Short, slightly built and with a stubble, Vishwanath Chaturvedi looks like a harmless, briefless lawyer. But ask him if he is a pawn in a political game and he begins to bristle. He has pursued the disproportionate assets case against Mulayam Singh Yadav, his two sons and daughter-in-law since 2005. An advocate, Chaturvedi told Outlook that he is a “public spirited political worker”. Excerpts from a conversation with him :
Did you tip off a news agency that the CBI was about to close the disproportionate assets case against Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son, Akhilesh Yadav?
Yes, I did.
But the CBI has denied the report. Why do you believe a closure report is imminent?
Because a senior central minister called me to his house on July 19 around 9.30 pm and told me in so many words. He said the UPA needed Mulayam’s support and warned me against questioning the CBI’s action.
Can you name the minister?
I can. But how do I prove that I was present in his house that day? If an inquiry is conducted, the location of the minister’s mobile phone, my mobile phone and that of the attorney-general will be found to be in the same area at that time. But that will not be sufficient to prove my claim.
Then why are you levelling such a serious allegation, on the basis of unprovable facts?
Because I have had enough. I was offered Rs 100 crore last year before the presidential election, with the same plea that I should not pursue the DA case against Mulayam and Akhilesh Yadav. My security was withdrawn by the government and now I am being threatened.
Who offered you this amount ?
I cannot name the person because I have no way of proving it.
Don’t you believe the CBI director when he says that no decision has been taken?
Had there been no truth in what the Union minister told me, the CBI director would not have complained that information was getting leaked from the agency; and he would not have ordered an inquiry into it. My information is that the CBI has done nothing in this case after 2007.
‘If public servants can get property in the name of relatives and stay clear of action, what can I say?’
What prompted you in 2005 to file the PIL against Mulayam?
He was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh then; I am from Rae Bareli and was engaged in trade union activities. There was rampant corruption in the state and I had submitted a report to the state government, alleging smuggling of foodgrains meant for public distribution here to Nepal and Bangladesh. Mulayam Singh was initially forced to order a CBI inquiry into it but he backed out. That was the beginning of our feud.
You had once contested against Rajnath Singh on a Congress ticket?
I have been a dyed-in-the-wool Congressman from the very beginning. And I remain a Congress loyalist.
Does that not by itself make your PIL politically motivated?
Isn’t there life beyond politics? Just because I am a Congressman, does it mean I can’t fight against corruption? Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav had raised this issue before the Supreme Court and wanted my petition to be dismissed. But after considering everything, the apex court proceeded to order the CBI to conduct a preliminary inquiry.
The then solicitor-general had in 2008 stated that the charge of disproportionate assets against Mulayam was not tenable. What’s your take?
Yes, even the Supreme Court directed that the assets of Dimple Yadav be delinked and she be dropped from the inquiry. But no such order was given in the case of Prateek Yadav, who is also a private citizen and does not hold any public office. The then solicitor-general also computed the assets of only Mulayam Singh Yadav and left out his sons, wives and his daughter-in-law. If public servants are allowed to acquire property in the name of their family members and let off the Prevention of Corruption Act, what can I say? But I do not think this is right.