Yeh lo ji, 2G

FIVE years ago, the 2G scam was the centrepiece of the Modi-led BJP’s relentless campaign against the Congress – a campaign that received initial propulsion courtesy the combination of Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. Those guilty will be behind bars within six months of our coming to power, Modi promised then.

In the intervening period, the story line has morphed; contemporary mythology says that it was the efforts of Modi and the BJP that put the culprits in the dock. The story ignores the fact that the charges were first framed, and some of the main actors arrested, way back in 2011, three years before the BJP even came to power – just another example of how perception always trumps facts. (This timeline might help to refresh fading memories).

But never mind that, focus instead on the campaign promise of bringing the culprits to book. On December 21, 2017, Judge OP Saini of the CBI Special Court acquitted all accused and, inter alia, said:

I have absolutely no hesitation in holding that the prosecution has miserably failed to prove any charge against any of the accused, made in its well-choreographed charge sheet.

On LiveLaw, find the full judgment, and an explainer for how the judge ruled on the various charges, and reached the conclusions set out in his judgment.

The CBI appealed, and then dragged its feet until, in March 2018, a miffed Supreme Court directed the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate to complete the probe within six months.

The (Supreme Court) bench observed that the investigation had been going on for a long time, and (the) people of this country cannot be kept in the dark on a sensitive matter like this.

Six months, the Supreme Court said — twelve months ago. In October, the Delhi High Court said it would hear the CBI’s appeal against the acquittals on a daily basis. Since then, all that has emerged is some guff about the number of trees to be planted as punishment for being late with a response.

There is no sign of closure; the people of the country remain in the dark. And the real tragedy here is this: there is little doubt that there were procedural irregularities. What is in dispute is the nature of these irregularities and the damage they caused. By blowing it up into something it wasn’t, the investigative machinery and the politicians have effectively ensured that we will likely never get to the bottom of what it really is.  (In this connection, an excerpt from Vinod Rai’s book is worth your time).

Significantly, where the BJP’s diatribes about Congress corruption used to be about specifics – 2G, CWG, Aadhar – the party and its leader have now steered clear of itemizing and speak in general terms about “corruption”, hoping the muck of 2014 will resurface in the voter’s mind.

Meanwhile, there is this: UPA-II earned Rs 1,31,712 crore through the sale of mobile spectrum. Against that, NDA-II has earned Rs 64,811 crore – that is, less than half.

These are government figures, accessed by one Renjith Thomas through an RTI application.

Let that sink in. Also note that in 2017 and 2018 the government held no auctions at all – and ask yourself why.

RIP Manohar Parikkar

I’VE never met Mr Manohar Parikkar. By all accounts — and there are plenty of accounts on the net (here is a particularly nuanced one), written by journalists and public figures who say they knew him well and counted him a friend — he was a decent human being and an able administrator. I wish him a safe passage to wherever we all go when we are done here, and I wish his family, and his friends, the strength to bear the loss.

I wish, too, that I could get these images out of my head. Images of a man in extremis, a man who knows the sand is rapidly running out in the hourglass, and who is yet forced to go through the motions of working, of leading a party and heading a government.

If, or rather when, my time comes, I wish I will be allowed to spend those last few grains of sand making peace with my life, smoothing out the little details those who remain behind will have to deal with, reaching out to those that matter to me to tell them the things I have long bottled up… I wish that my last few grains of sand are mine alone, to spend as I chose.

Mr Parikkar was never granted those last moments of grace. Ever since he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer his party, desperate to hold on to a state government it had suborned its way into, propped him up as the functioning figurehead. It tells me two things: One, that there is a dearth of charismatic, popular leaders within the ranks. And two, that the party is willing to sacrifice everything — up to, and including, basic human decency — in its hunger for power. It is illuminating that even as his health was deteriorating and it became evident that the end was hours away, the BJP began scrambling to save its government.

I wish Mr Parikkar finds in the afterlife that peace he was not granted in his last few weeks on earth. RIP.

#CHOWKIDARChorHai. Rahul Gandhi appears to have gotten under the BJP’s skin with that poll slogan.

Weeks after he debuted it, the BJP finally came up with its response. Narendra Modi “launched” a #MainBhiChowkidar “movement”, and exhorted his followers to prefix “chowkidar” to their names. And face met palm, hard. I mean, the answer to being called a thief is to suggest that everyone should add ‘thief’ to their names? And I thought Aesop’s fable about the fox that lost its tail was just that: a fable.

