With the arrest and remand of Karti Chidambaram, the son of Palaniappan and Nalini Chidambaram, trouble seems to have just begun for the family. Long accused of shady dealings in hushed up voices in the clubs of political commentators, the former Union finance and home minister stands little chance of being able to save his family if the Narendra Modi government is serious about seeing the cases against them reach its deserving legal conclusion. More so if the Indian National Congress, which seems to stand with the wretched family as of now, considers the trio not a heavy price to pay to save its principal dynasty in a backstage deal with the current dispensation — or so goes the whisper campaign in press circles! Considering the arguments in favour and against Karti’s bail application, it appears correct on the part of the court to send him to the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation for grilling. The judge in his wisdom decided that it did not matter that the FIR against the accused was lodged in 2017 but the investigating agency did not apprehend him immediately. The court also set aside the argument that Karti was not evading interrogation. It did not matter that he was not fleeing to another country. It was irrelevant that he had gone to the United Kingdom with the permission of the Madras High Court. What mattered in the application for bail was whether he was in a position to influence the witnesses and tamper with the evidence. In the probe that the agency has carried out in the intervening period since 15 May 2017, there emerged indications that he was capable of both. The CBI is probing, for example, how the Aircel-Maxis draft report reached the residence of the Chidambarams.
It is rather unlikely that the name of a family, out of thousands of families of politicians, should surface time and again, associated with cases of financial misappropriation, if its dealings were absolutely clean. Not so long ago, Nalini was accused of mediating a dubious deal of purchase of a television channel between a leader of the INC, his wife and the chief accused in the Saradha Ponzi scheme. Over the past decade or more, while the telecom minister of first government of the United Progressive Alliance, Dayanidhi Maran, had to resign for influencing Aircel’s sale to Maxis Communications, it could not be proved that Karti received a 5% share of the first company to facilitate the Rs 4,000 crore sale, as Subramanian Swamy had alleged. Yet, the father of the accused was heckled enough in Parliament at the time, and the case for which Karti is now facing the law is the INX deal. Whereas Peter and Indrani Mukerjea might be a disgraced couple today, their alleged murder of the daughter of the latter hardly casts any shadow on their statement made before a magistrate. They had asserted that P Chidambaram had asked them to pay a company allegedly held via a conduit by Karti. This, they claimed, was a bribe they had to pay to ensure that the media house they owned then received some foreign investment. The CBI has reportedly been able to corroborate the Mukerjeas’ claim. If the conscience of P Chidambaram had been clear, it is a plausible theory that he would not have attempted to pre-empt his son’s arrest. So panicked was he that, his degree in law notwithstanding, he made a case of “political vendetta”, which rather tenuously holds water as a legal charge. He must be praying that the plethora of charges Karti has faced in his career so far do not lead to cases one after another or all at once.
Finally, besides the complaints of monetary corruption against Chidambaram Sr, he is also looked down upon by the Sikh community for what they believe is his hand in the acquittal of Jagdish Tytler in cases of the 1984 pogrom. Given that the supporters of the current government have turned vociferous in their demand to book every alleged crook whose misdemeanours had offered the Bharatiya Janata Party the greatest of electoral planks in 2014, the Chidambarams’ goose will expectedly be cooked sooner rather than later.