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Surajit Dasgupta, your allegation of “gory corruption” in BST doesn’t stack up – yet

I'd like to first of all thank Surajit Dasgupta for taking the time to write an extensive reply to my question/s. All very interesting and illuminating.
 
Surajit, pl. see my comments in blue. I need SOLID PROOF of any "gory corruption" in BST.
 
Unfortunately, the case for "gory" corruption in BST has not (yet?) been established. Indeed, the case has not been established even for a modest level of orchestrated corruption, leave alone "gory" corruption. Also I don't know why you are painting with a black brush people like Tijarawala and Jaideep Arya – without furnishing the slightest evidence against their involvement in anything improper that may have happened (not substantiated, but hearsay) on the ground.
 
So before I comment further, I'd like to request you to
(1) revisit your own statements; and
 
(2) explain to me why any reasonable person like you would believe, based on the hearsay that you've outlined, that there is "gory" corruption in BST. 
Or do you have further, clearer evidence other than this fuzzy, hazy hearsay? Please offer it, at this stage. Let's get to the bottom of your claim. I'd expect something "gory" to be self-evident, systemic, and HUGE. But instead, so far, I can say that: खोदा  पहाढ़  निकली चुहिया.
 
Recently I put a microscope on allegations made by Sarbajit Roy against Arvind Kejriwal and REJECTED his allegations as being baseless. Similarly I'm now putting your allegations through a powerful microscope of public inquiry.
 
I don't have ANY reason to believe that ANY leaders of the Bharat Swabhiman Trust are even remotely corrupt or condone any fraud. And from the evidence you've provided I have no reason to change my mind.
 
India is already desperately short of honest people at the top. Let's not question the integrity of good people without SOLID proof. Unless we are 100 per cent sure, let's not sully the reputation of honest people. So please prove your case, else withdraw your statement.
 
Btw, I'll discuss your comments re: socialism (or alleged lack thereof) in AAP separately.

As a careful reading of my tweets will show, the allegations are relayed, not mine, though the Bharat Swabhiman’s hesitation to launch an all-out movement against government’s corruption was witnessed firsthand. [Sanjeev: It is important to be cautious in alleging "gory" corruption unless one has direct, strong evidence. Not launching a "all-out" movement etc. is not proof of BST corruption, hence irrelevant.]
 
For want of space on Twitter, I couldn’t name the persons making the allegations. The friend referred to there is Chandra Vikash, who was once my batchmate in Holy Cross School, Bokaro Steel City (then in Bihar, now in Jharkhand), between the grades VI and X [We cleared Class X in the year 1987]. Disturbed as much as I was by rampant, all-pervading corruption, Vikash had moved to Delhi, leaving his well-paid job as an engineering consultant in Bangalore because he thought the national capital was the epicentre of corruption and here was where he could make the greatest impact by being a part of the anti-corruption ‘crusade’.
 
It was through his reference that I met with Suresh Chugh, associated with Arya Samaj Mandir, Rajendra Nagar, Delhi, now involved in setting up gurukuls across the country. He is the former Intelligence Bureau officer referred to in my tweets and a former member of BS. [Sanjeev: I'd like to see his actual allegations, please. Can you ask him to publish his allegations? I see no evidence of such allegations on the internet.]
 
The whole of 2010 was spent restlessly, hearing news of Commonwealth Games scam, 2G spectrum allocation scam and a hell lot of other big-ticket scandals. As such, the conscientious person that I was, I had left all jobs way back in December 2008 after I found my last employer neck-deep in corruption, but that is another story. About two years thereafter were spent in freelance jobs and intermittent talks with friends, new and old, on the state of the nation. None of us was sure what we could do to take our country out of the rot until 2011 arrived holding a lot of promise.
 
The first rabble-rouser on the national stage was Baba/Swami Ramdev. His was a much bigger name then than Anna Hazare’s, thanks to the propaganda — parts of which were credible, ignoring the hyperboles and ideological beliefs of swadeshi — he had been unleashing for about five years via a television channel his trust partially owns, Aastha. He appeared to have a massive following, a size that could intimidate any government. So he was the obvious choice for the gentries like ours that were itching for a revolution.
 
It began with meetings in various parts of Delhi. Soon we realised that the boys, drawn heavily from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, though without the Sangh top brass’s permission (unlike what the ilk of Congressman Digvijaya Singh alleges), were constrained badly by lack of autonomy. Both Vikash and I would push them for a bigger movement in every meeting only to know that no such mandate was received from Hardwar. [Sanjeev: it is not obligatory that any movement work according to your plans.]
 
Being a sceptic, thanks to my stint in journalism, I did not join Bharat Swabhiman formally and preferred to observe it from a distance for a while. But my friend did. Vikash took up what they call a special membership (vishisht sadasyata) after duly filling a form billed at Rs 1,100.
 
In the Arya Samaj temples that we visited thereon, we heard from all regional officials in-charge that the baba would come once in a while for strategic meets but would be surrounded only by his coterie of Jaideep Arya, SK Gupta alias Tijarawala and a few other monks of the Arya Samaj order all that while. In a few hours the meeting would wind up while the regional officials would be left wondering why no feedback and opinion was sought from them. [Sanjeev: This is heresay. It is inappropriate to use the word "coterie" – which has negative connotations. Here again, the issue seems to be that the some people wanted to provide feedback/opinions but were not heard. This is common issue with busy people. Arvind met me for a hectic and active 20 minute meeting, but then he entirely forgot it! I don't hold that against him. What I hold against him is that despite many other communications, he has not bothered to pick a phone and get his ideas challenged. He seems to hide from debate. In such a case should I say his "coterie" is protecting him? I don't think so. He may be busy. He may be opinionated and very foolish. But that doesn't imply corruption or any "coterie". Let's not use strong words without evidence.]

It was perhaps out of the palpable frustration that emerged out of this inaccessibility of Ramdev that these officials started opening up to the world outside. They revealed to us that Bharat Swabhiman was a movement in a hurry. To spread fast, far and wide, they devised a strategy of making any filthy rich man the officer in-charge of the region he dwelt in. Rationale? They needed huge, reserved spaces in every village and city to organise meetings and mobilise people, and only the super-rich could provide that. Yet these rich men later excused themselves by pleading that their personal earnings or savings couldn’t be spent on furthering the organisation’s cause.
As a solution, Hardwar offered that the medicines produced by Divya Pharmacy and the magazines published by the Patanjali Yogpeeth be sold by these regional satraps, the proceeds of which could be spent on the movement. [Sanjeev: This is hearsay. Have you verified even one such case, having been a journalist?]
 
Without adequate checks and balances in place, this became a recipe for rampant corruption. Enabled by dodgy bookkeeping, the greedy lot began swindling huge chunks from the sale proceeds of the drugs and books mentioned above to pump them into their respective businesses of paints, fuel stations, real estate, etc. To add to the profit margin, the distributors and retailers were further tampering with the seals of Divya Pharmacy-made drugs to adulterate them or at least dilute the contents. [Sanjeev: Even if true – since you have not verified this it is impossible to confirm these statements – what you are pointing to is the fact that BAD people managed to enter BST, and the management systems were perhaps weak. Let me assure you that I'm informed that some SERIOUS CRIMINALS have entered AAP. That's a sign of serious mismanagement of AAP, but not a reflection on Arvind's personal integrity. Trust we can agree on this basic principle?]
 
It must be clarified here that the organisation’s central leadership cannot be blamed wholly for this. [Sanjeev: Surajit, first of all you are jumping to the conclusion that this is TRUE. It is almost certainly false. As far as I can tell, any fraudulent people in the system are rapidly caught. Second, you are making the assumption that the central leadership/ "coterie" is at least partly responsible for this. Yes, the leadership would be, if it DELIBERATELY ENCOURAGED any fraud (assuming the fraud is actually taking place). But as far as I can tell, the system is very stringent and accounts for all financial matters very carefully. Any failures in accountability are caught out and acted upon. Note that there are lakhs of members of BST, so 100 per cent quality control over the type of people who enter may not be possible. However, unless you prove that the central leadership has CONNIVED in any fraud (of which you only have hearsay evidence), I don't see why they are even partially responsible].
 
