In what his own party and non-BJP opposition parties describe as ‘vendetta politics’, the former finance minister is sent to jail.
Incarcerated: Chidambaram en route to a special court five days after his arrest on Aug. 21 (Photo: EPA)
Among the abiding images of 2019 will be the one of two CBI sleuths scaling the walls of P. Chidambaram’s house in Jor Bagh in Delhi. On August 21, the officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation, which was famously derided as a ‘caged parrot’ by the highest court of the land, had reached the residence of the Congress veteran for his alleged involvement in the INX Media case. Finding the gates locked, as Chidambaram was awaiting a court reprieve, the impatient sleuths jumped the wall and emerged with the former Union minister half an hour later, driving him away to the CBI headquarters, just two kilometres away.
The irony couldn’t have been starker. The former home and finance minister was arrested by the very Delhi Police that he once commanded. The arrest was followed by a stay in jail that lasted more than a hundred days. Meanwhile, the Enforcement Directorate, another agency under him when he was the finance minister, also arrested him in the INX case. Relief came only in the first week of December, when the Supreme Court granted him bail. However, INX Media isn’t the only case in which his role is being probed; the CBI and ED are also investigating the part he may have played in the Aircel-Maxis deal.
With Chidambaram’s arrest, things seem to have come full circle in Indian politics. Crying foul, the Congress and Opposition parties alleged the ruling party was engaging in revenge politics. After all, the CBI had arrested Amit Shah in the 2010 Sohrabuddin Sheikh case when Chidambaram held the post that Shah now does-that of the Union minister for home. Shah had spent three months in jail and was given a clean chit by the Supreme Court this year.
Chidambaram, meanwhile, is back where he belongs-making incisive political and economic comments in his newspaper columns, and making his voice heard in Parliament.