Pando

Pierre Omidyar's man in India is named to Modi's cabinet

By Mark Ames , written on November 9, 2014

From The News Desk

A longtime senior executive in eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar’s global impact fund, Jayant Sinha, has been appointed to Indian ultranationalist leader Narendra Modi's council of ministers.

[Update: Sinha's new position has been clarified—he's now India's junior finance minister, serving under finance minister Arun Jaitley. The longtime Omidyar man is now in position to help draft India's 2015 budget, which Modi has hinted will be "transformational," according to the Hindustan Times.]

In 2009, Sinha established Omidyar Network India Advisors and served as partner and managing director in the First Look Media publisher's impact fund. Sinha also served on Omidyar Network’s five-member global Executive Committee, and steered well over $100 million of Omidyar Network funds into India, making it the most active single-country investment for the $700 million impact fund, the world's largest impact fund. Earlier this year, Sinha stepped down as partner and managing director at Omidyar Network to run for his father’s seat in India’s parliament on the far-right BJP Party ticket.

Sinha's appointment to Modi's cabinet makes him the second high-profile Omidyar figure to rise to power in a right-wing, pro-business government in the last two weeks. In late October, PandoDaily reported that Svitlana Zalishchuk — whose Ukrainian NGO “New Citizen” received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Omidyar and USAID, and took credit for organizing the Maidan revolution — took a seat in Ukraine’s new parliament, on the party ticket of billionaire president Petro Poroshenko. Since coming to power after the February “revolution,” Poroshenko led Ukraine into a bloody and disastrous offensive campaign against Russia-backed separatists in the east of the country, leaving thousands dead. Human Rights Watch has accused Poroshenko of committing potential war crimes by using cluster bombs "indiscriminately in populated areas."

As PandoDaily has been reporting all year, Jayant Sinha—and his boss, Omidyar—have been playing an unusual dual role in Indian politics over the past few years, conflating supposedly philanthropic activities with decidedly political investments that dovetailed with Sinha's party's political campaign when it was out of power.

Some of those Omidyar grants went to for-profit investments, such as Omidyar investments in microfinance firms like SKS Microfinance, which ended disastrously when SKS's aggressive debt collectors were implicated in pushing hundreds of poor villagers into gruesome suicides, by drinking bottles of pesticide, drowning themselves, and other means.

Other Omidyar-Sinha investments went into NGOs whose campaigns dovetailed perfectly with the far-right BJP Party's campaigns when they were in the opposition, particularly by focusing attention on corruption under the previous center-left government that ruled from 2005 through this year. The BJP won this year's election on an anti-corruption backlash; and Omidyar Network bankrolled one of India's most prominent anti-corruption NGO campaigns, "I Paid A Bribe." In 2010, Sinha and Omidyar Network awarded $3 million to an Indian NGO, Janaagraha, to run the “I Paid A Bribe” campaign. A top USAID official, Sarah Mendelsen, described as "spell-binding" a speech about anti-corruption campaigns by Janaagraha's co-founder at a Google event in 2011. Janaagraha had previously worked with the World Bank to privatize Bangalore’s water.

At the same time that Omidyar Network's Sinha invested in anti-corruption campaigns that undermined India's ruling center-left party, Sinha secretly worked on Modi's team to prepare for the 2014 elections. According to two senior BJP Party members, Sinha also “worked in Modi’s team” in 2012 and 2013, undisclosed at the time, while simultaneously heading Omidyar Network and guiding the fund’s global strategy. Sinha also served as a director in the BJP Party’s powerful think-tank, the India Foundation, set up by Ajit Doval, who now heads India’s national intelligence apparatus under Modi.

Another Indian NGO that Sinha and Omidyar Network funded was caught in 2012 illegally influencing members of India’s parliament on the country’s tight e-commerce laws. India’s top security agency at the time denounced the NGO as "detrimental to national security," accused it of providing cover for "foreign" intelligence agencies to infiltrate India's government — and stripped it of its registration.

After that scandal, the co-founder of the beleaguered NGO, CV Mudhakar, was hired by Omidyar to serve as Omidyar Network India’s director of investments in...“government transparency.”

Sinha has for years been pushing India to open its e-commerce markets to foreign investment — which would directly benefit Omidyar, who is still chairman of eBay. After Sinha moved from Omidyar Network to campaigning for Modi in February of this year, Modi suddenly began to parrot Sinha’s and Silicon Valley’s wish-list on opening up India's e-commerce to Silicon Valley. In early June, weeks after Modi and Sinha's election victories, the new Modi government invited representatives from eBay, as well as Amazon and Google, to help rewrite India’s e-commerce laws.

As PandoDaily has been reporting this year, Omidyar and other Silicon Valley titans have been huge supporters of Modi, despite his long history of violent sectarianism — from his role in the semi-fascist R.S.S. paramilitary, to his role overseeing the mass-murders, gang rapes and ethnic cleansings of Muslims under his watch as head of the state of Gujarat. Modi was blacklisted by the US State Department for years over his role in the anti-Muslim violence.

Now, with Omidyar’s former right-hand man in Omidyar Network taking power in Modi’s cabinet of ministers, it’s becoming clear why Obama’s UN Representative Samantha Power praised The Intercept’s publisher for his role as a leading private arm of the US government’s global power.

For more PandoDaily reports on Omidyar Network and Indian politics, read "REVEALED: The head of Omidyar Network in India had a secret second job… Helping elect Narendra Modi"; "Just as we predicted, India’s new leader is about to make Pierre Omidyar a lot richer"; "Now it’s time for Silicon Valley to profit from the new Indian ecommerce laws it helped shape"; "eBay Shrugged: Pierre Omidyar believes there should be no philanthropy without profit".