BJP MP Jayant Sinha offers to advise private firm for fee, triggers row


BJP MP Jayant Sinha (PTI)

 

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BJP MP Jayant Sinha’s offer to advise a private firm for an unspecified fee has triggered a question of ‘propriety’ and ‘conflict of interest’ in public life. Sinha heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Finance. According to a report by The Indian Express, Jayant Sinha recently met NRI investor Arminder Singh Sawhney and discussed a project for an entertainment company. Following the meeting, Sinha wrote to B4U Network CEO Ishan Saksena in connection with Tiger Media, a company linked to B4U. In that email, the BJP leader said that he will dedicate significant time to the project. “My goal is to assist Tiger Media in becoming a true champion in the global entertainment industry…My pricing for this project would be Rs XX lakhs per month plus GST. I would bill you at the end of every month,” Sinha was quoted as saying by IE. The BJP leader also told Saksena he could begin work from March 1.

As per the report, Sinha further said that the key objectives of the relationship were to establish a strategic plan for Tiger Media to take advantage of the “disruptive trends roiling the global media and entertainment sector,” and secure financing. Sinha was MoS for Finance from November 2014 to July 2016 and MoS for Civil Aviation from 2016 to 2019. Since September 2019, Sinha has served as head of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Finance.

The IE spoke to Sinha to get his comments on the propriety of such an assignment. Responding to IE, Sinha said that the MPs routinely continue their professions. He said that his profession was that of a management consultant providing strategic inputs through speeches and advisory assignments. To avoid any conflicts, he said, he only accepts advisory assignments dealing with strategic issues outside of India. “I do not do any work for any firms in the financial sector. I also do not undertake any assignments focused on any type of financial transactions,” he told IE.

When pointed out that his letter to Saxena mentions that he will help Tiger Media in “securing sufficient financing at the right terms”, the BJP legislator said that he has known Arminder Singh Sawhney for more than 25 years. “We had initiated preliminary discussions on providing inputs to Tiger Media on its global strategy. No agreement has been finalized and no work has been undertaken so far…all my professional work is fully disclosed to the appropriate tax and regulatory authorities. As is standard professional practice, client matters are confidential,” Sinha said.

Tiger Media group, however, denied any relationship with Sawhney. It also said that the company does not engage any politically affiliated person for any service. A Tiger Media spokesperson, responding on behalf of Saksena, told IE Arminder Singh Sawhney was not an investor in Tiger Media or any of its group entities. “There is no other relationship between our group and him (Sawhney). For ethical and legal reasons our group does not engage any politically affiliated person for seeking any services anywhere in the world. Hence, there is no question of approaching any politically affiliated person for engagement of any nature,” the spokesperson said.

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