were the first big lie, the second one stated repeatedly is that Modi waived of Rs 2.5 lakh crore of 15 industrialists. Every word of that sentence repeatedly uttered by Rahul Gandhi is false,” he added.

Jaitley said the amount being referred to by Gandhi were lent by the banks prior to 2014 when the UPA government was in power, which then “kept rolling over the loans to conceal them (as) loans despite the default”.

“The truth, Mr. Rahul Gandhi, is that your government allowed the banks to be looted. The loans were inadequately securitized. Your government was in complicity… By repeating a lie on several occasions, you can’t change that reality,” he said.

The Finance Minister said while the UPA leaders claimed that when they went out of power, the NPAs were only Rs 2.5 lakh crore. The truth was that NPAs were actually Rs 8.96 lakh crore and were hidden under the carpet as revealed by an asset quality review conducted by the Reserve Bank of India.

He said no effective steps were taken by the UPA to recover or reduce the NPAs and post 2014-15, they increased not because more money was lent but because interest was mounting on the overdue amounts.

“The only effective move which has taken place in this regard is the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC). It has changed the debtor-creditor relationship in India.”

He said the Reserve Bank of India had identified the twelve major defaulters who jointly owed about Rs 3 lakh crore to various banks.

“The banks under UPA took no steps to recover these loans. They did not prosecute a single major debtor who had siphoned off money. It is the NDA government which through IBC, changed the debtor-creditor relationship and enabled the banks to effectively pursue the recovery,” Jaitley said.

IANS

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