In monkey-see, monkey-do fashion, Modi’s ministers, party members and those members of the public eager to “show their support” began prefixing their names with ‘Chowkidar‘ — and thus, for the first time in recorded history, we had an instance of rogues voluntarily adding their names and images to the gallery.

One of the first to jump on the bandwagon was Pankaja Gopinath Munde, BJP leader and Maharashtra’s Minister for Rural Development, Women and Child Welfare. She first hit the national headlines with the Rs 206 crore “chikki scam“, and wriggled out of it with the obligatory “clean chit” that has become one of the unstated perks of high office. More recently, the Supreme Court struck down Rs 6,300 crore worth of tenders issued by her ministry towards supplying Take Home Rations (THR) at daycare centres and anganwadis in Maharashtra. Worth noting is that the modus operandi is exactly similar to the one used in the chikki scam, only on a much larger scale (the trouble with these clean chits so liberally handed out is that the recipient develops a sense of infallibility, of immunity). Also worth noticing is another distressingly frequent occurrence under this dispensation: When the matter came up for hearing, the state government “misrepresented” facts — which is to say, it lied, and was caught out.

Another early adopter of the ‘chowkidar‘ prefix was Federal Minister for Textiles Smriti Irani — who, per a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, has been accused of fraud and favouritism in the allocation of the MP Local Area Development funds. Currently, the Gujarat High Court is hearing a PIL and has sought details from the state government about recovery of the funds. (Journalist and author Sujata Anandan in a piece this weekend emphatically underlined the hubristic nature of the motormouth minister’s career)

(In passing, the BJP’s biggest fear is beginning to materialise — stories of scams are beginning to pop up all over the place. Another recent instance relates to Puneet Gupta, son in law of former Chattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, who has now been charged in a Rs 50 crore scam pertaining to his tenure as superintendent of a state government hospital in Raipur. Meanwhile, a Special Investigation Team is probing the long-running scandal that is known as the PDS scam, and a report is expected before the end of polling for the 17th Lok Sabha. This is the problem with losing power — wrongdoings that get swept under the carpet when you control the levers of office get exhumed and aired once you are out of office. Also by way of aside this post, written when the BJP was yet to lose its crusading sheen, is a short list of scams under the ‘na khaoonga, na khane doonga‘ regime. )

While the BJP’s scams continue to mount, the basic poll premise of the 2014 edition of the NDA and its leader — that it will end corruption in the country — is taking a beating on another front. If you recall that election campaign, the main thrust was that there was sufficient evidence to proceed against a whole Rolodex of Congress leaders and their relatives, and that within six months of assuming office the scamsters will find themselves behind bars.

A Swati Chaturvedi piece for The Wire undercuts that premise. Briefly:

  • The PMO has not ordered any action against the list of defaulters submitted by then governor of the RBI Raghuram Rajan. And BJP members of the Parliamentary Committee have been absenting from meetings to ensure that there is no quorum, and hence the committee’s report will not be adopted, which in turn means that it won’t see the light of day. “Worse, after Rajan replied to the committee revealing the list as Joshi is finalising his report, BJP MPs in the committee have refused to attend recent meetings.
  • The much-hype 2G scam collapsed in court with all 17 accused being acquitted. Further, the government has been allowing the hearing of the appeal to drag on through an endless series of adjournments.
  • The government systematically ignored requests by the Serious Fraud Office to arrest Nirav Modi. British authorities have since said that requests sent to the Indian government for information that could help Britain arrest and deport Modi met with no response from New Delhi.

In other words, not only has Modi’s supposed USP, of running a scam-free government, collapsed over time, his intent to probe and punish alleged scamsters from the previous regime has also proved a non-starter — not exactly the sort of CV that could land you the ‘chowkidar‘ job in any decently run housing society, let alone that of the pradhan chowkidar of the country. And meanwhile, his government continues to launch punitive corruption probes against political opponents — until they join the BJP, at which point everything is forgiven and forgotten.

To return to the “main bhi chowkidar” story, that badly conceived ploy (which seems to have left the BJP’s allies cold) further shot itself in the foot when the BJP IT Cell decided to automate responses to those responding to Modi’s Main Bhi Chowkidar call out. The result — messages going out under the official handle thanking parody accounts of loan defaulters and scamsters, notably Nirav Modi, further compounded the confusion and provided the opposition (and social media) a gratuitous stick to beat the BJP with.

