By NM Sampathkumar Iyangar,
Pravin Mahajan is no more. The younger brother of late Pramod Mahajan Ã¢â‚¬â€œ top leader of Bhartiya Janta Party, known as its Chief Fixer Ã¢â‚¬â€œ died on March 3 at Jupiter Hospital in Thane after a prolonged illness. He had been admitted there in mid December 2009 after suffering a stroke while on parole. That was eight months after he came out with a tell-all book titled My Album. PravinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s book raised several shocking questions about his dead brotherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s life and times.
Pravin was serving life imprisonment and the book was written from the prison. A sessions court had convicted of killing his own brother. Four years ago, the Mahajan brothers shocked the country by being dramatis personae of the heinous murder. Interestingly, PramodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s brother-in-law Gopinath Munde managed to escape media glare. This was despite the key role played by the heavyweight politician of Maharashtra in the drama.
According to the prosecution, Pravin killed Pramod Mahajan on April 22, 2006 in his Mumbai home. The court rushed through the case at break-neck speed Ã¢â‚¬â€œ an oddity in Indian judiciary.
The wheeler-dealer BJP leader succumbed to his wounds 11 days later in a hospital. The whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s who of Indian business leaders got themselves videographed outside the hospital as the drama stole all the prime time in most news channels. This again was odd because Pramod Mahajan was out of office and was not in a position to curry favour to the tycoons. The only explanation for the clamour was that BJP patriarch AB Vajpayee had virtually designated him as his heir.
The fate of the man projected by the media, the cops and the entire political class as Killer Brother was no less mysterious. The otherwise healthy young man complained of high blood pressure and later slipped into coma. He was put on life support system and was struggling for life for close to three months. The hospital authorities were unwilling to issue any official word on the developments. This was in stark contrast to the way a very reputed VVIP hospital in Delhi was made to issue repeated statements when PramodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s son had been rushed there after drug overdose.
It remains to be seen whether PravinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s premature death would erase the stigma on him as a Brother-Killer. This was reinforced when the court sentenced him to life in December 2007. Winding up a murder trial in a matter of a year and a half, strangely, did not raise many eyebrows. Interestingly, PravinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wife Sarangi had said about his Ã¢â‚¬ËœMy AlbumÃ¢â‚¬â„¢: Ã¢â‚¬Å“This book should be treated as an ordinary book. It doesn’t include any of the court statements which were in-camera.Ã¢â‚¬Â
PravinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s death raises fresh questions about the state of justice dispensing system in India Ã¢â‚¬â€œ particularly in criminal cases that involve the high and mighty of the country. True, the sessions judge sentenced him for fratricide. But, does that make him Ã¢â‚¬Å“Brother-KillerÃ¢â‚¬Â automatically? Before the dubious title is confirmed more light needs to be thrown at several mysteries:
(1) Whereabouts of the treasures under the custody of Pramod Mahajan. A substantial part of the booty is alleged to be from kickbacks Ã¢â‚¬â€œ estimated at a couple of thousand crore rupees Ã¢â‚¬â€œ in the grand telecom scam of Vajpayee era. The government wrote off licence fees worth several thousand crore rupees due from big sharks. Vajpayee sacked from the Telecom MinisterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s post a aggressively transparent and fanatical BJP leader Jagmohan Malhotra for opposing the sell out. Of all persons, Ram Vilas Paswan was appointed to succeed him and Pramod did all the running about in finalizing the Ã¢â‚¬ËœaffairsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
(2) The unholy haste with which all the evidences and dispositions in the case got Ã¢â‚¬ËœlockedÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ away from public scrutiny till 2027, despite lots of gaping holes. Pravin would ordinarily have completed his life sentence to lay his hands on any hidden treasure much earlier to that. He would not have been bothered much by the unveiling of facts.
(3) The drug-murder mystery involving the son accompanying the dead manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ashes and his divorce after several cases of wife bashing. The mega-budgets available for media splash that the Bigg boss can manage.
(4) The clout of the brother-in-law across the political spectrum.
(5) The unnatural death of the convict behind a veil of secretiveness.
It would perhaps be advisable to be cautious in using the term till the matters are cleared. Given the level of corruption, cronyism and power politics prevailing in India, they may forever remain in mystery.
[The author is an unattached policy analyst based at Ahmedabad, India]