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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 47, Dated 24 Nov 2012


    What is S Gurumurthy up to?

    The curious case of the Sangh trouble-shooter giving a clean chit to Nitin Gadkari reveals a greater game at play within the extended Parivar, reports Rana Ayyub

    Man Friday Gurumurthy is known to be close to Modi

    Photo: Getty Images

    HE SAYS he has given Nitin Gadkari a clean chit. Then he says he has not. He set out trying to clarify the news about Gadkari’s Purti Group and its shell company investors and ended up becoming the news. Just what is S Gurumurthy, chartered accountant, part-time journalist, Swadeshi economics guru and all-purpose trouble-shooter of the Sangh Parivar, up to?

    Gurumurthy has a long history of investigating shell companies and allegedly dubious investors, right back to the time he combined forces with Arun Shourie and the late Ramnath Goenka to take on Reliance Industries in the 1980s. When economic reforms began, Gurumurthy became the chief spokesperson of Indian protectionism. When the NDA came to power, his Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) seemed to be lobbying for specific industries rather than the principle of autarky.

    Once seen as LK Advani’s intellectual foil, Gurumurthy — when he isn’t offering ambiguous answers about Gadkari — has now also emerged as Narendra Modi’s Man Friday. He was instrumental in organising the defence of Gujarat’s former home minister Amit Shah in legal cases related to encounter killings. When lawyer Ram Jethmalani argued on Shah’s behalf in court, Gurumurthy was seated right behind him, passing on notes. Today, they find themselves on different sides in the battle for Gadkari’s future.

    Or do they? Just who is batting for whom in the BJP? It’s remarkably unclear. The key to this may lie in Gurumurthy’s association with Modi. Some months ago, Gujarat IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court that he had evidence showing certain classified Special Investigation Team (SIT) documents were being emailed to Tushar Mehta, Additional Advocate General of Gujarat. According to Bhatt, Mehta — who was meant to be handling the prosecution in different cases related to the 2002 riots — forwarded these emails containing excerpts from classified SIT reports to Gurumurthy, who is believed to have forwarded the information to Ram Jethmalani and his son, Mahesh, who were representing Shah.

    Given Gurumurthy’s proximity to Modi, the obvious question then is: why is he trying to clear things for Gadkari? And why has a section of the RSS, which has always been close to Gurumurthy, suddenly turned its back on him? When asked, KN Govindacharya, an old RSS hand now in exile from the BJP and the Sangh mainstream, only said, “Gurumurthy is a very good friend of mine and we have been together in the struggle for ideology. But sadly, he has diverted his attention to politics. I know of a Gurumurthy who would leave the confines of a five-star hotel and sleep with us in a modest one-room house with just a cot and a ceiling fan. He has doubled up as the errand boy for the organisation. However, what propelled him to defend Gadkari on the serious charges of corruption could have political reasons that he alone can explain.”

    (This reporter had questioned Gurumurthy about his role a day after anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal exposed Gadkari’s dubious deals. However, at the time, Gurumurthy, who has been shuttling between Gujarat and his hometown Chennai, dodged TEHELKA’s queries and claimed ignorance, saying he was the last person to know anything about the politics of the Parivar. Several days later, he came out with his controversial clean chit for Gadkari, followed by his flip-flops on Twitter.)

    Clearly, Gurumurthy is working hard at entrenching himself in the BJP framework. His protégé from the SJM days, Muralidhar Rao, is one of the general secretaries of the BJP and handles economic issues. He was also instrumental in organising Advani’s yatra against corruption in 2011 and is emerging as a key backroom person in the BJP. It is believed that Rao persuaded Gurumurthy to give Gadkari the “clean chit”.

    However, Gurumurthy seems on tricky ground as his clean chit may have disappointed some of his other friends in the party. It certainly led to wires being crossed at the Vivekananda Kendra, a think-tank operating out of an impressive building in New Delhi’s Ramakrishna Puram area. The Vivekananda Kendra is a platform that had brought together many leading lights of the broad pro-BJP and anti-Congress space. Gurumurthy is believed to have incubated the group. Its honorary director is Ajit Doval, former Intelligence Bureau chief.

    Others who are part of its ambit or have participated in its programmes include Ram Jethmalani, Subramanian Swamy, Govindacharya, R Vaidyanathan, professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, and Bhure Lal, former chief of the Enforcement Directorate. This forum has become a sort of mentor for India Against Corruption, it is believed.

    On 1 April 2011, the Kendra hosted a convention on corruption at which Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Joginder Singh, former chief of the CBI, took part. At the end of the meeting, a two-page statement was issued that said Baba Ramdev had called for an “all-out war on corruption and that the front would announce immediate actionable programmes and reach out to like-minded anti-corruption organisations, institutions and individuals”. Within days, Anna Hazare had begun his fast. Two months later, Baba Ramdev was protesting at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan.

    Given Gurumurthy’s proximity to Modi, the obvious question then is: why is he trying to clear things for Gadkari?

    However, differences started cropping up when personal ambitions of some of those involved took centrestage. Govindacharya believes the anti-corruption movement has now become political. “There are too many political powers in the BJP now,” he said cryptically, when speaking to TEHELKA. On his part, Joginder Singh said he differed with the group because it did not “understand the system and there seemed to be some sort of motivated effort to make it political rather than letting it be an anti-corruption campaign”. When contacted to speak about the Gadkari issue, Doval said he would not want to get enmeshed in political games and would come out in the media at the right time with the right answers.

    BUT THERE is a parallel story to this. According to a very senior source in the RSS close to supremo Mohan Bhagwat, Gadkari enjoys the support of the top three of the Sangh hierarchy — Bhagwat, Bhaiyyaji Joshi and MG Vaidya — while Modi had earned their displeasure, with his flamboyant Sadbhavana Yatra, his autocratic style of functioning and his power games with his bête noire Sanjay Joshi. The troika’s diktat was that if Modi wanted to work towards the top job, he would have to take Gadkari along. This was becoming increasingly unacceptable to Modi.

    Insiders believe that Gurumurthy saw this as a chance to work himself back into the good books of the Sangh by offering his services as a mediator between Modi and Gadkari. In turn, probably foreseeing that he would be seen as the stoker of Gadkari’s troubles — which is precisely what Vaidya accused him of this week — Modi too thought the best way out for him was to get Gurumurthy to mediate. Even if it meant risking his rapport with friend Arun Jaitley. (Political circles have been abuzz with theories that it was Jaitley who first helped rake up trouble for Gadkari over his relationship with businessman-MP Ajay Sancheti and Anshuman Mishra.)

    In a complicated situation like this, Gurumurthy was perhaps the best bet for both Modi and the Parivar, who want to see the Gadkari-Modi combo salvaged till the Gujarat poll. The idea was to help Modi make inroads back into the Parivar. On the face of it, it would appear this is the narrow purpose in mind with which Gurumurthy took it upon himself to enter the picture on the Gadkari case.

    But as one BJP insider said of the Modi-Gurumurthy partnership, “When two of the most canny and opportunistic people in the Parivar are concerned, it will always remain unclear who is using whom.”

    Rana Ayyub is an Assistant Editor with Tehelka.
    [email protected]

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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 47, Dated 24 Nov 2012



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