How Similar Is Sahara-Birla to Jain Hawala When Advani Resigned?

Our PM is embroiled in the Sahara/Birla diaries, with damning evidence of him taking crores as bribes – in cash. 

Updated
India
4 min read
Will our Prime Minister follow in his mentor LK Advani’s footsteps and prove his innocence in the Sahara-Birla case? (Photo Courtesy: <a href="https://twitter.com/tariquen786/status/796591494006263808">Twitter/Tarique</a>)

With the surfacing of the Sahara-Birla diaries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with other politicians, has been charged with allegedly receiving crores of rupees for favours from the Sahara and the Birla groups.

While the Central Vigilance Commission, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Income Tax Department sit on their hands waiting for orders from the top echelons on how to proceed in such a delicate situation, here’s a lesson from history – when a similar case threatened to disrupt Indian politics – and how it went down.

Remember the Jain Hawala diaries that created a political storm in 1995-96?

The Jain Hawala Diaries: Everybody Lies

When the Hawala diaries came to light in 1996, tremors were felt across party lines. Hawala traders SK Jain and his three employees were interrogated by the CBI after a tip-off, only to discover their khaatas (accounts).

Details of payments the top politicians of the time received according to the Jain diaries. (Infographic: <b>The Quint</b>/Pallavi Prasad)
Details of payments the top politicians of the time received according to the Jain diaries. (Infographic: The Quint/Pallavi Prasad)
In it were tables of payments in lakhs made against initials of persons such as “LKA”, “HN”, “AB” etc, which were matched against names of senior politicians in all major parties: the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (United) (JDU). 
Details of payments the top politicians of the time received according to the Jain diaries. (Infographic: <b>The Quint</b>/Pallavi Prasad)
Details of payments the top politicians of the time received according to the Jain diaries. (Infographic: The Quint/Pallavi Prasad)

A total of Rs 65.47 crore was allegedly transferred by the Jain middlemen to 115 politicians and public servants between 1988 and 1991 to influence government tenders, mostly in the power sector. The CBI also alleged that the money was being used to fund Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists in Kashmir.

Some other big politicians embroiled in this scandal were:

  • Arjun Singh (former CM of Madhya Pradesh)
  • Yashwant Sinha (former Union minister)
  • Devi Lal (former deputy prime minister)
  • ND Tiwari (former CM of Uttar Pradesh and union minister)
  • Natwar Singh (former bureaucrat and union minister)

What Would LKA Do?

Everybody was in a sticky place, just a few months away from the general elections. The then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, his three Cabinet ministers, leader of Opposition LK Advani, governors of two states – you name it. And yet, in 1996, Indian politics still had a moral compass.

An old picture of AB Vajpayee with his BJP colleagues LK Advani and Madan Lal Khurana. (Photo courtesy: PIB)
An old picture of AB Vajpayee with his BJP colleagues LK Advani and Madan Lal Khurana. (Photo courtesy: PIB)

The day allegations were levelled against BJP stalwart Advani, he resigned that very evening as a Lok Sabha MP – months before he was chargesheeted. He went on record to say that he would not enter the House again till his name was cleared by the courts.

The decision to quit was mine. I feel political credibility is essential. People vote for us and we have to live up to their trust. In my life, I have always listened to my conscience. But I knew I had done nothing wrong so I had no fear of anything.
LK Advani to Anandbazaar Patrika
Following suit, senior leaders of the BJP, Sharad Yadav, Yashwant Sinha and seven other ministers of the ruling Congress party also stepped down from office. Former governors Shiv Shankar and Motilal Vora also resigned.

Eventually, Advani along with every single other politician who was chargesheeted in this case, was cleared of all charges.

Two decades later, came...

The Sahara/Birla Diaries: More Lies

In October 2013 and November 2014, the CBI and the I-T Department raided the offices of the Birla and Subrata Roy-led Sahara group of companies, respectively. They discovered handwritten notes and Excel sheets of payments made to various chief ministers and MPs, running into crores.

At that time, Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat. Allegedly, all payments were made in “cash given”, totalling to over Rs 55 crore, from Sahara alone.

The CBI and the I-T department sat on these documents for almost a year till an NGO, Common Cause, approached the Supreme Court in November 2015 regarding a probe into the Rs 115 crore paid by Sahara to politicians and the two big payments made by Birla.

Details of payments the top politicians of the time received according to the Birla diaries. (Infographic: <b>The Quint</b>/Pallavi Prasad)
Details of payments the top politicians of the time received according to the Birla diaries. (Infographic: The Quint/Pallavi Prasad)
Details of payments the top politicians of the time received according to the Sahara diaries. (Infographic: <b>The Quint</b>/Pallavi Prasad)
Details of payments the top politicians of the time received according to the Sahara diaries. (Infographic: The Quint/Pallavi Prasad)
In the cases of Modi, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh, Maharashtra BJP treasurer Shaina NC, and former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit, the names, dates, amount and the person’s name who received the cash has been distinctly mentioned. Other than this, politicians from as many as 18 parties have found their names in these logs, as well. 

This is the main difference between the Sahara-Birla diaries case and the Hawala diaries case. While the latter was more sketchy about the identity of persons and amounts transferred, the Sahara-Birla diaries have enough proof for an exhaustive investigation and a defence in court already.

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