In the midst of all this “gotcha” gimmickry by the two sides, the tone-deaf nature of Modi’s latest brainwave was totally ignored. A few news stories illustrate the point I’m driving at:

  • In August 2018, 3,700 PhD holders, 50,000 graduates and 28,000 Post Graduates applied for 62 posts of messengers in the Uttar Pradesh police force, the minimum qualification for which is a pass in Class V.
  • In April of the same year, nearly 2 lakh candidates applied for 1,137 vacancies for constables in the Mumbai police force. Applicants for a post requiring a minimum Class 12 pass included 167 MBAs, 423 engineers, 543 Post Graduates, 28 BEd degree holders, 34 Masters in Computer Science, 159 MSc degree holders, three qualified lawyers, and 167 graduates in Business Administration, among others.
  • In January this year, over 59 lakh applications were received for the post of constable in the Railway Protection Force — where the total number of vacancies is 8619.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Also note that I have picked out only jobs relating to vacancies for security personnel of various types — chowkidars, in other words. (In my previous post, there is more on the unemployment situation, for those looking to dig deeper).

So just how insensitive, how tone deaf, do you have to be, given the prevailing employment solution, to come up with main bhi chowkidar as a meme when unemployment is, according to all available polling, one of the top three issues in the upcoming polls?

BACK in 1962 the historian Daniel Boorstin coined the phrase “pseudo-event” to refer to political theatre and the way stage-managed events are created to drive narratives. (An earlier, extended post on Boorstin’s book here). In that connection, consider:

A few manual scavengers were hand-picked; the event organisers ensured they were bathed and dressed in clean clothes so the PM could, on the sidelines of the Kumbh Mela, ritually wash their already clean feet.

That became the subject for much debate and discussion, at least some of it revolving around how the PM had struck a blow against the entrenched caste system. At a subsequent political event, a carefully planted question set up the PM to say that he did not do this for votes but because it is part of his sanskar. Mission accomplished: TV had some visuals to run with, talking heads had a non-issue to “debate” in prime time, and the PM and his party got oodles of free PR.

On the ground, the objects of Modi’s attentions were clearly unimpressed. A group of manual scavengers protested in Delhi a day later, and their leader asked: ““What is the point of washing feet when his government has failed to stop those feet from entering sewers? When it has failed to give even one paisa in compensation to those who have died in the sewers?”

Recall that the BJP had promised to end manual scavenging by 2016.

“Taking forward the Prime Minister’s policy for the upliftment of the poor and everyone’s development, the party has pledged to work towards ending manual scavenging by 2016,” BJP president Amit Shah said in a statement.

Party workers will go to far-flung villages to ensure that no poor and deprived family is forced to do manual scavenging, he said, noting that over 23 lakh families are still compelled to do so even after 68 years of Independence.

Three years after that deadline, in February 2019, there were still sufficient manual scavengers around for Modi to find a few for a photo/video opportunity. A week later — and one day after the PM attributed his act to his sanskartwo more manual scavengers died in course of their work. In Varanasi, the PM’s own constituency. And on that same day, the Delhi government inaugurated 200 sewer cleaning machines, which were handed over to 200 scavengers.

I’ll leave you for the day with this Bloomberg deep dive into the opaque nature of electoral funding — a must-read because this is going to ramify as the poll season kicks into high gear. And in this connection, an illuminative Twitter thread. And from the evergreen work of RK Laxman, this:

Chinese Checkers and other stories

AP photo by Xie Huanchi/Xinhua via Outlook magazine

THE most important item of news to come out of the last 24 hours is this: China, yet again, stalled India’s move to get the UN Security Council to list Masood Azhar and his terrorist outfit.

“We are disappointed by this outcome,” an MEA statement said. “This has prevented action by the international community to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed, a proscribed and active terrorist organization which has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir on 14 February 2019.”

Disappointed, perhaps, but the MEA could hardly be surprised. Despite at least four meetings between Xi and Modi in 2018 including the “agenda-less” meeting in Wuhan in April last year (puffed up by the PM, much ballyhooed in India as a masterstroke of diplomacy, and almost entirely ignored in China whose press did not even bother to showcase the visit on its front pages), China has consistently taken Pakistan’s side on the issue of terrorism in general, and the Pulwama attacks and the Balakot retaliation in particular.

