Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
When the needle of suspicion in the compass of scams and misrule is pointing at Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik with increasing discernibility, Amicus Curiae Shyam Divan has told the Supreme Court on November 5 that Orissa Government is not cooperating with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the ongoing inquiry into mega chit fund scams, even though the same is being conducted under orders of the Apex Court.
This reminds me of the same experience the CBI had had while investigating into economic offenses of Biju Patnaik. The CBI Director, while confirming that certain allegations against him were “serious”, had told the Union Home Minister in his report on November 15, 1964 that, further enquiry – obviously judicial – should be instituted, to “come to a definite and clear conclusion”.
The striking commonality between the father and the son – Biju and Naveen – in corrupting administration to the extent of creating situations for the apex authorities to order for investigation thereinto by CBI, is as gross as substantial.
Everybody who is currently watching the cascading exposures of chit fund and other scams is seeing how in increasing velocity public suspicion is rushing towards Naveen. It would be better, therefore, to focus on the other one, his father Biju Patnaik.
After occupying the Chief Minister post in June1961, Biju unleashed such a reign of corruption and embezzlement that a former Chief Minister of Orissa, the great Gandhian Nabakrushna Choudhury had to put before the public, the modus operandi of Biju and his likes that were collecting huge sums of money in the name of election funds and swindling the same while acting as clandestine compradors of mine-owners and big businessmen, to the serious detriment of the common people and the public exchequer.
He had exposed the felony in the inaugural function of Gandhi Tattwa Prachar Kendra at Balasore on 23 July 1963.
Mass Awakening against Misrule
Following that exposure, by the end of August 1963, people of Orissa, severely affected by his corrupt practices and maladministration, had woke up en masse to seek his resignation. Students all over the State had spearheaded the campaign to oust him from the chair of the Chief Minister. Marking his swift fall, Justice H. R. Khanna, who had later headed the Judicial Enquiry into his offenses, had noted that his misuse of power for personal and family benefits had so severely eroded his credibility that, “within two or three years of his stewardship his public image became tarnished and the hopes which were built around him were shattered to pieces”.
Khanna Commission was the culmination of people’s non-stop agitations for action against Biju.
The unprecedented mass awakening led by the students had spread in full fury all over the State calling for action against him. The Congress high command and the Congress government in the center had tried to protect him. But all their nasty tricks had failed.
Forced to Quit
The tumult of the unprecedented mass agitation against him had ultimately forced the Congress High Command to ask Biju to quit under face-saving cover of Kamaraj Plan.
Biju resigned on October 1, 1963 in order to escape the wrath of the people.
His protege-cum-partner in corruption, Biren Mitra took over as Chief Minister.
Immediately after he took the oath, Mitra declared that he would rule the State on behalf of Biju, exactly as Bharat of Ramayan had done after Ram was banished from Ayodhya.
No wonder, the CBI faced hurdles in investigation. With his docile protege as his successor, Biju, as Chairman of the State Planning Board, acted ‘super CM’ .
CBI pressed on Preliminary Enquiry
People of Orissa were not content with Biju vacating the CM post. They wanted action against him and continued their agitation. The Parliament was rocked with demands for action against him. His passport should be seized and he should be subjected to criminal prosecution for felonies he committed, was the concentrated demand. It had forced India’s then Home Minister Gulzarilal Nanda to ask the CBI to conduct a “preliminary enquiry” into allegations leveled against Biju by Leader of Opposition and scores of public figures.
The CBI enquiry was ordered obviously to calm down the rising wrath of the people against the Congress Party under the banner and protection of which Biju had run his empire of corruption.
When the CBI penetrated into files and facts that formed the basis of some of the allegations against Biju, it faced non-cooperation from the State Government to proceed further. But to its utmost dismay, it was under pressure from above to give Biju a clean chit.
Pressure for exoneration
The CBI Director has very tactfully revealed this reality in his Report to Union Home Ministry on November 15, 1964. He had said, “On the basis of the scrutiny of the records, it is not possible to say that all the allegations are unfounded, unsubstantiated or untrue”. These very words of the CBI Chief most intelligently revealed that there was tremendous pressure on him from above to say that the allegations against Biju were unfounded, unsubstantiated and untrue.
Had there been no pressure to say “the allegations were “unfounded, unsubstantiated and untrue” the CBI would never have said, “it is not possible”.
Who must be the people in high echelon of power to have put such pressure on CBI?
Collaborators in Central Cabinet
We find them in the Union Cabinet who conspired to give the CBI report a burial as it went against Biju.
Instead of appointing a Judicial Commission of Enquiry, which was by then formulated and adopted as the necessary means to locate the crux of alleged felonies, when preliminary enquiries indicate prima facie correctness of allegations against persons in power, the central cabinet appointed a Sub-Committee of its own to “consider in detail the allegations against Orissa ministers, the CBI reports and the Ministers’ explanations”.
Despite Misconduct convincingly caught
The Cabinet Sub-Committee tried its best to render the CBI report inconsequential. Yet, the offenses of Biju Patnaik and his partner in corruption Biren Mitra were so vastly visible that, while refusing to institute a Judicial enquiry, it could not but say, “the manner in which Sri Patnaik and Sri Mitra, directly or otherwise, conducted government transactions in which were involved the interests of private concerns owned or controlled by them or by their relations, was definitely not in keeping with the normal standards of public conduct”.
This design failed to dissuade people from their determination to see Biju and Biren ousted from the positions of power they were using to fleece from public exchequer. This determined agitation of the people forced the central leadership of Congress to ask Biju to resign from the chairmanship of the State Planning Board and his protege Biren from Chief-ministership. Biju resigned from the Planning Board chairmanship on January 29, 1965 and Biren from Chief-ministership about a month later on February 20. Shastriji appealed the people through the Lok Sabha on February 22 to “allow” this matter “to end” as both “Sri Biren Mitra and Sri Patnaik have already tendered their resignations”.
Punishment by the people
People of Orissa punished Biju Patnaik by rejecting him in all the five constituencies he contested in 1967 and also the Congress Party for having not punished Biju Patnaik.
The greatest beneficiary of people’s rejection of Biju Patnaik was R. N. Singhdeo, who headed a coalition with Jana Congress, formed by Congress members opposed to Biju.
Singhdeo appointed a Judicial Commission of Enquiry headed by Justice H. R. Khanna to inquire into and report on the charges against Patnaik and others.
Justice Khanna denounced Biju
In his report submitted on January 15, 1969, Justice H. R. Khanna denounced Biju as a morally corrupt fellow, as he was found to have used his chief-ministerial position to serve “the pecuniary and business interests of the companies, which had been started by him and with which his family members were associated” to such condemnable extent that “within two or three years of his stewardship his public image became tarnished and the hopes which were built around him were shattered to pieces”.
Scope yet to come
The ongoing CBI enquiry into chit fund scam in the regime of Naveen Patnaik offers a tremendous scope to study the syndrome in context of commonality between the father and the son in the zone of achieving personal benefits through power of governance.