Narendra Modi’s first political success – Conquering the Corrupt Sukhram

Narendra Modi’s foremost claim to the top job of this country is his promise to root out corruption from the country. He keeps stressing rally after rally that he’ll be the ‘chowkidaar’ and guard India’s coffers.


Modi’s critics rubbish his claims of delivering corruption-free governance by pointing to the obvious facts like Modi failing to appoint a Lokayukta in Gujarat for over 10 years, keeping ministers who are accused/convicted of corruption like Babu Bokhiria and Purushottam Solanki in his cabinet. Modi himself refused the permission to prosecute Solanki. It is also pointed how the Gujarat Government has doled out largess to Adanis and Ambanis of the world making them super-rich in a short duration. Lately, the tickets that have been handed over to corruption-tainted candidates for the 2014 elections like Yeddyurappa and Sriramulu have also severely dented the credibility of Modi’s claims. On April 13, 2014, Election Commission snatched over 45 crores worth of cash, cheques and certificates from Sriramulu’s aide’s house; black money that would have otherwise been siphoned off into helping Sriramulu win the Bellary seat in Karnataka or into Modi’s lavish rallies.

Sukhram was first arrested in 1996, Modi protected him from defecting in 1998
Sukhram was first arrested in 1996, Modi protected him from defecting in 1998

Be that as it may, today, we go back to a time when Narendra Modi was not the popular icon that he is today. In May 1998, Modi was elevated to the post of the General Secretary of BJP and was transferred to New Delhi where he was assigned responsibility for the party’s activities in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. In the same year (1998), state elections were held in Himachal Pradesh and the elections threw up a hung assembly with both BJP and Congress winning 31 seats each while Himachal Vikas Manch (HVM) won 5 seats.

HVM was led by the notorious Sukhram, the former Telecom Minister, who was arrested in 1996 for disproportionate asset case. In 1996, the Central Bureau of Investigation seized from Sukhram’s official residence Rs. 3.6 crores in cash concealed in bags and suitcases, which he had collected in connection with irregularities in awarding a telecom contract. Sukhram was later convicted and jailed for 5 years in November 2011. To grab power in Himachal Pradesh, BJP took the support of Sukhram and his party Himachal Vikas Manch completely overlooking his tainted corrupt background. Narendra Modi, the the in-charge of BJP in Himachal Pradesh, had laid the entire strategy. In an article titled “Modi played a big role in BJP success in HP, Haryana”, it is reported in Sunday Guardian that:

Modi was keen to form the government and Dhumal managed to win over four Sukh Ram-led Himachal Vikas Congress MLAs apart from few independents and even a Congress dissident Gulab Singh Thakur. As soon as Dhumal managed the numbers, Modi shifted all these MLAs to a house in Panchkula. They were then shifted to Shivalik View Hotel in Chandigarh but could not stay in the hotel as Himachal intelligence personnel traced them. Modi talked to the then Haryana Chief Minister Bansi Lal to provide a safe place for Himachal MLAs.

The successful formation of the Himachal Pradesh Government under the tutelage of Modi was the basis on which Modi was chosen as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. The very founding stone of Modi’s career as an administrator was based on his successful role in forming a corrupt coalition. So on one hand, Modi desperately protected the corrupt Sukhram and his fellow MLAs from defecting, so that a BJP Government could be formed in Himachal Pradesh, on the other hand, Modi wants his fellow Indians to believe in the myth of a corruption-free governance under his leadership.