Does the arrest of the former underworld don Rajendra Sadashiv Nikalje alias Chhota Rajan signify something bigger in the fight against organised crime or is it a one-off thing? The huge headlines the Rajan arrest has made would suggest that it could be a precursor to the authorities going after a bigger catch. But it is open to question whether the Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was correct in immediately jumping to the conclusion that they will have Dawood Ibrahim in the net very soon. Expression of raw enthusiasm unsupported by anything substantive on the ground invariably undermines one’s credibility and invites public derision. Fadnavis should learn to hold his horses till there is clearer evidence about things actually maturing into reality. That aside, how far Rajan can be useful to the Indian authorities in blunting the continuing challenge from the Pakistan-based Dawood, who runs his nefarious anti-India operations in cahoots with the ISI, remains unclear. Having been on the run for nearly three decades, and running his Mumbai operations from outside the country, Rajan was virtually out of commission, as it were, in the last decade or so. According to reports, he lived incognito first in Indonesia and later in Australia. The Australian police were able to link him to the wanted person against whom an Interpol red corner notice had been pending for several years. Rajan, who had assumed a false name and identity, approached the Australian authorities for the extension of his visa when he was caught. Given that his mentor-turned-foe Dawood wanted him dead, and his henchmen had made at least two failed attempts to kill him in Indonesia, Rajan’s arrest does raise some questions. Some years ago it was reported that the Indian intelligence agencies were keen to use the services of Rajan in order to neutralise Dawood. Though Rajan was Dawood’s number two, there was a bitter falling out between the two on the highly emotive issue of the 1993 Mumbai blasts. Dawood was deadest to avenge the destruction of the disputed structure in Ayodhya in December 1992, while Rajan was equally determined to ensure that no harm came to the innocent people in Mumbai. Since then, Dawood and Rajan had gone their separate ways. Since both were high on the Indian police’s wanted list, one took shelter in Dubai only to, sometime later, near-permanently station himself in the ISI-protected sanctuary in Karachi. Rajan operated from Indonesia, managing his underworld operations through accomplices in Mumbai. There were credible reports that his services were enlisted by the Intelligence Bureau to try and extinguish the threat posed by Dawood. Now that he is set to be back in the country, it will be interesting to see if he is made accountable for various criminal acts recorded against him, including the murder of a Mumbai journalist. In all, there were some 20 criminal cases pending against him in Mumbai. But we suspect the return of Rajan could well be a part of a bigger operation the Indian intelligence agencies might have already planned with a view to lessen the threat from the ISI-run terror groups. Anything that helps in making the country a wee-bit more secure ought to be welcome, but we wish the authorities had not oversold the Rajan arrest. For, when high expectations are not met fully it inevitably undermines the government credibility.
Home truths from Shourie
Former minister in the Vajpayee Government, Arun Shourie’s trenchant criticism of the NDA Government on Monday at a book release event in the capital would come as music to the ears of the Opposition, especially when the former journalist has not taken care to formally resign from the BJP. It will be easy to dismiss what Shourie has said as a case of sour grapes. But a wise leadership would take note of the shortcomings and failings that Shourie has highlighted. Shourie might be wrong in choosing to focus only on the half empty glass in his present mood of frustration at being denied a ministerial post, but there can be no denying the fact that his criticism does ring true in some vital aspects. For instance, the Government pushed ahead with the land bill without reckoning with the resistance it would meet from the entire political class only to find itself rebuffed eventually. Again, the tendency to over-sell its wares without ensuring that the sales pitch was accompanied by actual delivery needs to be curbed. Yes, had his wish to become a minister been granted, the same Shourie would have harped only on the half-full glass. However, his bitterness is irrelevant. What should matter to the Government is the bitter truth spoken by him.