A Minister's exit

Published : Jun 20, 2003 00:00 IST

Gingee N. Ramachandran. - KAMAL NARANG

Gingee N. Ramachandran. - KAMAL NARANG

UNION Minister of State for Finance Gingee N. Ramachandran resigned on May 23 amid high drama. Ramachandran, who was in Chennai on May 22, was initially disinclined to quit after his personal assistant, R. Perumalsamy, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in New Delhi while accepting Rs. 4 lakhs from Indian Revenue Service officer Anurag Vardhan. It was alleged that the amount constituted part payment for facilitating his transfer from New Delhi to Mumbai. Vardhan, a Deputy Commissioner with the Income Tax Department in New Delhi, was also arrested by the CBI. According to CBI sources, he had struck a deal with a Chennai-based chartered accountant, A. Krishnamurthy, who acted as the middle-man in the deal. Vardhan's name was on the list issued by his department, of officers due for transfer. The CBI claimed that it had seized Rs.3.05 lakhs from Vardhan's house, and Rs.69 lakhs and blank cheques for a total of Rs.85 lakhs from Krishnamurthy's house.

Initially, even as Ramachandran stated that his conscience was clear on the issue, Bharatiya Janata Party president M. Venkaiah Naidu defended him saying that there had been no allegation that the Minister himself was involved in the scandal. With the reshuffle of the Ministry scheduled to take place on May 24, the issue threatened the credibility of the government. A view emerged within the government that had the swearing-in of the new Ministers not been planned, Ramachandran could perhaps have been allowed to continue in office until any material directly implicating him in the scandal emerged.

However, an image-conscious government decided to use a scapegoat to bolster its own image. After CBI Director P.C. Sharma had briefed the Prime Minister on the matter, Ramachandran was advised by Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani to put in his papers. But neither the government nor the BJP had any explanation why different yardsticks were being applied for George Fernandes, the Samata Party leader who was allowed to rejoin the Cabinet before he was absolved of the charges against him that stemmed from the tehelka affair, and Ramachandran. The latter leader represents the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), another ally of the BJP.

The CBI arrested Perumalsamy, his accomplice S. Padmanabhan, Vardhan and A. Krishnamurthy, and obtained court orders for their custodial interrogation. While CBI sources indicated that it could interrogate Ramachandran also, doubts remained whether those who had been netted constituted just the tip of the iceberg. If Ramachandran indeed had a role in the transfer of officials, he may have to convince his interrogators that he followed a transparent policy under which there was minimal scope for political interference. The Finance Ministry put on hold the transfer orders pertaining to 54 Deputy Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners of Income Tax that had been issued on May 21.

The recruitment of Perumalsamy as personal assistant by Ramachandran despite certain objections from Finance Ministry officials on the basis of his antecedents, also raises questions. As the ramifications of the scandal unfold, the buck, it appears, may not stop with Ramachandran. For, MDMK leader Vaiko, now in jail in connection with a case filed against him under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), it is alleged, had a hand in Perumalsamy's choice as Ramachandran's personal assistant.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment