In the past, many scamsters hit the headlines in India such as Ramalingam Raju, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Rajiv Gandhi (bofors) & Lalit Modi etc, list are long. India is unfortunate to have history of various scams. However, Sushma Swaraj’s embarrassment invokes some memories of 60s. Dr Jayanti Dharam Teja, was a famous name that remained in headlines almost every day in those days. He was featured almost in all the all known publications. The lifestyle of Lalit Modi and his connections are very much similar to Dharam Teja of 60s.
Veteran journalists narrate Teja as a magical man, well-dressed and well built six feet and four inches, charismatic personality with good communication skill – ruled the corridors of powers in 60s. He was a shipping tycoon, nuclear physicist, amateur versifier, musicologist, financial wizard and one of the country’s most indescribable operators in big money.
Teja comes from a family which was into shipping business in Cocanada which is now known as Kakinada in east Godavari in Andhra Pradesh State. His father Ganganna Pantulu was himself a great shipping consultant in the British Raj. When N T Ramarao (NTR) became CM of AP in the late 80s, he again surfaced and used to be the guest at the Raj Bhavan. NTR even thought of sending him to the Rajya Sabha, when someone alerted him. During his visits to Hyderabad, Dharma Teja used to invite journalists for lavishing parties too. His close family members still live in Hyderabad and are well connected to state politics and politicians. Politicians and bureaucrats were as anxious to befriend with the Tejas as they were to plough men and women of power and influence.
In 1962, Teja set up a shipping company with a paid up capital of Rs. 200 only. A Nehruvian recommendation got that company Rs. 22 crore as loan. Jayanthi Shipping Company of Dharma Teja pocketed all advance payments in his Leichtenstein bank account. Finally, in this scam Dharma Teja was arrested in London in the year 1970. He got six years imprisonment but went absconding for some time. He comes to India after more than five years of exile, when Indian tax authorities had nearly given up and declared him as untraceable. Many failed to understand why Teja, who allegedly owed the Income Tax Department Rs 4.8 crore in income tax and Rs 1 crore in wealth tax arrears at the time and was barred from acquiring a passport without special dispensation, had been able to leave the country and also retuned when he felt like coming back.
Teja had been sentenced on October 19, 1972 to three years in jail for falsification and forgery of the accounts of Jayanti Shipping Corporation, the grand merchant marine organisation headed by him. He also breached the Passport Act, which debars anyone convicted for more than two years from acquiring a passport for five years from the date of conviction. When the storm broke in Parliament, the disorder was worse mystified with the regional passport officer for Delhi, R.C. Pandey and the income tax authorities contradicting each other: Pandey said that Teja had been “authorised by the Government to get his passport” while the taxmen disputed the claim. In fact, Teja could have obtained his passport only if the office of the prime minister or the home minister, cleared his application on optional grounds. However, the decision needed to be announced in the official gazette. This was never done. Then Prime Minister Morarji Desai didn’t exactly explain anything on the position but made statement in 1978 Parliament stating “Teja is free to come and go whenever he chooses. The country has got more from him than what he owes.”
Teja was equally favoured by Nehru and Congress as he was favoured by Janata Party. Anyway, his connections with Nehru back fired him. After Nehru’s death in 1964, Lohia began to gun for him and Lal Bahadur Shastri supported the criticism of Teja in and out of the Parliament. Indira Gandhi came to power in 1966, and Lohia charged in the Parliament that she had accepted a high-priced mink coat as a gift from Teja. The charge was ardently denied by Mrs. Gandhi, but Teja was fated as a victim of his friendship with the Nehru.
Here same situation is with Lalit Modi. People are digging his connections in and out of political arena. He is favoured by many in the corridors of power and the same connections have back fired him. Lalit is intelligent, aggressive, over ambitious, admired and hated in equal measure. He changed the landscape of cricket and introduced money in Cricket. The IPL tournament, first held in 2008, consolidated India’s position as cricket’s economic powerhouse, and consequently, its premier agenda-setter. Modi’s rise to the top rung of Indian cricket was as fast as it was eye-catching. He began his career as an adversary of the Indian cricket board in the early 90s when he was trying to build a business out of distributing sports pay channels. He knew even then that live sports was one of the few things the Indian television consumer would pay for but soon realised the best way to beat the system was to join it. He gone fast over riding his success and the fallout has been equally messy and prolonged with Modi taking on his former bosses at various legal and institutional levels, ensuring he remains in the headlines.