Some say the commotion started at 9.30 pm. Some reported that it was actually 11 pm while others declared it was past midnight.
But whatever may have been the time, there was no confusion about the ‘commotion’. A convoy of vehicles had driven up to the Siang guest house in Pasighat. The Prime Minister was to address a BJP election rally the next morning.
The chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh Pema Khandu, the deputy chief minister, BJP candidates (Arunachal is also having a simultaneous assembly election) and various officials therefore had arrived for the night halt at Pasighat from Itanagar, the capital 265 Kilometres away.
Media reports suggested that Youth Congress activists at Pasighat alerted a flying squad of the Election Commission about a huge amount of cash transported in the convoy. The EC flying squad was forced to reach the guesthouse and search the vehicles. One of the vehicles did reveal a big box that carried, it was found after counting, ₹1.8 Crore in cash. Yes, Rupees one Crore and 80 lakhs in cash.
Congress, the opposition party, not surprisingly cried foul and complained to the Election Commission. Was the money meant for the PM’s rally, for bribing voters or for other ulterior purposes, it asked.
The chief minister declared he learnt about the seizure only the next morning. Of course he had nothing to do with the money. It belonged to one of the BJP candidates and was his ‘personal’ money, he added. BJP, he hinted, did no hanky panky with cash, which was actually the Congress culture’, he declared after the PM’s rally.
The Election Commission is still conducting inquiries. It needs to establish that the vehicle was indeed a part of the CM’s convoy or not. The case and the cash, claimed officials, had been referred to the Income Tax Department, which would inquire into the source of the money. It would impose taxes and penalty if Income Tax had not been paid for the ‘income’.
For those who are innocent, if there is one place which can be called a Ram Rajya for politicians, it is Arunachal Pradesh. The place is seemingly rolling in money and no matter which party is the ruling party, politicians in Arunachal have the best of both the worlds, most of them maintaining houses in Delhi, Calcutta and Mumbai.
While 88 Crorepatis had contested the assembly election in the state in 2014, the number this time has gone up to 131. The chief minister Pema Khandu himself has declared personal assets worth ₹163 Crore!
So, what is ₹1.8 Crore to a politician in Arunachal Pradesh? And one of the BJP candidates did come forward to claim the amount and explained that he was carrying the cash for a property transaction that he hoped to conclude on Sunday, April 7. The money, therefore, must immediately be returned to him, he wrote to EC officials.
Since politicians are usually so righteous and truthful that one must give him the benefit of the doubt. But then, aren’t their banks in Pasighat? Or ATMs? Why would he buy a property in Pasighat? And why would he carry so much cash when he was going to attend a political rally?
But then politicians are not asked such questions, especially if they belong to the ruling party. And so, chances are that despite the ‘Na Khane dunga’ Sarkar in the saddle, the amount will be whitewashed, the incident will be forgotten, and all will be well in the land of the rising Sun.