People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 15

April 11, 2004

Govt Of The Manipulators, For The Manipulators


Dipankar Mukherjee


THE spring of 2004 has witnessed a sordid drama and an unparalleled crafting of corruption that should come back again and again for public scrutiny because of the sheer magnitude of the crime and the people involved in it. In January 2004, the caretaker NDA government announced its decision to sell shares of 6 public sector undertakings including ONGC, GAIL and IBP. At that time ONGC scrip touched a peak of Rs 994 a share, GAIL at Rs 297 a share, and IBP share rose to Rs 886. It was the time for the government to fix the offer price of those shares. But a strange story unfolded soon after, a murky behind the scene act of manipulation started—by whom? Only Arun Shourie, Union Minister of Disinvestment, knows all about that but refuses to divulge or take action. But why? That too when he had kept Prime Minister and Dy Prime Minister informed about the whole episode.



Story started with the sudden fall in Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index, and ONGC, IBP, GAIL shares literally crashed. When BSE Index fell by 8 per cent from 6194 to 5700 points, ONG, GAIL, IBP shares fell sharply by 20-30 per cent. Ultimately government fixed the offer price of IBP at Rs 620 per share, 30 per cent lower than the peak price and that of GAIL at Rs 185, lower by 37 per cent and in case of ONGC the range was fixed at Rs 685 to Rs 750, a whopping 32 per cent down from the peak price of January 2004. On Febru-ary 24, Shourie publicly proclaimed that some manipulators had formed a bear cartel to hammer down the share market to bring down share prices of ONGC, GAIL and IBP, and they had been identified. On February 25, after consulting prime minister, and deputy prime minister, he sat with merchant bankers and a few of the ‘manipulators’ to give them what the media termed as “a good dressing down.” On February 27, the market reportedly “showed exuber-ance from despon-dency”. So Arun Shourie along with Vajpayee shines because the offer price of the shares which were already under priced did not go further down to erode the budgetary target of Rs 14000 crore. The following emerged from Shourie’s press briefings

Shourie, while  participating in the 10th anniversary celebration of Business Line, an economic daily, has been quoted as saying, “We should first find out the market. How is that these stocks go up and down with just 10 fellows? If only 10 chaps are manipulating it then why not manipulate those 10 fellows,” (Business Line, dt 25.3.2004).




When confronted with query on the identity of the bear cartel   manipulators who had tried to outshine the shining Shourie, Shourie refuses to reveal the names on the plea “they realised what they are doing was not right. We should just look at the result.” (Interview in Outlook, March 22, 2004 issue) This comes from some one who   as an investigating journalist had used tonnes of newsprint in an effort to get the names of the recipients of commission of Bofors deal. Did he “look at the result,” i.e. the performance of Bofors guns on the border before seeking the names from the then Rajiv government? Shourie himself says in the same interview “I am not saying anything more. A very big thing has been prevented.” If a minister in course of preventing an economic crime can get away with such explanation, tomorrow a police inspector after foiling an attempt of robbery by a gang before the robbery takes place, can release the gang members without filing an FIR! Police can in Shourian style exclaim, “A big robbery has been prevented”.  Can there be more farcical explanation to hide and protect ten economic offenders, who, as per the minister, have been manipulating the market, which has witnessed repeated share market scams. Shourie, as a crusader journalist has been in the past in the forefront for the right to information of the citizens. What about the right to this information for a small investor who is investing his hard-earned money in the share market euphemistically glorified as “market forces” by market fundamentalists like Shourie and his fellow-travellers in corporate and media? The people of this country through whose tax the public sector has been built, have the right to know as to how their assets are being bartered in a market manipulated by a few manipulators and as to why they are being allowed to roam freely, when their identity is known to the Government. If market manipulators like Harshad Mehta or Ketan Parikh could be sent to jail and some others can be debarred from operating in stock market why the government shirkes to name ten manipulators and take action against them? Why this protection?




Shourie says the market will collapse if the names are revealed. Does he want the people to believe that three Big of BJP comprising Vajpayee, the “Aarpaar-fighter”, Advani, the “Louha Purush” and Shourie, the “firebrand investigative journalist cum minister,” are afraid of 10 share market operators who can make the market collapse in spite their presence at the helm of affairs? Is the government as fragile as the so-called market forces?  Or are they afraid of something else —-spilling of beans by these ten fellows. Is it “Bhaya” or “Bhrastachaar?” Bhrashtrachaar has become “Shistachar” in NDA-raj Rumours are agog that share market brokers are contributing hundreds of crores to BJP’s election fund. Non-revelation of the names gives credence to this nexus. The whole operation of fixing merchant bankers (who are reportedly, part of the bear cartel), as adviser for disinvestments, and a media-managed show by Shourie of government’s intervention in share market correction, appears to be a cover up for sale of under-priced public sector assets of ONGC, GAIL & IBP.  Vajpayee wants to cash on Team India’s cricket victory for election. Would he try to catch on   their slogan “Hum Me Hai Dum?” Would he and his government. have the “Dum,”—the courage— to name the 10 fellows. Obviously courage and manipulation cannot go together. Who knows it better than the government of the manipulators, for the manipulators.