Did Chandraswami fund the killing of Rajiv Gandhi?

Author Bhavdeep Kang
was already a notorious name as an inveterate around the globe, but it was back home where he faced far more serious allegations – financing the assassination of a former prime minister! Justice Milap Chand Jain, who probed Rajiv Gandhi’s death, wrote an entire volume on Chandraswami and his suspected role in the affair; politician Dr. Subramanian Swamy, too, figured prominently in Justice Jain’s report. He was then a close friend of the but the two fell out later.

By the time the Jain Commission of Inquiry was set up by Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, the through its SIT, had concluded that the was behind Rajiv Gandhi’s murder, retaliating in anger against India for sending a peace-keeping force to Sri Lanka.

Volume 2 of the Jain Commission report observed, ‘the entire evidence, material and circumstances brought on record into consideration, a doubt does arise regarding Shri Chandraswami’s complicity and involvement.’ The “doubt” arose because investigators found that and held accounts in the failed Bank of Credit and Commmerce International in Pakistan, from which money was transferred to the LTTE through accounts held by its arms procurer, Kumaran Pathmanathan.

The head of Lonrho group, Tiny Rowland, was also suspected of involvement. Drafts worth eleven million dollars were discovered from Chandraswami’s ashram during an income tax raid, allegedly paid by Khashoggi to Rowland on behalf of the godman. Rowland apparently informed Indian revenue officials tapes for his business, whereas it was widely believed that he had laundered money for the swami.

There was other evidence as well. Mahant Seva Dass, a leader belonging to a breakaway group, claimed that the conspiracy to assassinate was hatched in London in 1991, at a meeting of Khalistan, LTTE and militants, proposing that Chandraswami would fund the operation. Jayaram Ranganath, an accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case who harboured the prime mover in the killing – Sivarasan – and his associates claimed in an affidavit – before the – Jain Commission that they were promised safe passage out of India by Chandraswami and were in touch with a senior Congress leader from Karnataka.

In an interview to the news magazine, Outlook, Jayaram
Ranganath said :

“Sivarasan wanted to go abroad directly from Banglore. This was the reason why he came to Banglore. But he said that if he went to he could be killed and that the “Jain Muni” would arrange for his safe passage to a foreign country.”

In the same interview, he also said that the CBI had refused to record his statement and that the, “CBI chief Karthikeyan warned me not to speak anything about the functionary or any other Congress people, and Chandraswami. Karthikeyan seemed to know the facts about the assassination and also the powers behind Rajiv’s killing. He warned me of serious consequences if I gave the information to a magistrate or others. From what he told me it was clear that he was shielding Chandraswami and some key Congress people.”

Meanwhile, the Jain Commission observed that ‘relations of Chandraswami did exist not only with Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao but with and Shri O.P.Chauthala.’ R. Velusami, the then president of the Tamil Nadu unit of the Janata Party, deposed before the Jain Commission that Dr Swamy had checked into the Trident Hotel in Chennai while Chandraswami was lodged at the Sindoori Hotel owned by Apollo Hospitals chairman, Dr Pratap Reddy n 21 may 1991, the day Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. Both, said Velusami, had left for Bangaluru by road and stopped at (the site where Rajiv was killed) before catching a flight to Delhi. Dr Swamy admitted to having travelled abroad with Chandraswami many times and in his defense, said that he “may have” stayed at the same house or hotel.

In the midst of all the drama, a former Union minister and prominent member of Janata Party, Arif Mohammad Khan, added a new twist to the case by claiming that Scotland Yard had evidence of a Mossad operative being offered one million dollars by Chandraswami to carry out the assassination, but the deal had come unstuck. However, Khan’s lead later fizzled out.

It was curious, even ironical, that a Commission set up by P.V. Narasimha Rao’s government should have indicated Chandraswami, given that he was widely regarded as Rao’s Rasputin. The two had met in the early 1970’s, when Rao was chief minister. It was Chandraswami who had picked an auspicious date for Rao’s swearing in as prime minister of India and breezed in and out of the prime ministerial residence for the next five years. He was, after all, the government’s chief power broker and his favor was sought by politicians across the board.

[ Excerpted with permission from “Gurus : Stories of India's Leading Babas” by Bhavdeep Kang, Westland Books, June 2016. Views expressed are writer’s personal ]
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