October 27, 2020
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Hobson's Choice

The cover-up in the Madhu Koda mining case already seems to have begun. But, it is so crude and brazen that the political damage could be equally disastrous.

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Hobson's Choice
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Regarding the ongoing probe into the Madhu Koda mining case there is good news and bad news. First, take the bad news. The cover-up of the case already seems to have begun. Former Jharkhand Chief Minister and present MP, Madhu Koda, was charge-sheeted by both the Income Tax Department (IT) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The IT charged Koda for disproportionate assets. The ED charged him for money laundering. The ED was going to detain him for questioning. Koda conveniently developed stomach ache and got himself admitted to hospital. One does no know what transpired between Koda, ED sleuths and UPA politicians while he was in hospital. But, on his release from hospital, Koda was not detained. He moved around as a free man. He almost contemptuously refused to appear for questioning by ED on the ground that he was campaigning in a by-election. He chose his own date suitable for his interrogation.

After he was interrogated Koda gave a press interview. He claimed innocence and accused political higher-ups of conspiring to destroy his reputation. “I shall expose them at the appropriate time,” he said. He dismissed any political angle to the assault against an investigator’s son who, after he identified himself to goons, was severely beaten up by them and hospitalised.

Earlier Koda’s aide Binod Sinha and his brother Vikas Sinha, both co-accused, had also been interrogated by ED. Binod reportedly confessed his involvement in money laundering. It is expected that both brothers might turn state’s approvers. The sleuths seized a diary from Binod Sinha which contained names and meticulous records of payments made to each recipient. The ED reportedly has deciphered the names as those of prominent politicians.

The list of recipients contains two union ministers, a former union minister, a former chief minister, a senior Maharashtra politician, a party treasurer, a former governor, and a prominent media-cum-political celebrity among others. A computer of S. K. Naredi, chartered accountant of Binod Sinha, has also been seized. It is password protected and ED sleuths are in the process of cracking it. It has details of financial transactions between 2005 and 2007. The government’s Legal Department has quoted the Jain Hawala case to claim that diary notings cannot be used as court evidence. Maybe so. But the evidence being unearthed is likely to authenticate the notings to render them acceptable in a court. Koda has been summoned by ED to appear for questioning in Ranchi on 19 November.

Now the good news. The initial attempted cover-up is so crude and brazen that regardless of which way the case eventually ends, the political damage could be equally disastrous. Observers have not failed to note that after his interrogation, Koda became even more cocky and belligerent. People are connecting the dots. Different sets of Xeroxed pages of the Koda diary have been leaked to various media outlets. The decoded names include half a dozen leading Congress leaders. A few among them are reputedly very close to 10 Janpath. If the government persists with a cover-up people will draw the obvious conclusion even if it may be entirely incorrect. 

In the event, the political damage through a cover-up may exceed that of an honest exposure. Already leaks from sections among ruling politicians and the bureaucracy indicate that chances of a smooth cover-up are not too rosy. A PIL has already been filed in the Ranchi High Court demanding that the case be also investigated by the CBI. The state units of both the Congress and the BJP are also echoing this demand. Eventually both the home minister and the finance minister may have to tackle the case. If they act to expose the truth there would be political damage because of them. If they attempt a cover-up there could be greater political damage in spite of them. Either way it is Hobson’s choice for Congress.

 


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