Sanjeev Sabhlok need not have, therefore, clarified that the medicines, for example, were produced adhering to strict quality standards. Corruption was happening in the ranks below. It was perhaps not within the wherewithal of a bunch of holy men on top to keep a check on the whereabouts of the cadre. [Sanjeev: Why do you undermine the management capacity of Ramdev and his team? I have seen work of international quality during my recent stay in Haridwar. I'd like to see proof that Ramdev and his group of managers are in any way less competent than the best managers in India: indeed the world.] And the baba was so tightly cordoned off by his coterie all the while that even a slip of paper with some complaint registered in it could never reach the yoga guru without first being scrutinised by the likes of Arya. [Sanjeev: What do you mean by "the likes of Arya"? Is Arya a problem? Why? Any proof? Also, have you any evidence that complaints are not being acted upon?]
 
Yet murmurs of dissent as well as gossips of corruption finally reached Baba Ramdev. It was for this reason that, at the end of the 27 February 2011 rally at the Ramlila Grounds, he declared a postponement of the 23 March (day of Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom) Delhi gherao, previously planned, sine die. The baba had rightly feared that his planned rebellion would be met with serious retaliation from the government, and the establishment’s first target would be possible corruption by the very rebel. Officers from Gujarat to West Bengal, who were participating in the initiative with full honesty, told us the leader would use the interregnum to clean up the organisation. [Sanjeev: So what happened? Assuming your statement is true, did the "clean up" take place? Were control systems strengthened? If so, is there any continuing concern?]
 
In between, the hugely successful hunger strike by Anna Hazare happened in the period 5-8 April that year. Vikash sulked for a while for the India against Corruption group not reciprocating with the magnanimity that was shown by the baba during the latter’s show on 27 February, where Anna, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi et al were offered enough time on the stage, as IaC could accommodate BS’s leader only for a few minutes after which some television channel editors reportedly called up to remove the saffron-clad man from the stage as he was not ‘camera-friendly’ enough for their upmarket viewership. Since I was never a member of BS, I had no problem mingling with any crowd of crusaders. Besides, I was also drawing close to KN Govindacharya — a former RSS pracharak whom the media still links unduly with the BJP despite his categorical statements damning that former party of his as much as the Congress for the sorry state of affairs of the country — whose comprehension of politics was mesmerising to say the least.
 
Between 5 and 8 April, we suspected IaC was a safety valve devised by the ruling dispensation to let off the steam of the people’s anger, but its souring relationship with the Congress in course of the sittings of the joint draft committee turned it into a genuine revolutionary group. On the other hand, Baba Ramdev’s image suffered a serious setback following his ignominious exit from the stage on 4 June 2011. And when there was no uprising following his humiliation, our observation that BS couldn’t be relied upon, as the organisation suffered from a lack of successive lines of command, was vindicated. [Sanjeev: I'd suggest you haven't understood how strong this brutal oppression of Ramdev – and killing of one of his followers – by government has made Baba Ramdev and many of his supporters. Their determination to reform India is, today, unsurpassed. I speak from personal observation.]
 
I joined IaC in October 2012 when Govindacharya was still not ready with his cadre to take on the might of the government, while all his ideas of vyavastha parivartan (systemic change) were being picked up one by one by IaC. All activists understood this was the platform, of all anti-corruption groups, most likely to succeed in politics. If it does, some day in future, we thought it should stay honest to its mandate, to ensure which I am a part of the Aam Aadmi Party launched by all prominent members of the erstwhile IaC group except Anna and Bedi on 24 November 2012 (publicly on the 26th). The mandate is to deal a heavy blow on corruption, irrespective of the means to achieve it.
 
The thousands of largely urbane youth that poured into the streets following the call by Anna in April and August 2011 are not interested in regressive socialism of Indira Gandhi’s vintage. Further, if after raising a hue and cry over government’s corruption all powers are returned to that very government, it would be a betrayal of people’s trust. So the youth like me came in to make the movement stay on course. [Sanjeev: I like the sound of this statement, although it is totally unrelated to the topic at hand.]
 
And we found to our sheer joy that the alternative system being proposed by the members of the National Executive of the AAP was indeed not hackneyed. It’s unfair to look at them as socialists (in the sense that this term typically conveys, notwithstanding the fact that all political parties registered with the Election Commission of India have to pledge on paper that they would be socialist).
 
