Essar Emails Suggest Pressure From Pranab Mukherjee To Hire Family And Friends

12/06/2015 3:55 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Indian President Pranab Mukherjee listens to his Belarus' counterpart during a signing ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Minsk on June 3, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI GAPON (Photo credit should read SERGEI GAPON/AFP/Getty Images)

Leaked email exchanges between executives of the Essar Group, reported this week by Caravan magazine, suggest that Pranab Mukherjee used his position as the president of India, and as finance minister in 2011, to get his family and friends placed at the conglomerate.

These internal emails, first published in The Caravan magazine, deal with the placements of Suchismita Mukherjee, the president's granddaughter, Avijit Banerjee, his friend’s son, and Santosh Reddy, the son of a spiritual guru.

The emails in Reddy’s case were sent in November 2011 when Mukherjee was finance minister. “CV of Santosh Reddy was given to me by a very senior politician”….“This is an important one for us as the concerned senior has again checked with me today about the status of his case. Please do the needful,” Sunil Bajaj, corporate relations director of Essar Services India Limited (ESIL), wrote to his colleagues.

essar letter

Email sent by ESIL official Sunil Bajaj in November 2011, published in The Caravan magazine.

In May 2012, Bajaj wrote that Mukherjee had “shown his annoyance that Mr. Reddy had not been recruited so far.” “I request you to kindly approve so I can send a copy of the appointment letter for FM’s reference," the email said.

Santosh Reddy is the son of NB Reddy, a spiritual guru at the Shambhulingeshwara temple situated in Bidar in Karnataka, who meets Mukherjee regularly in Delhi, Caravan reported.

A former employee of Essar had turned whistleblower earlier this year, leaking a tranche of sensitive emails from the diversified conglomerate. The fallout of that scandal had claimed the scalps of some journalists, although the politicians involved dug in their heels.

It's unclear if these emails are from the same leak. HuffPost has not independently verified the authenticity of these emails.

In Banerjee’s case, Bajaj sent an email in September 2012, which said, “Attached is the CV of Mr. Avijit Banerjee strongly recommended by Hon’ble President Pranab Mukherjee… Hon’ble President has desired to place him in Kolkata.” In 2012, Bajaj sent another email, which said, “I once again request the same as I am having constant pressure from Hon’ble President.”

essar letter

Email sent by ESIL official Sunil Bajaj in September 2012, published in The Caravan magazine.

This week, Banerjee told The Caravan that “He (Pranab Mukherjee) is my father’s friend.” He added that it was “based on his (Mukherjee’s) recommendation that I got the job in 2013.”

Then, in September 2013, Bajaj, Adil Malia, group president for Human Resources for ESIL, and Lynne Sampson, an HR manager with Essar Oil in London, exchanged emails about the placement of the president’s granddaughter, Suchismita, as an intern or a full-time employee with the company in the United Kingdom.

On Sept. 26, 2013, Pradeep Gupta, private secretary to Mukherjee, sent a blank email from his official account to his own personal account, the magazine reported. The email only had an attachment of a passport that belonged to the president’s granddaughter, who was 25-years-old at the time. Gupta forwarded this email to Alok Chauhan, a corporate affairs executive at ESIL.

essar emails

Email sent by Pradeep Gupta, private secretary to Mukherjee, published in The Caravan magazine.

On Oct. 3, 2013, Bajaj wrote, “In reference to self explanatory trailing mails request you to arrange the appointment letter for Ms. Suchismita Mukherjee as an intern and advise us pertaining procedures and formalities to be completed from her end so we should coordinate for the same accordingly.” He had also attached a copy of Mukherjee’s passport.

Essar told The Caravan that these three individuals "were appointed after following the internal selection procedure. Therefore, our decision to appoint them was not influenced by any extraneous consideration.” The President’s office did not comment.

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