What is S Gurumurthy up to?

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The curious case of the Sangh trouble-shooter giving a clean chit to Nitin Gadkari reveals a greater game at play within the extended Parivar, reports Rana Ayyub

Man Friday Gurumurthy is known to be close to Modi
Man Friday Gurumurthy is known to be close to Modi
Photo: Getty Images

HE SAYS he has given Nitin Gadkari a clean chit. Then he says he has not. He set out trying to clarify the news about Gadkari’s Purti Group and its shell company investors and ended up becoming the news. Just what is S Gurumurthy, chartered accountant, part-time journalist, Swadeshi economics guru and all-purpose trouble-shooter of the Sangh Parivar, up to?

Gurumurthy has a long history of investigating shell companies and allegedly dubious investors, right back to the time he combined forces with Arun Shourie and the late Ramnath Goenka to take on Reliance Industries in the 1980s. When economic reforms began, Gurumurthy became the chief spokesperson of Indian protectionism. When the NDA came to power, his Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) seemed to be lobbying for specific industries rather than the principle of autarky.

Once seen as LK Advani’s intellectual foil, Gurumurthy — when he isn’t offering ambiguous answers about Gadkari — has now also emerged as Narendra Modi’s Man Friday. He was instrumental in organising the defence of Gujarat’s former home minister Amit Shah in legal cases related to encounter killings. When lawyer Ram Jethmalani argued on Shah’s behalf in court, Gurumurthy was seated right behind him, passing on notes. Today, they find themselves on different sides in the battle for Gadkari’s future.

Or do they? Just who is batting for whom in the BJP? It’s remarkably unclear. The key to this may lie in Gurumurthy’s association with Modi. Some months ago, Gujarat IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court that he had evidence showing certain classified Special Investigation Team (SIT) documents were being emailed to Tushar Mehta, Additional Advocate General of Gujarat. According to Bhatt, Mehta — who was meant to be handling the prosecution in different cases related to the 2002 riots — forwarded these emails containing excerpts from classified SIT reports to Gurumurthy, who is believed to have forwarded the information to Ram Jethmalani and his son, Mahesh, who were representing Shah.

Given Gurumurthy’s proximity to Modi, the obvious question then is: why is he trying to clear things for Gadkari? And why has a section of the RSS, which has always been close to Gurumurthy, suddenly turned its back on him? When asked, KN Govindacharya, an old RSS hand now in exile from the BJP and the Sangh mainstream, only said, “Gurumurthy is a very good friend of mine and we have been together in the struggle for ideology. But sadly, he has diverted his attention to politics. I know of a Gurumurthy who would leave the confines of a five-star hotel and sleep with us in a modest one-room house with just a cot and a ceiling fan. He has doubled up as the errand boy for the organisation. However, what propelled him to defend Gadkari on the serious charges of corruption could have political reasons that he alone can explain.”

(This reporter had questioned Gurumurthy about his role a day after anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal exposed Gadkari’s dubious deals. However, at the time, Gurumurthy, who has been shuttling between Gujarat and his hometown Chennai, dodged TEHELKA’s queries and claimed ignorance, saying he was the last person to know anything about the politics of the Parivar. Several days later, he came out with his controversial clean chit for Gadkari, followed by his flip-flops on Twitter.)

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