On the face of it, this looks like political genius.
The scorned UPA2 leadership decides to let loose the CBI on the DMK, and then claim it was all an oversight. If it was part of a plan – and there are stranger plans floating around in Delhi – it was executed brilliantly.
The DMK, always suspected of lust for money and material possessions, doesn’t know what to say. They had snubbed the Nehru-Gandhis and the Prime Minister by not giving them a heads up on the parting of ways.
And when New Delhi hit back, DMK founder M Karunanidhi had nothing smart to say. His exact words: “I woke up only at 10am. I saw the news about raids on TV. It may be a case of political vendetta or it may not be.
“If central ministers say they were not aware of the raids, then we will have to believe them. It is not proper for me to speculate.”
So, it is safe to say the UPA2 may have caught Karunanidhi napping.
It seemed to be superbly done.
First, the CBI raids MK Stalin’s house at 6.30am when Stalin is on his morning walk.
They grill Stalin’s son Udayanidhi for 90 minutes on the illegal purchase of luxury vehicles and are out before DMK seniors come to their senses.
Thirty minutes after the CBI completes its work, finance minister P Chidambaram – looking like his world was about to end – put out a public reprimand of the CBI raid. He said he strongly disapproved of the raid. He added he was upset because it would be misconstrued. “Whatever the reason, it shouldn’t have been done.”
Around the same time, parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath also criticised the raid.
Three hours later, the Prime Minister said the government had nothing to do with the raid. “The timing of the raid is unfortunate. The government didn't do it. We will find out who is responsible,” Manmohan Singh said.
His minister in the PMO V Narayanasamy said pretty much the same an hour or so later.
The players in this drama have specific roles.
Karunanidhi is the betrayer [after he withdrew support].
Stalin is the plotter [who planned the pullout].
Udayanidhi is the vagrant son [who can bring the structure down].
Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh are the scorned [they didn’t see it coming].
Chidambaram is the spurned [he negotiated without success].
Narayanasamy is HMV [His Master’s Voice]. He says what he is told to.
Kamal Nath is the shepherd [he has to keep the flock together in parliament until 2014].
The CBI are the dogs of war [they accomplish missions and move on].
While the Congress seniors washed their hands off, the CBI uploaded a press release on its website.
It said: “The CBI registered a case under section 120-B r/w 420, 467, 468, 468 r/w 471 IPC and sec. 13 (2) r/w 13 (1) (d) of PC Act, 1988 in connection with a complaint that about 33 vehicles had been imported in Tamil Nadu and of these, certain vehicles are believed to have been imported and subsequently sold in violation of import provisions causing loss of up to Rs 48 crore approximately to the exchequer.
“The case has been registered against an importer and a senior intelligence officer of DRI who allegedly did not take any action even after identification of vehicles at the premises of certain users and unknown others.
“During the searches conducted at 18 locations today, 17 imported cars have been located and seized under Section 102 (3) CrPC. Searches are continuing.
“CBI wishes to clarify that the above operation was strictly in accordance with procedures and there was no intention whatsoever to target any particular individual.
“Investigation is in progress.”
By this time, the Sanjay Dutt story kicked in.
No wonder Karunanidhi was careful with his reaction. He is a smart cookie and he recognises brilliance.
Stalin and TR Baalu were emotional, as always. Stalin spoke of ‘political vendetta’ and Baalu talked of the Centre ‘playing with fire’.
Karunanidhi, who has spun webs around many in the course of a long career, preferred to ponder.
He might even have anticipated something.
It isn’t every day that Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh say they are hurt because Karunanidhi didn’t call them before he pulled out.
In the end, the DMK and the Congress sounded the same.
Both said they held officials ‘responsible’ for the raids.
So far so good.
We are happy if the Congress’ political skills are still sharp.
But if none of this was planned, the UPA2 is risking ridicule.
A host of questions then arise.
Why should Chidambaram be dismayed at the CBI doing its job?
Why should he rebuke a colleague in the council of ministers over a routine raid?
What does he mean by saying the raid will be misconstrued? By whom?
By what jurisdiction has Chidambaram publicly reprimanded the CBI?
Who is Chidambaram addressing? Is he pitching for the top job?
What does Baalu mean when he says ‘playing with fire’?
Why does the DMK’s opinion matter in a case of economic crime?
Why is Kamal Nath speaking on this at all?
What does the PM mean by saying the raid was ill-timed? Where does timing come in?
What does the PM mean by saying he will ‘find out who is responsible’?
Why is the UPA2 targeting the CBI?
And so on.
We are fortunate if the UPA2 truly didn’t know.
For once, the CBI may be actually doing its job.
Thank god for that.
Also by the author:
Parliament resolutions: What you need to know
The boxer, the drug dealer, and the yarn
Rahul Gandhi and the singletons in Indian politics
To hang a man: How to read Afzal Guru's death
10 great reasons to leave India
Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi. His most recent journalism assignment was as executive editor with The Financial World, New Delhi, and tehelka.com.
He was a guest on Season 1 of the popular Indian TV show Satyamev Jayate, hosted by Aamir Khan.
Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.