Bofors saga: The cover-up of a cover-up

One of the biggest gaps in the Bofors saga is the absence of an objective and full-fledged enquiry into the role played by the intelligence and investigative agencies in the entire saga under Rajiv Gandhi as well as V P Singh, writes B Raman.
| by B Raman 
( April 26, 2012, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) I was always convinced that late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was a straightforward and honest leader. I felt that he was unaware of the goings-on behind his back during the negotiations that preceded the order for the Bofors guns.
When he heard in April 1987 that money had passed hands in the deal and that among the suspected beneficiaries were an Italian friend of his family and one of the members of his entourage who was personally and politically very close to Indira Gandhi and him, he got unnerved lest the reputation of his family get tainted.
If he had ordered a thorough investigation into the allegations, his reputation as an honest leader who was unaware of the shady part of the Bofors deal might have stood vindicated.
Instead of doing so, due to fears regarding the shadow that the allegations might cast on his family, he mounted — wittingly or unwittingly — a covert operation whose objective was not to find out the truth, but to prevent the truth from coming out.
I am deliberately saying wittingly or unwittingly because I am still not sure in my mind whether the cover-up was his idea or that of his advisers in the Congress party or that of his bureaucratic advisers. But a massive cover-up was there in which the heads and others officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation at the front and the Research and Analysis Wing and the Intelligence Bureau in the rear as well as some of the officers in the Prime Minister’s Office, who were close confidantes of Rajiv, played an active role.
Instead of advising Rajiv to pursue the investigation vigorously and establish the truth, they presented him with various options by which the truth could be prevented from coming out. Had such a scandal broken out under Indira Gandhi, she would have let her bureaucrats handle the damage control exercise while keeping her discreetly briefed without getting directly involved in the cover-up exercise.
Rajiv got directly involved in what seemed a cover-up exercise — chairing the strategy sessions in his office or house every day — and got himself tied up in knots. By doing so, he created a strong suspicion in the minds of the public that his own hands were not clean.
The CBI mounted an elaborate charade of an investigation — with its then head and senior investigators roaming all over Europe creating an impression of a determined and serious investigation, whereas it was not an investigation, but an orchestrated non-investigation to prevent the truth from coming out.
The Bofors saga brought out — like the Emergency did between 1975 and 77 — how the intelligence agencies were willing and even keen to let themselves be used by the political leadership in order to increase their importance and value in the eyes of the political leadership.
If the IB let itself be used by Indira during the Emergency, the R&AW let itself be used by Rajiv as well as Virendra Pratap Singh during those years of the Bofors saga.
If the R&AW was willing to let itself be used by Rajiv in his cover-up exercise to prevent the truth from coming out, it was equally enthusiastic in helping V P Singh in unravelling the cover-up and bringing out the truth. The hands and methods of V P Singh were not clean either in the Bofors charade.
V P Singh politicised the investigation as badly as Rajiv did. He was interested not in finding out the truth definitively, but in using the investigation as a political weapon to prevent a come-back by Rajiv. 
At least, Rajiv did not use unethical methods in his cover-up exercise, but V P Singh did.
Under his prime ministership, Vinod Pandey, who was his cabinet secretary, encouraged the R&AW to hire the services of a European (German, I think) private detective to make enquiries about Rajiv Gandhi, an ex-prime minister, and his family. The dirt fished out by this detective — often uncorroborated — was fed to a journalist who carried it as coming from privileged sources.
Had the prime minister of any other democratic country encouraged his intelligence agency to hire the services of a foreign private detective to enquire about a senior leader of the opposition — an ex-prime minister — there would have been a scandal more explosive than the Watergate scandal in the US.
In India, nothing happened because we do not have a system of parliamentary oversight to prevent the use of illegal and unethical methods by our agencies.
Had there been such a parliamentary oversight mechanism, fears that the R&AW’s action in using a foreign detective to make enquiries about the role of Rajiv might come to the notice of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee might have deterred the adoption of such unethical methods to please the political leadership.
One of the biggest gaps in the Bofors saga is the absence of an objective and full-fledged enquiry into the role played by the intelligence and investigative agencies in the entire saga under Rajiv as well as V P Singh.
When Morarji Desai came to office as prime minister in 1977, one of his acts was to set up an enquiry commission to enquire into the misuse of the intelligence agencies and the CBI by Indira during the Emergency. There has not been a similar enquiry post-Bofors.
All the political parties were and continue to be interested only in using the Bofors scandal as a political weapon to malign each other. Truth has never been their goal. 
Even the BJP during the six years it was in office did not show any serious interest in pursuing the case allegedly because Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then prime minister, was reportedly close to one of the NRI families whose name prominently figured during the investigation.
The journalists, who strut around as iconic heroes of the Bofors exposure, did not cover themselves with glory either. They were beholden to V P Singh and had no qualms about letting themselves be used by him to demonise Rajiv.


Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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