The whole AAP team now — with social justice champion Yogendra Yadav and free market advocates like Mayank Gandhi, Prithvi Reddy, me and many of the thinking minds that attend the party’s policy meetings alike — is pushing for a new era where civic amenities would be managed by gram sabhas (in villages) and mohalla sabhas (in cities); thrust would be on conservation of nature; natural resources would need community clearances to be exploited; health and education would be state priorities; competition would be allowed wherever competition is possible; secularism would be observed in the strictest sense, moving away from turn-by-turn communalism practised by the Congress/SP and the BJP; foreign policy will be determined by reciprocity, etc.
 
I hope this is the course the Gandhian Kejriwal stays. And for information of all and sundry, once and for all, Gandhism is not (Indian) socialism. It’s a distinct school of thought. Jayaprakash Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohia et al and their followers thought otherwise because they were suffering from a hangover of Marxism which they grew up on during their formative years. The model I have just explained finds no place in Das Kapital. If the AAP assumes power and then imposes on the country a Pranab Mukherjee-style economic thought, massive disappointment and desertions will follow. As an insider, I’ll try not to let that happen. [Sanjeev – Thanks. I'll discuss these comments about AAP ideology separately.]

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Sanjeev Sabhlok

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One thought on “Surajit Dasgupta, your allegation of “gory corruption” in BST doesn’t stack up – yet
  1. Surajit Dasgupta

    Let me begin by quoting one of your statements that happens to resonate my line of thought: “Let’s not question the integrity of good people without SOLID proof.” It is curious that allegations of corruption against a person surface only after he turns from an ordinary citizen into an anti-corruption activist. The question must, therefore, be asked of the government why its legal mechanism did not play the role meant for it until the establishment started feeling the heat. Bearing this sentiment in mind, I wrote to you on Twitter: “My focus is corruption by govt. That in smaller measures by parts of the anti-corruption brigade helps th govt. And I can’t help th govt by disturbing BS further. I’ve given u enuf clues to proceed further on it.” [Please excuse the abbreviated expressions necessitated by the space constraint in the micro-blogging site] The second sentence was meant to be: Allegations of corruption in smaller measures by parts of the anti-corruption brigade helps the government. For an activist looking for a credible platform, the hint of corruption in Bharat Swabhiman was enough to bid it adieu. I am not a part of the government or a force inimical to BS that I must investigate further into the apparent scandals in the rank and file of the said organisation that surfaced in front of me. If what appeared obvious proves wrong, I’ll be happy as a patriot, as I believe Baba Ramdev is a patriot, too.

    Second, I must say you have a pre-determined dismissive attitude that does not help the cause. I went through your responses to Sarbajit Roy’s allegations as well. [I did not know till yesterday who he was. But my introduction to this blog of yours made me curious about him. So I went through the Wikipedia article about the character.] While his allegations are against a prominent face of our movement, and so I should be supporting your side of the debate, I am sorry to state that you fended him off in a shabby manner, with the same dismissive attitude that you have betrayed in my case. In your place, I would have argued in favour of Arvind Kejriwal much better. In this particular post, you have dubbed every charge I made as “hearsay” even though my descriptions show not all of them are so. Anyway, I repeat, even hearsay was enough for a new activist to stay away from your movement in fear of sullying one’s own image as well as, subsequently, having to defend the indefensible perhaps.

    Third, as the composition of the article in Bharatiya Paksha suggests, it was written by an amateur whose English leaves a lot to be desired. The writer speaks Hindi and that’s the language I responded in. I don’t know where he got the word “gory” from. My statement to him in Hindi had no equivalent of this term. “Rampant” would have been better. I witnessed corruption in BS from top to bottom excluding Baba Ramdev.

    Now I seek to respond to your ripostes one by one.

    “I’d like to see his actual allegations, please. Can you ask him to publish his allegations? I see no evidence of such allegations on the internet.”

    The two acquaintances I have named are not writers, nor do they have the inclination to spend time establishing their allegations in writing, least so online, even less so on a blog. Like me, their intention was to find a credible organisation to realise the dream of a much-needed revolution, not to behave like the seemingly corrupt government to inquire further into what all appeared wrong in an anti-corruption front. You may visit the Arya Samaj temple I have named and interview Chugh. Vikash now lives in Mumbai. I can pass on their mobile numbers to you via SMS if you let me know your mobile number.

    “it is not obligatory that any movement work according to your plans.”

