At a time when the funding of political parties is the subject of fresh controversy, a new book has claimed that Rajiv Gandhi, as Prime Minister, wanted commissions given by defence suppliers to be pooled and used to fund the “inescapable expenses of the party”.
The just-released book, Unknown Facets of Rajiv Gandhi, Jyoti Basu and Indrajit Gupta, is written by former CBI director Dr A P Mukherjee and the claim is based on his conversations with Rajiv in June 1989, the author has said.
Rajiv, incidentally, was caught in the thick of the Bofors guns bribery scandal at that time and lost power later that year.
“Rajiv Gandhi was very clear that commissions paid as a routine by most defence dealers should be properly accounted for and not siphoned off by dishonest officials of the armed forces and politicians…he wanted such payments to be pooled and accounted for,” Mukherjee has written.
“This (elections) leads to massive fund collections by important party functionaries all over the country, which leads to an almost unbreakable unholy quid pro quo nexus between unscrupulous party functionaries, ministers and businessmen. I could sense this as the party’s general secretary or even as its youth leader earlier when I had to enter the political arena with considerable reluctance,” Rajiv told him over coffee, Mukherjee has written.
Rajiv, he says, had come to know that some senior officers of the armed forces had been surreptitiously collecting huge amounts of money as “commissions” in most defence purchases, quite often in connivance with some ministers, middlemen and civilian officers as well.
Rajiv, the former CBI director says, “discussed this problem with some of his trusted colleagues and advisers when it was suggested by some that all commissions as payable or usually paid to middlemen should be banned but the commissions to be given as a matter of routine practice by the suppliers of major defence materials could be pooled under the care of some non-government entity which could be utilised solely for the purpose of meeting the inescapable expenses of the party.
“As Rajiv Gandhi further stated, such a step would largely prevent the collusive nexus between the middlemen, ministers, bureaucrats and that such a step could enable the government to do away with the quid pro quo relationship with some unscrupulous businessmen and equally unscrupulous politicians and bureaucrats.
“Hence he endorsed the same. He also indicated that he favoured some legislation in line with the practices of some of the western countries where contributions to party funds by business houses and industrial houses and individuals were allowed with provisions for their proper accounting, auditing and public disclosure. But the wild, motivated and widespread adverse publicity obscured the prospect of proceeding further in the above manner.”
Mukherjee was additional director of CBI when he says he had this detailed conversation with Rajiv. The conversation had been precisely recollected by him in the book thanks to the diaries he maintained through his career, he told The Indian Express.
Mukherjee, who was advisor to home minister Indrajit Gupta and also served a brief stint as governor of Mizoram, has written that for years he felt making this episode public would have amounted to betraying the former prime minister’s trust, and that is something he could never think of doing.
“However, at this distant time and that too long after his tragic death, I owe it to posterity to narrate the full and complete disclosure of all that transpired between the two of us during this memorable coffee meeting with this remarkable human being whose trust I was privileged to receive in ample measure.”