What merits focus — by those with bone-deep understanding of how foreign policy ramifies, in which group I don’t belong — is how the hunger for photo-ops and propaganda wins has led to a situation where India’s diplomatic relations are a shambles. Two tweets by Shekhar Gupta and Sonali Ranade throw some light on the basic problem; I’m hoping that foreign policy wonks with cred and expertise will weigh in soon with more detailed analysis, for the issue is simply too important, and its ramifications extend well beyond the question of Masood Azhar’s status.

In passing, a note: Chest-thumping rhetoric works on the campaign trail, particularly with easily-aroused believers. Governance, however, is a whole other ball game. Just one instance among many:

Deja view: Modi the tub-thumping campaigner

In this context, a thread by journalist/commentator Kanchan Gupta is worth reading. Also, related, what is India’s current policy vis a vis Pakistan? No contact at all? Contact limited to maintaining pressure on Pakistan to act against terrorism? Total contact (with the exception of cricket and Bollywood)? Asking, because delegations from the two countries are currently meeting to discuss modalities related to the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor. We’ve seen this kind of thing before, across various governments: We kick up a fuss about Pakistan and terrorism, declaim before all sorts of international bodies, and then Pakistan turns around and says what tensions is India talking about, everything is normal, see, we are even discussing whatever-it-is.

TODAY, the Supreme Court resumes consideration of a petition to review its own ruling that no probe was required in the Rafale scam. Very briefly, the SC ruling was based on papers the government submitted in a sealed cover; subsequent to the judgment, it was found that key portions of the government submission were false.

The petitions now being heard were filed by BJP apostates and former ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and advocate/activist Prashant Bhushan, who contend that the government lied when it said details of the Rafale pricing had been submitted to MP Sanjay Singh – contend that the court should to re-consider its judgment, which relies on a “non-existent” CAG report to uphold the Rafale deal.

A story dating back to December 2018, a Wire round-up of the main issues, the full text of the review petition that sets out the central issues, and this piece in the Deccan Herald today provide most of the background you need to follow the play in the Supreme Court today. And it is an important hearing, because the government has been claiming a “clean chit” on the Rafale issue — if the SC now takes issue with the government for misleading it, and reverses its earlier judgment in part or in full, the chowkidar chor hai war-cry will resume, and the Rafale issue will become front and centre of the Opposition campaign.

UPDATE 5.15 PM: The SC has reserved judgment on the objections raised by the government about the maintainability of the review petition. This is a good resource for a snapshot view of what happened in court today.

WHAT happens south of the Vindhyas remains south of the Vindhyas, at least as far as mainstream media is concerned. The Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, sexual abuse case is the latest instance in point. While the case is still unravelling, even preliminary investigations confirm that four men, over a period of two years, abused in excess of 50 women — including teachers and students from schools and colleges, as also housewives — who they befriended through social media. These are the bare bones details. More women have been coming forward in the wake of the abuse coming to light.

What followed was almost predictable: Area students took to the streets in protest, and the police responded with force. Protests snowballed, with schools and colleges across the state joining in; civil society joined in as well and last evening, Chennai saw a large turnout of people demanding justice.

Amidst rumours that the four alleged perpetrators had ties to the ruling AIADMK, the political opposition entered the fray, with DMK leaders MK Stalin and M Kanimozhi at the forefront.

Slamming the Superintendent of Police Pandiarajan for revealing the name of the survivor in the case during a press-meet, Kanimozhi said that the law strictly prohibits revealing the identity of the affected child or woman. “The name of the survivor in this case was revealed only to silence the other women and prevent them from coming out in the open and complaining,” she said.

The rally organised by the district DMK unit in Pollachi, saw massive participation from DMK cadres from in and around the town and also from cadres of its allies like the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), Communist Party of India (CPI), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), Congress etc.

The already beleaguered police, facing ire for dragging their feet on the investigation, faced an additional problem caused by the identity of the officers leading the probe:

Her references were about an incident during a protest against TASMAC a few years ago, when SP Pandiarajan had slapped a women protester and the photos of the act went viral. The DSP in this case, R Jeyaram was also caught on camera, touching a woman colleague in uniform, during a NEET-related protest in Coimbatore.

