The Rules of Chandraswaminomics

Spiritualism is supposed to be on a higher plane than material wealth. Yet there is no shortage of people visiting temples, dargahs or churches to pray for favours form God. The prayers are often buttressed by donations or ritual sacrifices. The belief that the gods can be purchased in this fashion is so widespread as to almost constitute a separate form of economics.

Most people understand that access to God is difficult, and that they need middlemen to expedite their applications. Every religion has its brokers. Some brokers are globalised, indeed universalised. We have one such in Chandraswami, who boasts Christian disciples like Elizabeth Taylor, Muslims ones like the Sultan of Brunei, and three Hindu Prime Ministers (Rajiv Gandhi, Chandra Shekhar and Narasimaha Rao). You might think that a god man of such universal spirituality should be completely divorced from material wealth, but that unfortunately is not so. If any thing, his conduct suggests that spiritual wealth should be brought within the ambit of wealth tax.

He says he has to travel abroad frequently to meet disciples. His thousand-odd trips are estimated to have cost Rs 300 crore, a minor sum for God but substantial for most mortals. Who foots the bill? The Supreme Court has raised this question in a recent public interest petition asking for urgent action against the god man and Mr Narasimha Rao in the St. Kitts forgery.

Mr Rao claims to have liberalised India for five years. In fact his own conduct proves how illiberal it remains. Liberalism stands for a rule-based society, where outcomes are not perverted by money, muscle or influence. This in not the case in India. The whole source of the godman’s power is that he is a power broker. India remains a society where outcomes are determined by money, muscle and influence, and he has access to all three.

The godman has connections with underworld dons like Babloo Srivastava and Dawood Ibrahim with global arms companies like Bofors; with sundry Prime Ministers and the Sultan of Brunei. No wonder such little progress has been made in the dozen cases against him for criminality, tax evasion and FERA evasion. One case relates to the planting of a bomb in the car of a journalists, a scheme masterminded by Babloo mentioned Chandraswami as well as a goon called Virender Pant. The latter is in jail, the godman is not. No prizes for guessing why.

In the St.Kitts case, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which reports directly to Mr Rao, has been finding various excuses to drag its feet. Under pressure from the courts, it has now charge sheeted the god man, not in the St Kitts case but in a separate cheating case. This looks suspiciously like an attempt to divert public attention.

The CBI acknowledges that in the St.Kitts case, when Mr Rao was External Affairs Minister, he asked a diplomat to falsely certify a document. Why no further action? Because, says the CBI, Mr Rao’s role in the affair was only marginal. The logical outcome, surely, should be a marginal penalty. Maybe one day in jail. Maybe just a suspended sentence. But this could happen only in a liberal society, and we don’t have one.

In the cheating case, an NRI paid the god man $100,000 to secure government contracts for the purchase of newsprint and pulp. But the ways of god are mysterious, and so the god man was unable to deliver. Yet he refused to return the money. So the CBI has now charge-sheeted the god man for cheating the NRI.

I find this amazing. If Chandraswami had indeed bribed enough people to secure the contract, the CBI would presumably have applauded the god man for honouring his contract. Apparently, the CBI’s understanding of liberalisation is that contracts to violate the rule of law have a greater sanctity than the law itself.

The CBI has finally told the supreme court that it has applied for the government’s sanction to prosecute the godman. But why? The job of the police is to prosecute crooks, and no permission is needed for this. Well, says the CBI, in this case the offence was committed abroad and so we need government sanction. I still cannot see why. Any way, why has the CBI taken 12 years to ask for permission? (the bribe was paid as long ago as 1983-84 ).

Mr Rao’s election manifesto takes credit for liberalising the economy. But there is much more to liberalisation than the odd delicensing of industries. It means ushering in a rule-based society. It means having an economy where rules are transparent and effectively enforced.

This can hardly be said of the last five years, which have been dogged by scandal and shady deals. Despite some acts of liberalisation, the Congress Party retains much of the couture of the licence raj. Congress ministers would have no way of making money or creating patronage networks in a truly liberal economy. So they do not really believe in liberal economics. They have greater faith in Chandraswaminomics.

There is no space in this column to list the full attributes of Chandraswaminomics. Rule 1 God is a passport to wealth, and Chandraswami is his humble passport officer. Applicants are required to pay very reasonable visa charges. No refunds in case of dissatisfaction.

Rule 2: God is not a liberaliser. He believes in ministerial discretion in the award of contracts and permits. He frowns on transparent international tendering, which is a materialistic perversion of the World Bank. There is an old saying, ‘Give unto Caeser what belongs to Caeser, and unto God what belongs to God.’ Liberalisation attempts to deprive Caeser of kickbacks, which surely belong to Caeser, and so is out of keeping with our great spiritual traditions.

What do you think?