Thursday, May 5, 2011

Manmohan working on his epitaph

On February 12th, I wrote, of our PM,
"If he is to hang up his boots with any sense of achievement, visibly combating corruption could be his chance to go down in history."
 And, that,
" If my speculations are correct, then Manmohan Singh  has sent word out that the fight is joined. 10 Janpath has been warned. There is little Sonia can do but back him. She has no power to restrain him; the worst she can do is sack him. Since he has no political dynasty to perpetuate, and no skeletons in his cupboard, she has no hold over him. However, his departure at this time would threaten the stability of her government."
Since then, the Anna Hazare gang has tried to create measures to become super-cop and super-judge. Between the rifts in so-called civil society and the inevitable assertion of the establishment, the powers of the Lokpal will not be quite as far-reaching as this petty autocrat wants. 
Meanwhile, I continue to get he sense that Manmohan is coming down harder and harder on corruption. 
1.Sanjay Chandra, the CEO of Unitech, is in jail, in connection with the 2G scam. And, even while their boss is out, 3 of Anil Ambani's senior executives are behind bars. If the case against Reliance Telecom has merit, he will join them; if not, they will be sprung.

2. The favour Mukesh Ambani has received from one dispensation after another is being withdrawn. The Directorate General of Hydrocarbon (DGH) is openly censuring his company's operations in the KG Basin, and talking of levying fines on him. Barely 2 years ago, when our Comptroller and Auditor General compiled findings to the effect that RIL's expenses in the KG basin were 'gold-plated', the report was put aside. Today, the DGH is openly talking of not structuring RIL's return to compensate for these questionable investments. And, to make their intent clear, they have asked RIL to dig 10 more wells. Oh, and when RIL declared two petroleum finds in a PR exercise to reduce atention to their below-par quarterly numbers, the DGH was incredibly fast off the blocks in declaring that these finds were not commercially viable.

Clearly, the knives are out against Mukesh Ambani. I have been getting a sense of this estrangement between 10, Janpath and Sonia for over a year now. I have been speaking about this to others in the investment business' one well-connected investor said this was not a tenable surmise, as 10 Janpath is heavily invested in RIL. But. to his credit, he sniffed around and got back, saying that something had changed.

3. This morning's front-page story in the Delhi edition of the TOI spells out the steps that the department of Revenue Intelligence is taking against those who keep money in tax havens abroad. Direction came from the Supreme Court, but the depth and width of work that has been done speaks of major support from the executive:
- 18 lakh trips to destinations known as tax havens have been identified.
- 2 'individuals' who have made 60 trips each during the last year have been identified. That is an amazing amount of sifting.

And, this paragraph: "Among the legitimate travellers, officials don't rule out presence of corrupt bureaucrats and politicians who have someone else footing their credit card and hotel bills during their stay abroad. All such cases are being identified".

There are more than stirrings afoot. The pot has been poured into a mixer, and the speed will be turned up.

I hope.

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