With the protests escalating and the lead officers under fire, the TN government has transferred the case to the CBI. Meanwhile here is the bit that should give you pause:

The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday slammed the mainstream media for not covering the Pollachi sex scandal as they did with the case of Nirbhaya, who was brutally raped by a group of men on the streets of Delhi in 2012.

The judges said that national media houses do not pay enough attention to grievous crimes in rural areas. They also opined that the mainstream media “deliberately avoids”  Tamil Nadu. 

DATA is a theme I touched on in a post yesterday, am returning to now, and will likely be a constant theme over the next few weeks. For why? Because it is what informs — or should inform — our understanding of governmental functioning, of the state of the economy, of the wellbeing of the state. The more authentic the data we have, the more informed our decisions; the more opaque data becomes, the less informed we are. (And that is me stating the obvious.)

So adding on to yesterday, a few more stories worth your attention: 1.76 lakh employees of BSNL have not been paid salaries for the month of February. In January HAL, another state-run enterprise, had to borrow Rs 1000 crore to pay salaries. Air India, also state-owned, has been defaulting on salary payments in successive months. Security personnel, gardeners, cleaning staff, lift operators, ticket vendors and others working at the much-hyped Statue of Unity are on strike, protesting that their wages have not been paid for over three months.

Here’s the bit I don’t get: In the last week of each month, my wife lists the salaries we have to make (driver, the boy who maintains our home, the other gent who comes to cook, our contribution to the wages of the building’s security staff) and has me draw out the money from the bank. She provides for these payments when drawing up the monthly budget — it not as if she wakes up one morning and goes uh oh, we forgot we have payments to make; these are recurring, foreseeable expenses. So what beats me is this: how does the government repeatedly miss such bills? Aren’t such recurring payments provided for in budgets? If not, why not? If yes, what happened to all that money? As they say in the world of social media, #genuinequestion

UNEMPLOYMENT emerged as a critical election issue in several recent surveys. So: In January PC Mohanan, acting chairman of the National Statistical Commission, resigned in protest after the government suppressed the release of the latest unemployment survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Office.

Business Standard scooped the blocked report, which showed that the unemployment rate of 6.1% was the highest in the last four decades. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy rang the alarm bells even louder: the unemployment rate had risen to 7.2% in February, CMIE reported, following on from a report it had released in January which said that an estimated 11 million people had lost their jobs in 2018 as a result of the continued fallout of the November 8, 2016 demonetisation and the launch of the GST regime in 2017.

Government ministers, party spokespersons and friendly media outlets either ignored these reports, or dismissed them as unapproved “drafts”. In March, the Confederation of Indian Industry produced its own report, which claimed that the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises sector created between 13.5 to 14.9 million new jobs over a four year period, and that the sector had registered a jobs growth rate of 13.9%.

Ministers, spokespersons and sections of the media used the report to claim that India was “surging”. Only, says this detailed report, maybe not.

To further compound the confusion, the government first instructed its spokespersons to confine all employment-related discussions to the Labour Ministry statistics collected under the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) scheme and now, in an abrupt u-turn, has announced that these figures will only be released after the elections as “anomalies” had been discovered. Which makes it the third employment-related report to be deep-sixed in this election year. What a tangled web we weave, Shakespeare once lamented…

Related, Indian Express reports that at 3.8% year on year, the rural wage growth is the lowest ever for the month of December. Further:

The country’s farm sector output may have grown by just 2.7 per cent year-on-year in October-December 2018, the lowest in 11 quarters. But what should worry the NDA government more than the low increase in “real” terms (i.e. at constant prices) is the growth in “nominal” terms (at current prices unadjusted for inflation).

The latter number, at 2.04 per cent, is the lowest for any quarter as per the Central Statistics Office’s new 2011-12 base year series and also the worst since the minus 1.1 per cent rate recorded way back in October-December 2004 (based on the then 1999-2000 GDP series).

PS: This is a post being updated through the day, so come on back.

WTF Just Happened: December 24

#1. In Uttar Pradesh, the always-innovative Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath — who, last month, came up with the Kamadhenu model to kickstart the state’s economy — has solved the problem of backlog in the state courts. His government will soon withdraw nearly 20,000 cases against politicians.

The move is aimed at reducing the pendency of cases. Yogi said that the police usually registers petty cases against people’s representatives staging dharna or protesting on some issue. “These cases should be closed.”