    Sure! For me, it was enough to know that BS was anything but revolutionary in its thinking and approach. That did not suit my temperament because I did not believe — and still do not hold — that systemic change in governance could be brought about by protesting at a place in accordance with government sanctions in the form of police permissions. No revolution in the world has happened by adhering to the rules and limits set by the existing government of that land.

    “This is heresay. It is inappropriate to use the word “coterie” – which has negative connotations. Here again, the issue seems to be that the some people wanted to provide feedback/opinions but were not heard. This is common issue with busy people. Arvind met me for a hectic and active 20 minute meeting, but then he entirely forgot it! I don’t hold that against him. What I hold against him is that despite many other communications, he has not bothered to pick a phone and get his ideas challenged. He seems to hide from debate. In such a case should I say his “coterie” is protecting him? I don’t think so. He may be busy. He may be opinionated and very foolish. But that doesn’t imply corruption or any “coterie”. Let’s not use strong words without evidence.”

    “Hearsay” is a term associated with observations from distant people. These people were not distant; they were a part of the organisation in question. That was unlike your acquaintance with Arvind Kejriwal; you are not a part of IaC or the AAP.

    Next, the use of the word, coterie, is wholly appropriate because that is what the people referred to by me constituted vis-à-vis Baba Ramdev. Leave alone a small fry, even eminent personalities have to pass through this cordon to reach the yoga guru even while sharing the stage with him. This is no hearsay either. Watch the television clippings of the BS leader’s last appearance in Ramlila Maidan; you may trace me on stage; so I know how the scene is managed by the people I have named.

    This is not a security cordon, mind you. The coterie is just apprehensive of some untoward information about them reaching Baba.

    “This is hearsay. Have you verified even one such case, having been a journalist?”

    There you go again! I am no longer a journalist; I left that role behind in 2008. But yes, I have verified a hell lot of cases. Most of your kshetriya prabharis and zila sangathan mantris are fat businessmen (some of them have now grown fatter). Naming them would make a huge list.

    “Even if true – since you have not verified this it is impossible to confirm these statements – what you are pointing to is the fact that BAD people managed to enter BST, and the management systems were perhaps weak. Let me assure you that I’m informed that some SERIOUS CRIMINALS have entered AAP. That’s a sign of serious mismanagement of AAP, but not a reflection on Arvind’s personal integrity. Trust we can agree on this basic principle?”

    It was not and is not my job to dig deeper into BS. I did not enter the organisation as a sleuth or a journalist. I repeat, I was only looking for a credible platform for a new activist like me, and the platform did not appear credible to me.

    And what I am pointing to is not bad people managing to enter the organisation. It was the organisation’s blanket policy of making the filthy rich in-charges of various regions that ensured that checking the entrants’ antecedents was not in their scheme of things. For, if you did that, the spread of the movement would turn slow, which Baba wouldn’t like. Speed has always been his preference to accuracy.

    “Surajit, first of all you are jumping to the conclusion that this is TRUE. It is almost certainly false. As far as I can tell, any fraudulent people in the system are rapidly caught.”

    Then investigate — if not catch — the officials who deal in paints, petrol pumps and real estate. Being an insider, you must know who I am referring to. I repeat, I am neither a government’s person nor a part of your organisation to perform this duty. If it were about my organisation, I would have spent time to unearth more.

    You are sounding like Pakistani representatives’ who respond to India’s allegations pertaining to the Kargil War, the 26/11 terrorist attacks and beheading of our soldiers. Further evidence is in your reach, not mine.

    “Second, you are making the assumption that the central leadership/ “coterie” is at least partly responsible for this.”

    Not quite. The coterie is not responsible only for letting corruption rule the roost in the lower ranks, but they appear corrupt themselves. They are equally involved in diverting the organisation’s funds to their respective businesses, as was alleged by both Vikash and Chugh.

    “… the system is very stringent and accounts for all financial matters very carefully. Any failures in accountability are caught out and acted upon…”

    This may be true for the centralised accounting system that deals in money received by the organisation. It does not appear true for the expenditure part. And no auditor will catch you on the wrong foot for not knowing the further break-ups of your expenses, once the despatches of medicines and magazines are made. You can show the medicines and magazines as expenses; there is no need to show how the proceeds of sales of these by the cadre were utilised by them. But hold it! Do you by any chance mean that a case of corruption cleared by a chartered accountant is no corruption at all? If your answer is a ‘yes’, you are in good company; the BJP forwarded an equally specious logic while issuing a clean chit to Nitin Gadkari with a similar help from S Gurumurthy!

