Arun Shourie: The Inefficient with Integrity.

Arun Shourie in my book is a sincere person. Atleast until he sided with likes of Yashwant Sinha and Prashant Bhushan a known carpet bagger. Shouri is author of many well researched masterpieces. My favourite being Eminent Historians. It is an excellent book about the official historians of Nehru’s India and their methods to spin lies.

Integrity vs. Competence.

Between 1999 to 2004 Arun Shouri was Minister for disinvestment. While his honesty is beyond question, his Ministership raises questions about necessity of competence in governance. Integrity can not be a substitute for wisdom. Shourie all his life had no commercial experience yet he was made to sell government properties at best price!! The result was disaster. While it is a good example to quote that a teetotaller is best bar tender, it is not of universal application. A tippler if he keeps restraint, may prove to be more efficient.

Sale at price below market value.

Recently orders have been passed by a court to register an FIR against Arun Shourie, for his action as a minister in the Vajpayee government.

A special CBI court in Jodhpur has ordered a criminal case against Arun Shourie, former disinvestment secretary Pradeep Baijal and three others for alleged corruption and fraud in a government-run hotel in 2002.

Special CBI Judge Puran Kumar Sharma also ordered that the Laxmi Vilas Palace Hotel in Udaipur be handed over to the state government. The court has given this order in the case of disinvestment of Laxmi Vilas Hotel at a much lower price than the market price. The hotel was earlier run by the Tourism Development Corporation of India, but in 2002 it was sold to Bharat Hotels Limited, which now runs the Lalit Group of Hotels.

The judge passed this order while hearing a CBI closure report in the case of alleged loss of Rs 244 crore to the government from the sale of the hotel. The CBI report stated that there was no evidence to initiate prosecution against the accused in the disinvestment process.

However, the court disagreed with the central agency CBI’s argument in the case and criticized it for presenting a closure report. The court said prima facie it appears that the then minister Arun Shourie and the then secretary Pradeep Baijal misused their positions and caused a loss of Rs 244 crore to the central government in the deal.

The other three accused in the case are Ashish Guha, the managing director of the then investment firm Lazard India Ltd, Kantilal Karamsi Vikamsey, the head of the then valuation firm Kanti Karamsi & Co and the chairman of Bharat Hotels Ltd and Jyotsna Suri. The special court ordered that they be booked under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code and section 13 (1) D of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

In other words the caucus of these people manipulated to sell a property worth 250 crores at meagre 7.52 crores.

The court said that accused persons should be summoned through arrest warrant. Also, the court ordered the Udaipur district collector to take possession of the hotel immediately.

As stated earlier Arun Shourie was the Union Minister of Communications, Information Technology and Disinvestment in the then government led by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during 1999-2004.

CBI had registered an FIR on August 13, 2014, alleging that Baijal misused his official position on the basis of preliminary investigation and criminal conspiracy in the disinvestment of the Lakshmi Vilas Palace Hotel. According to the FIR, the hotel was initially valued at Rs 252 crore. But in the end it was disinvested for Rs 7.52 crore.

Arun Shourie was one of the Ministers in Vajpayee Government who even though was not dishonest brought bad name by all his disinvestment deals. All deals were undervalued. It is a lesson for the present Modi Government which is not going out for out right sale and insted of resorting to disinvestment though offloading of its shareholding in Government Companies. Bharat Dynamics was on such company in which Goverment reduced it’s holding by selling 15% shares therein.