Continue reading

Another day, another balloon goes pffft

The Adarsh Housing Society scam first hit the headlines in 2010. Eight years later, today, the Bombay High Court set aside the sanction, given in February 2016, by Maharashtra governor Vidyasagar Rao to prosecute former state Chief Minister Ashok Chavan. Here is the part that should make you sit up and take notice:

A division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Sadhana Jadhav ruled that though the CBI had claimed to be in possession of fresh evidence against Mr. Chavan at the time of seeking the sanction, it “failed to present any fresh evidence”.

So here we go again. A scam is unearthed – and make no mistake, there was much about how bureaucrats, politicians of various parties, and senior military officers conspired to bend FSI, zoning and ownership rules in exchange for flats that was patently fraudulent.


With much fanfare, the CBI steps in. Media houses vie with each other to quote ‘unnamed CBI sources’ making a series of sensational claims of proof. The case drags its way through the courts at a pace any self-respecting snail would scorn. And finally, when the verdict is in, it turns out the investigation was shoddy (it is increasingly difficult to avoid the suspicion that often it is deliberately so),  no real proof was presented, and yet another scam gets buried. The media for its part moves on to the next narrative — have you ever seen an instance where the media went to its ‘sources’ and demanded an explanation for all the tall claims?


Just a passing thought, on a busy day.

1.76 lakh crore and other fictions

For those interested, here is the full text of the CBI special court’s judgment in the case of CBI vs A Raja and Ors. It is a lot to read and unpack, particularly if you want (as I do) to go back in time and check out the original reporting/statements at each point, on each issue and allegation.

There is also a lot of commentary surrounding the verdict; people are also exhuming cautionary articles from the past and going ‘I told you so’. I have, as time permits, been collecting these and will do a roundup soon. For now, though, on a day of many meetings, I’ll leave you with two pieces.

#1. An excerpt from Vinod Rai’s book, Not Just An Accountant, where he attempts to justify his notional 1.76 lakh crore figure.

#2. A piece by Shekhar Gupta where he talks of the harm caused by intemperate calculations of various scams, and why none of these scams will ever result in judgments in the courts. A relevant clip, from a piece you need to read in its entirety:

So here I am again. Rs 1.76 lakh crore, the popularly peddled and believed size of the 2G scam in 2007 was 4.41 per cent of India’s GDP. It was a couple of billion dollars more than twice our entire defence budget for that year.


The reason is simple. When the CAG offered different figures of notional loss in 2G spectrum, from Rs 57,000 crore to Rs 1.76 lakh crore, everybody, from Modi to almost all of the media, jumped for the highest amount. The media has been slowly getting off that kerb. But the BJP is stuck. With every round of spectrum release, it faces the same embarrassing challenge, to justify its Rs 1.76 lakh crore loss fallacy as new auctions yield no more than a fraction of that. That’s why the shyness in freeing up more spectrum, a textbook case of shooting yourself in the foot. It was a touching speech a couple of years ago when speaking at a CAG event, Arun Jaitley cautioned it against exaggeration and drew the line between activism and sensationalism.

The argument here is simple: Once the BJP latched on to the 1.76 crore figure and rode it for all its political worth, it inadvertently established a benchmark, to which it remains shackled now that it is in power. Thus, in the 2015 auction (full details here), the government realized a total of Rs 1,09,874 crore (less than the 1.76 crore notional loss touted for the earlier auction, so does this mean the government undersold?), and 11% of the available spectrum remained unsold because the government, held captive to the ‘scam’ figure it had propagated when in opposition, was forced to set the base price too high.

The story repeated in 2016. Only 40% of the available spectrum was bought at auction; only Rs 65,789 crore was realized. . In other words, a valuable resource that could materially speed up the information superhighway remains unsold because the government of the day is forced to live with the valuation it touted to “prove” a scam. And, over two auctions spread over two years, the government has not yet raised the figure it had claimed, when in opposition, the previous government could have realized.

The only outcome? As Gupta argues in his piece:

India’s telecom growth has been held to ransom by that mythology and the BJP government will spend embarrassing months dismounting that tiger.

Maybe it will manage a clean dismount. Maybe not. How, though, do you calculate the enormous damage done in the interim, just so a party could win an election? What is the “notional value” of that scam?

But never mind all that: Remember Judge Loya? Remember the Caravan story that first threw his mysterious death into the spotlight?

Here is the follow-up, and it is equally scary.