    “unless you prove that the central leadership has CONNIVED in any fraud (of which you only have hearsay evidence), I don’t see why they are even partially responsible.”

    In the part to which the above is your response, I meant that the leadership may not be responsible for inducing corruption into the cadre, but it is certainly responsible for putting in place an ineffective bookkeeping mechanism.

    “Why do you undermine the management capacity of Ramdev and his team? I have seen work of international quality during my recent stay in Haridwar.”

    Hardwar is not where the adulteration happens. It happens in the stores of shops across the country where the drugs are sent for retail.

    “… have you any evidence that complaints are not being acted upon?”

    Of course! First, if the clean up act following the 27 February 2011 rally were genuine or effective, the government couldn’t hit back at the movement by launching its counteroffensive in the form of inquiries by several investigating bodies. Several damning reports came out in the media, and the patented response they got from BS was a flat denial:
    1. http://www.mumbaimirror.com/article/15/2011051620110516033811382ad49a8b/Baba-Ramdev%E2%80%99s-cure-for-hair-loss-blocks-woman%E2%80%99s-food-pipe.html
    2. http://www.newstrackindia.com/newsdetails/2012/09/26/410-Baba-Ramdev-rubbishes-misbranding-accusations-calls-it-Centre-s-propaganda.html
    3. http://ibnlive.in.com/news/ramdevs-trust-accused-of-running-a-club-slapped-rs-12-crore-service-tax/304574-3-243.html

    I can provide hyperlinks to many more reports, but I do not wish to clutter your blog.

    “So what happened? Assuming your statement is true, did the “clean up” take place? Were control systems strengthened? If so, is there any continuing concern?”

    Refer to my paragraphs above.

    To my allegation, “And when there was no uprising following his humiliation, our observation that BS couldn’t be relied upon, as the organisation suffered from a lack of successive lines of command, was vindicated,” you responded: “I’d suggest you haven’t understood how strong this brutal oppression of Ramdev – and killing of one of his followers – by government has made Baba Ramdev and many of his supporters.”

    This was all the more reason for a revolt. In any self-respecting nation, if an icon was humiliated in this manner, and an innocent citizen brutalised in a way that led to her death, the country would be up in flames the next day. No reaction was seen in the streets, however, because the structure of the organisation did not provide for such a natural vent of feelings. No subordinate was empowered enough to do anything of his/her own volition.

    “Their determination to reform India is, today, unsurpassed. I speak from personal observation.”

    I would then dismiss your observation, which is shorn of political sense. For one, it played into the hands of the BJP-led NDA when it invited the then BJP president Nitin Gadkari and NDA convenor Sharad Yadav on stage. It was a clear case of letting the opposition, no less corrupt than the ruling party, take undue advantage of the movement. Second, Baba betrayed lack of political sense, too, when he went about meeting one corrupt opposition leader to another — from Mulayam Singh Yadav to Mayawati. This showed he was fuming within in rage, quite unlikely of a saint (if he is one), trying to exact revenge on the Congress, which he considers primarily responsible for his loss of face due to the 4 June 2011 incident. And so he has no qualms about striking an alliance with any Tom, Dick or Harry, howsoever corrupt, till the time the alliance has a chance to snub the Congress. Even if that much is granted to him, he further does not have enough sagacity to keep these meetings a secret to take the ruling dispensation by surprise one fine morning by an organised, united opposition attack.

    “I’ll discuss these comments about AAP ideology separately.”

    Please feel free to do so. This brings me to my final word: I am surprised by your association with Bharat Swabhiman, given that they are not known to uphold your philosophy of a free market. To them, at best, the market can be free only domestically; FDI is taboo, and the products worth selling in India are the sub-standard stuff shelled out by traditional banias, which is the core constituency of the RSS, its biggest pillar of support.

    This is my last message in this sequence. I do not wish to malign Baba Ramdev in particular, much as I have no love lost for his coterie and cadre. If he can address the issues I have raised, it will help our motherland a great deal because his formidable following is indispensable in this era’s fight against corruption.

     

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