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Sandeep Bamzai

Sandeep Bamzai is a media professional of standing and repute having held editorial leadership positions right through his 32 year career. Visiting Fellow at think tank ORF, he is currently writing a book for Harper Collins on the Role of the Indian Pri

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Disequilibrium | Don't Hold India To Ransom

To challenge a High Court summons with bravado and derring do is a huge judgmental error and to blame it as political vendetta on the BJP is nothing but science fiction. Unless the Congress and its sharp shooters prove this decisively, empirical evidence goes against it completely

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Our founding fathers chose the bicameral system of parliament and there is nothing that can be done about it. It is cast in stone. The tyranny of numbers in the upper house is holding up an important legislation - One Tax One India - the Goods and Services Tax. Just when one thought that Indian polity was going to show enormous sagacity through an unprecedented display of bipartisanship and pass the GST in the winter session, an unguided missile has destroyed everything in its path. For the Congress to hold legislation and parliament to ransom because a judicial decision has gone against the First Family is akin to a catechism of the judicial system and process in the land. Subramanian Swamy cannot be considered a proxy for the BJP, he filed the National Herald case - a pet peeve - of his as far back as January, 2013 when he was a Janata Party member. Swamy has always been a loose cannon, he has no real political affiliation, he is a litigant and lives with great sense of infamy. Remember that he brought the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government to its knees by holding a tea party in Ashoka Hotel. On March 29, 1999, he held a tea party at The Ashok in Delhi, where Sonia Gandhi was his guest of honour. The sole purpose of the party as Jayalalithaa described it then, was to bring down the first BJP led government at the Centre, which was not even a year old. Once described as Santa Claus with unrealistic ideas by Mrs Indira Gandhi, Swamy has been in government and out of it. But a maverick all the time. It was only in August, 2013 that he merged his Janata Party with the BJP and became a party member. So, friends, enemies and frenemies don't matter to Swamy.

Anyway the subject matter of this treatise is not Swamy, though he is an integral part of it. The shocking behaviour of the Congress which as usual has closed ranks behind the Gandhis is unbecoming of the Grand Old Party which is functioning as the opposition for the present. The judiciary one would like to believe is independent and this has been shown up repeatedly in the last five years, ever since judicial over reach and activism has encroached into the domain of the executive. In fact, since 2010, when the Executive was gripped by a strange form of paralysis and paranoia, it was the judiciary which became the last man standing. Its outstanding work in the 2G and coal allotment cases where the country's natural resources were hijacked by the Executive in a bizarre form of discretionary and preferential allocation on a first come first serve basis helped in bringing the guilty to book and curbing rampant corruption. The UPA's construct of reprising the old license raj through the backdoor by gifting the scarce natural wealth of the country to cronies was an architecture which was nipped out by the judiciary. This peculiar form on cronyism went against it in the 2014 polls. To challenge a High Court summons with bravado and derring do is a huge judgmental error and to blame it as political vendetta on the BJP is nothing but science fiction. Unless the Congress and its sharp shooters prove this decisively, empirical evidence goes against it completely.

Let the judicial process decide guilt, challenge the decision in court, ask for a division bench or go to the Supreme Court. The Congress has a battery of high profile lawyers. Yes, the same lawyers who brought them down with their collective arrogance. Use them in the courts and dig yourself out of the hole. Instead, you choose to disrupt Parliament because the Gandhis have been pronounced guilty. What is worse is that you are holding up GST, passage of which is crucial economic reform. Let me repeat what the lower court judge said about the case: It appears that Young India was in fact created as a sham or a cloak to convert public money to personal use in order to acquire control over Rs 2000 crore worth of assets of Associated Journals. The court noted that all six accused persons had allegedly acted in consortium with each other to achieve the said nefarious purpose and design. Incidentally Young India paid a mere Rs 50 lakh to obtain the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that Associated Journals had owed to the Congress Party, given earlier as a loan to start the newspaper. What makes it worse is that this was done in a malicious manner to grab the Herald's assets and allegedly Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Motilal Vora, Suman Dubey, Sam Pitroda and Oscar Fernandes colluded to do it. It gets better - Sonia and Rahul own 74 per cent of Young India. So, if the judge says there is 'criminal intent', then one should respect the judiciary and fight the case in the courts. The law provides for recourse.

Associated Journals owns real estate assets running into crores with buildings in New Delhi, Lucknow, Bhopal, Indore, Mumbai, Panchkula, Patna and other places. The National Herald finally ceased operations in 2008 with a debt of Rs 90 crore. The Associated Journals Limited -- which published the National Herald - then became in effect a real estate firm with properties in Delhi, Lucknow and Mumbai. In November 2010, the AJL was taken over by a newly-floated company called Young India Limited in which Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul hold three-fourths equity. "After having considered the entire case in its proper perspective, this court finds no hesitation in putting it on record that the modus operandi adopted by petitioners in taking control of AJL via the special purpose vehicle (YIL), particularly when the main persons in the Congress, AJL and YI are the same, evidences a criminal intent," the High Court said in its 27-page judgment. These are serious charges and the idea of persecution stands vaporised. The judge also added, "It is not a mere commercial transaction. It has wider ramifications. How a political party behaves is everyone's concern. It is precisely an act of a political party which is under scanner here."

Swamy has drawn a bead on the Gandhis and they in turn are blaming it on the BJP since Swamy is now a party member. Clearly a distinction needs to be made because of the timeline of the case. The case filed by Swamy pre-dates his entry into the BJP. As we know the wheels of justice move excruciatingly slowly in India. It is a mere happenstance that the case before Justice Sunil Gaur of the Delhi High Court has come around the same time as the parliament's winter session. To impute motive and ascribe political rationale is wrong. Don't hold up parliament is my plea like a multitude's; for reform is good for India. Imagine the fruits and benefits of One India One Tax. In Swamy's case, for those who know him, he is like a limpet who doesn't leave his mark. Many dismiss him as a conspiracy theorist, but this is undoubtedly his crowing glory. What he failed to do with P Chidambaram, he has succeeded with the Gandhis.

GST is vital to India, it can act as a centrifuge. It is the Congress' reform which they themselves are stalling for political brinkmanship. Under GST, the taxation burden will be divided equitably between manufacturing and services, through a lower tax rate by increasing the tax base and minimising exemptions.
• GST will be levied only at the destination point, and not at various points (from manufacturing to retail outlets). Multiple taxes will meld into One, all state economies will be brought on board, imagine how it simplifies things and adds value. Octroi, CENVAT, central sales tax, state sales tax, entry tax, license fees, turnover tax etc all goes out and GST comes in.

Argue in the courts, show your bellicosity there, allow the passage of GST by letting parliament function.

But then I am hoping for too much from the Congress.


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