A few days ago, Karti Chidambaram was arrested by the CBI in relation to corruption charges. But as seen in video footage of him as he was being transported to the investigation, he was acting in a very buoyant and boastful manner, cheering and waving around, as if he has just won an election.
And I think there is something seriously wrong with that.
Why was he arrested in the first place?
First, a bit of background. Chidambaram Jr. was arrested on charges in the INX media case where it was alleged that he received kickbacks worth over Rs. 3 Cr to clear foreign investments in INX Media with the help of his father, P Chidambaram, the erstwhile Finance Minister under Congress rule.
It was also alleged that he helped sink a tax probe against INX Media.
The way that he did this was really smart, he was not directly involved with the scam. Basically, INX Media violated a rule regarding a foreign investment. When the authorities got wind of this, they allegedly approached Karti.
They were then advised to seek permission for the aforementioned investment and the proposal was okayed by the Finance Ministry (run by Karti’s father) despite opposition from the tax department.
Basically, they took permission after the fact for something they had already done.
Karti was arrested by the CBI on 28th of February on the grounds that he was refusing to cooperate with the investigation. He was then taken to Delhi and then to Mumbai for questioning.
The really surprising part of the story
What really put me off is the off-handed manner in which Karti behaved as he was being transported by the authorities. With a body language that was reminiscent of a politician winning an election, Chidambaram waved to the cameras with a big smile on his face even as he was pushed into the car.
This could be because of one of two reasons. Either Karti believes that he is absolutely innocent, and is using the high moral capital that accompanies absolute innocence to act in this manner to deter those who have supposedly framed him.
Or he is supremely confident in the Indian judiciary and the political system’s ability to create a fuss initially and then slowly forget about the scandals and scam that concern “one of their own”, and Karti Chidambaram is clearly one of them.
Also, it is more probable that the reason for his behavior is the second one.
The real reason behind this behavior
As it happens in status quo, an almighty fire of rage burns brightly in response to the revelations of massive and entrenched corruption because people are shocked and want to do something about it.
But this fire calms down to a gentle smolder soon enough because:
1. People have a goldfish like memory when it comes to things like this
2. There is always another scandal around the corner to distract the people
3. The institution is built in such a way that the ramifications of such acts are minor in the long run on big people. Your image in the public arena might suffer, but then the corruption is so widespread that 50 other people also have a bad image, maybe even worse.
4. The machinery is not incentivized to prosecute and take the case to fruition because of the system of favors and backhand and quid pro quo dealing that exists. A case dropped right now might serve as payback of a case dropped earlier or an IOU for a case in the future.
Karti might just be aware of these fallacies and also the fact that he can very well use them to his advantage to get away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, given his access to good offices.
Also, nothing concrete (except Indrani’s testimony) ties him to the scam. He has very cleverly maintained distant and not very evident ties. This little caveat might also be a big boost to his confidence and the reason for all his swagger.
Even if we consider the scenario where this case is prosecuted, Karti is clearly aware of the fact that he has the full might of the Congress party behind him who will cry foul and let slip the dogs of political war. Accusation and counter-accusation will follow each other in a vicious cycle and will ultimately jam up the legislative process of the country, which will shift the public opinion to that particular jam and Karti shall get out of this one.
Plus how can we forget: you scratch my back, I scratch yours.
Knowing all this, it is no big surprise seeing the brash and braggadocious manner in which he conducted himself on the day of his arrest.
But this is hugely problematic because it normalizes this “get out of jail free” behavior of the political class
It reinforces their firmly held belief that they can curry favors back and forth amongst themselves and not expect any backlash, no matter how to grave the accusations.
Regardless of whether he is guilty or not, Karti Chidambaram should have acted in humility that is befitting a man who has just been arrested on very substantial charges. The time for boasting and bragging is when he has been declared innocent by the judicial process.
Image Credits: Google Images
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