Meet Jayanti Dharam Teja, the Lalit Modi of the 60's
Voices Friday, June 19, 2015 - 05:30
The recent Sushma Swaraj imbroglio conjures up a sense of deja vu for those who lived through the early and mid 60's . I vividly recall a gentleman by the name of Dr Jayanti Dharam Teja who was never far from the newspaper headlines and a regular feature among the Delhi glitterati of the time. He had a brilliant academic career in nuclear physics and soon relocated to India. He used to assert that the only motivation behind his relocation was his intense desire to serve his homeland. Very soon he became a regular at the Teen Murti Marg residence of the Prime Minister and any social gathering in the capital was unthinkable without him and his wife. In 1961 he set up a shipping company by the name of Jayanti Shipping Corporation. He developed a need to obtain a fiscal loan to realize his dream and applied to the government. Teja had managed to acquire the status of a close confidante of Nehru .The Prime Minister overruled the objections by the civil servants and declared that Teja should be partly supported through the public exchequer. While the exact details are difficult to come by, it is believed that the government went on to release about 20 crores-which may appear chickenfeed today but was an astronomical sum 54 years ago. Teja started placing orders for Japanese ships by paying the first installments on all the purchases. Once he had the initial consignments, he used them as collaterals to acquire more ships. He was soon able to build up an impressive fleet.The country went hysterical in acknowledging and applauding his 'spectacular' achievements. But that was another side to this man which started making many people nervous. He was very fond of European jaunts and people began to legitimately wonder how he was able to acquire expensive properties in nearly all parts of the world. The bubble soon burst. He fell foul of the tax authorities. By this time Nehru had died and while Teja made every effort to get into good books of his successor, he could not succeed in getting his way into the inner sanctorum. He became very close to Indira reportedly presenting her with a mink coat. He fled the country, which some believe was made possible only because he had been accorded unofficial help from senior civil servants. Stories had been circulating about the lavish hospitality Teja and his glamorous wife used to extend to journalists and civil servants. Inder Malhotra, the former TOI editor has admitted that Teja had once sent him a luxury class return air ticket to visit his villa in Nice, France and enjoy the delicious prawn the region was famous for. He claimed that he had returned the tickets. The next we heard of this colourful character was when he was appointed a consultant to the Costa Rica government to help the country with its shipping needs. Interpol nabbed him in London and he was deported back to India where despite his wealth and contacts, he had to spend some time in Tihar Jail. He emerged from his incarceration without any dimunition of his chutzpah and arrogance. He moved back to Geneva where in terms of fiscal wealth, he died a rich man. Teja's profile thus far is remarkably similar to that of the present enfant terrible Lalit Modi, another absconder from the judicial process in India against whom there is a lookout notice and who enjoys political support. The most notable difference however is that while Teja prospered mostly on the goodwill of the Congress Party (the real Congress Party that existed before 1969), Modi seems to have made merry on the kinship with the BJP top brass. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this articles are the personal opinions of the author. The News Minute is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information in this article. The information, facts or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of The News Minute and The News Minute does not assume any liability for the same.