Swedish Deep Throat

In journalistic history, few stories have matched the explosive outcomes of India’s most famous scandal – the Bofors case. Much has been written about this scandal but as the Indian judiciary has dragged it’s heels over the case for over 25 years, it’s importance is in the danger of being forgotten.

So shocking were the revelations of this case that scarcely a year later, the Congress government suffered defeat in the elections after their landslide victory of 1984. This marked the beginning of a new era in Indian politics where no single party has ever been able to form a government on it’s own and has had to rely on a patchwork of regional parties to form a stable government.

In 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards and her son Rajiv Gandhi rode to power on a wave of sympathy. He carried with him the promise of reform, the support of the youth and a clean image. Then in 1987, the worst came to pass. The Prime Minister was involved in the biggest scandal in Indian history till then.

The story broke due to the diligent efforts of Chitra Subramaniam and N. Ram of The Hindu. Chitra, then stationed in Switzerland, received a tip about payments made to Indian officials by Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors in exchange of a huge arms deal involving the 155 mm field Howitzer. Her then unnamed source gave her access to hundred of documents that allowed her to break the story and implicated several prominent businessmen and politicians including Rajiv Gandhi.

The increasingly fractious Congress party was doomed and in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections, it suffered an embarrassing defeat. Rajiv Gandhi never became PM again and was assassinated in 1991.

The Swedish informant remained anonymous for several years, operating under the pseudonym of the Swedish Deep Throat (after the famous source nicknamed Deep Throat in the Watergate Scandal). Today he revealed himself as the then Swedish Police Chief Sten Lindstrom.

Which brings me to the most important part of this post. Balls. It takes massive courage to write stories that can destroy the most powerful man in India. It takes even more courage to resist the temptation of huge amounts of money and nerves of steel to carry on when the life of your new born son is threatened.

To all the Chitra Subramaniams and Sten Lindstroms of the world, a salute. And it is important that we remember this to prevent this from happening again – a lesson which we have clearly forgotten with the Commonwealth Games scam and the even bigger 2G Spectrum allocation scandal.

But the fighters will keep fighting because at least they believe in India’s national motto, Satyameva Jayete. Truth alone triumphs.

 

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