The Engima of Chandraswamy
The death of godman Chandraswamy will hopefully give a decent burial not just to one time Rasputin of the Indian establishment in the 1980s and 90s but also put to rest after full 19 years the Multi Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) of the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) supposedly probing the larger conspiracy involving Chandraswamy and others in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991 at the hands of a Sri Lankan Tamil woman as a human bomb.
The M C Jain Commission probing the larger conspiracy in the planning and execution of former Prime Minister and the then Congress president Rajiv Gandhi, was so entangled in frivolous court cases slapped by those desperate to cover up the real conspiracy, that it failed to come to any definite conclusion. But it made enough remarks to force the then Government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, himself a Chandraswamy Bhakt, way back in 1999, to set up a MDMA to further unravel the mystery about who really conspired to get Rajiv assassinated.
I remember those late 1980s years when the Indian Express and its crusading editor Arun Shourie were gunning for Rajiv and indulging in all kinds of conspiracies to somehow dislodge Rajiv, much before his five year term was to come to an end. In that process one day Shourie was apparently told by some source that Chandraswamy had some vital information that could nail Rajiv in Bofors payoff scam. Shourie immediately dispatched one of the youngest reporters then in the Indian Express team, now a noted journalist himself Murali Krishnan. But the wily tantric kept lying on his bed for long hours, belching and farting loudly, telling Murali nothing of worth to file a story and Murali returned after hours cursing the godman. Shourie was so cut up with this betrayal that he wrote a full length anchor next day with bold headlines “Belching, farting Swamy.”
I don’t know if the Sangh eventually brought about peace between Shourie and Chandraswamy but about this time anyone who wanted to get rid of the young Rajiv, veteran Opposition leaders like Chandra Shekhar and Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, (both considering themselves PM material) Om Prakash Chautala, Arif Mohamamd Khan Congressmen P V Narasimha Rao, Captain Satish Sharma, S S Mahapatra, Margaret Alva, Natwar Singh, Krishna Kumar and wife Usha Krishna Kumar, then Janata Dal leader and now an important face in the Biju Janata Dal Pinaki Mishra, but most of all the BJP leaders starting from Vajapyee himself, Rajmata Vijay Raje Scindia, Ramnath Goenka, Hema Malini, Arun Jaitely, Rajat Sharma and a host of others paid obeisance to this godman and many regularly visited his abode in Safdarjung Development Area (SDA) opposite Delhi IIT, gifted to him by veteran actor and BJP MP Dara Singh but most of all Subramanian Swamy who travelled to London and tax haven Monte Carlo with Chandraswamy, according to the Jain Commission and had the closest ties with Chandraswamy.
Former journalist, turned film maker turned Shiv Sena MP Pritish Nanday has written an amusing account of his interaction with the tantric in the company of Rajat Sharma at SDA which just shows what a con man this gentleman was. Yet from former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Elizabeth Taylor (on the authority of Natwar Singh) to Kenneth Kaunda a host of other African heads of states, plus the Sultan of Brunei were all mesmerized by this person and the CIA too appeared sufficiently impressed to ignore his dealings with the notorious under cover operator for the CIA, Adnan Khashoggi and the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). That is how he operated with impunity making influential contacts the world over.
Thus when it came to suspecting an international conspiracy behind Rajiv’s assassination, Chandraswamy was the logical suspect. That’s an enigma which the MDMA refused to unravel, and sat twiddling its fingers for full 19 years. Chandraswamy who had an unhindered access to the Prime Minister’s house (he told the Jain Commission that his car used to drive down straight into the inner portico without being subjected to the normal security drill) beginning with the six months that Chandra Shekhar was India’s Prime Minister and then continuing for another five years of Narasimha Rao regime, went into a shell once Rao ceased to hold office and even though Vajpayee himself was a Chandraswamy Bhakt, he had in his ministry two Chandraswamy baiters, L K Advani himself and Ram Jethmalani, who hated Rao and therefore baited the tantric. So wily nily Vajpayee had to cede their demand and follow up the Jain Commission needle of suspicion pointing against this godman. He thus constituted the MDMA much against the advice of the then CBI Director Trinath Mishra, said Subramanian Swamy.in his book.
In fact Swamy quoted a report filed by now a former UPA minister Rajiv Shukla in the Ravivar how there was an animated discussion in Vajpayee cabinet over the Action Taken Report (ATR) on Jain Commission report and how Ram Jethmalani made it a prestigious issue even demanding immediate arrest of Chandraswamy.
But despite a hostile Home Minister in the Vajpayee government and later a regime headed by Sonia Gandhi, whose entire family suspected the godman’s role, such was the clout of this person that the MDMA moved not a finger in full 19 years, with officers after officers coming in serving a tenure and then being posted elsewhere. Even after the defeat of LTTE and the capture of KP by the Sri Lankan forces, there is not a word on the conspiracy to kill Rajiv. Just shows that Narasimha Rao or Chadnra Shekhar were not the only ones shielding Chandraswamy. But why?
In the Dussehra of 1992, that is just a year after Rajiv Gandhi assassination and ascendance of Rao as the Prime Minister, Chandraswamy and Subramanian Swamy got on to a truck converted into a rath and traversed the entire length of the Capital’s walled city along with the traditional Ramlila procession. Praveen Jain then in The Pioneer returned that evening with that photograph and Vinod Mehta ran it prominently.
What had these two Swamys achieved in 1992, even as the BJP/VHP was readying to demolish Babri Masjid, that they stood there like two gods with their hands raised? Surely they had done something remarkable. They had succeeded at least for the time being, following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, in defeating the Mandal forces. That was no mean achievement because the entire elite class of the country was and is still united in repulsing and crushing the subalterns.