Subramanian Swamy has been around the political firmament long enough to build an army of those who hate him and those who hate to admire him for his spunk, his audacity and sheer bluntness. Not one for diplomacy, his acerbic statements have similar effect as that of a hot steel blade running through butter. And he has got away with it most times.
Born in Madurai to a bureaucrat and homemaker, Subramanian Swamy completed his B.Sc. in Mathematics from Hindu College, Delhi University, before proceeding to do his Masters from the Indian Statistical Institute. He then left for the United States to join Harvard University to pursue a Ph.D. in Economics.
On Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s invitation, he returned to India to join the Delhi School of Economics as Professor, but on arrival, he was told that his offer had been withdrawn, ostensibly on account of his liberal capitalist views that were in contradiction to the ‘socialist’ path that India had chosen to follow. He then joined IIT Delhi as a Professor in Mathematical Economics and by then his anti-establishment and anti-Gandhi family views had begun to take root, a total dislike that remains till date.
But Subramanian Swamy is not an ordinary rabble rouser, seeking his two minutes of fame, but someone who does his homework on facts before he begins to take on an opponent or a cause. Over the years, he has built a reputation and perhaps a career as India’s most high profile judicial activist, while remaining within the fold of politics. As a politician, his achievement and impact has been far less than his judicial activism.
Over the years, he has fought several cases of corruption and has won many landmark cases that have laid the basis on which future laws and policies have been framed.
Case against ‘single directive provision’
Corruption in the higher levels of bureaucracy has fed the bureaucrat-politician nexus that has been the fountain of corruption in India and prevailing laws were such that they shielded senior bureaucrats from investigation by central investigative agencies like the CBI, which could not proceed with any investigation unless prior permission was taken from the government.
In 1997, Subramanian Swamy raised his voice against this and filed a petition seeking a change against this single directive provision. After much deliberation, the Supreme Court in May 2014, ruled in favour of Subramanian Swamy declaring the provision as invalid and unconstitutional, thus paving the way for CBI to proceed with investigation of senior bureaucrats in cases of corruption. Swamy will be remembered for his contribution to this fight against corruption.
The 2G case
Manmohan Singh-led UPA II met its nemesis at the hands of its own creation, the infamous 2G case relating to telecom spectrum allocation to select favoured firms. It was Subramanian Swamy who was one of the early ones to red flag the process of allocation that followed, alleging corruption at the highest levels that included the then Telecom Minister A. Raja.
He started off with writing the first of his famous five letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, highlighting malpractice at the highest levels, but government’s prolonged silence forced him to file a case in Supreme Court which in turn directed the CBI to investigate the case. The rest is well documented and Swamy came out the activist hero once again.
Swamy goes after Jayalalithaa
Swamy’s dislike for Jayalalithaa parallels his dislike for the Gandhis. Jayalalithaa has been the unquestioned queen of Tamil politics much to the dislike of Swamy, who has always opposed her politically. In 1996, he decided to take her on and filed a case against her for amassing assets disproportionate to her income as a politician and CM. She was held guilty by the trial court and has served jail sentence but recently, the Supreme Court ruled in her favour and charges have been dropped. Over the years, she has had several cases against her, but has survived them all. However, the last word is yet to be said, as Subramanian Swamy hasn’t given up on her, at least not yet.
National Herald Case against the Gandhis
National Herald was started by Jawaharlal Nehru just before World War II and was later managed by Feroze and Indira Gandhi. But the paper struggled as a commercial venture and over the years shut its newspaper operations. But it did accumulate physical assets that today commands serious value. It was Subramanian Swamy who highlighted irregularities in terms of backdoor control and ownership by the Gandhis, namely Sonia and Rahul.
What was initially just an allegation was soon converted into a legal case against the duo and this year, for the first time, Sonia and Rahul were made to attend the trial court as accused and were subsequently granted bail. While the case is going to be long drawn, Swamy once again came out on top as an activist and champion against corruption.
Raising his voice against corruption and misuse of power
Phone tapping in Karnataka
In the late 80s, Swamy brought to light a case of illegal phone tapping at the behest of the state government. Despite his own party being in power, it was Swamy that raised the issue and fought the Chief Minister R.K. Hegde, leading to his resignation.
In 1987, 42 Muslim persons were killed in the Meerut district of U.P. 19 policeman of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) were accused of killing in cold blood. The trial dragged on for years and Subramanian Swamy took it upon himself to intervene in the case. Although the 16 remaining accused have been released on account of lack of evidence, Swamy has kept up his efforts to implicate former Home Minister at the time, P. Chidambaram.
Fight against black money
In many ways, Subramanian Swamy and Ram Jethmalani share common traits. Both are lawyers, both are judicial activists and both share a common passion for their fight against corruption and amassing of black money. Swamy has been raising the issue of black money being stashed abroad and has accused the Gandhi family of accumulating illegal money overseas. He continues to raise the issue of black money at every forum and one can well expect him to continue the fight against corruption.