CBI under a cloud
CBI’s crackdown on Kolkata’s Police Commissioner smears the institution’s integrity which is ideally devoid of political motivation
Kolkata's famous Esplanade had suddenly become the focus of the entire country as Mamata Banerjee sat on a dharna, alleging that a coup is being attempted by the Centre to impose President's rule, and over a score of opposition parties came out to lend her support. While the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh described it as a constitutional breakdown in Bengal, Ravi Shankar Prasad defended the CBI action purely as a process of law in a case of corruption which is being obstructed by the state government. Prasad further charged the opposition political conglomerate as a cobbling of the corrupt. Is it a constitutional breakdown? Is it a natural legal process? Or, is it a pot calling a kettle black when the elections are in the offing?
A posse of over 40 CBI personnel swooping on the residence of the Commissioner of Police of Kolkata on a quiet Sunday evening raises eyebrows. If it is only to question him in the Saradha and Rose Valley scams that are under investigation with them after the SC had ordered it, CBI does not need such a large number of personnel. If at all the politically-connected officer had not been responding to their summons under Sec 160 of CrPC, there are alternative ways to avoid the spectacle of a drama by reporting such non-response to the concerned courts, which have adequate means and powers to handle such a situation (this is what has now happened in the Supreme Court). If it is acting on its own, the CBI would have normally followed this course. But, the present action implies a pressure being exerted on the institution. More doubts arise because Mukul Roy, who was allegedly the pivot in these scams, has become an honourable man to the BJP since he joined them. Why this selective amnesia? Moreover, when the case has been under investigation for years, such a precipitate action could have easily waited for another few months, especially since elections are around the corner. But, the Centre and CBI have chosen this time. Why?
Ending with a bloody nose in Karnataka, the balloon of invincibility surrounding the Modi-Shah duo was punctured in the Hindi belt and Asom Gana Parishad soon began playing its cards to the detriment of BJP. Now, in the forthcoming elections, willy-nilly the BJP wants to win over Bengalis. But their efforts to have a rath yatra across West Bengal have been thwarted by the state government with the reason of public order. And, it has been upheld by the Supreme Court. On the other hand, the huge opposition rally organised by Banerjee in Kolkata has caught the attention of the entire country. Further, since the powers of CBI have been withdrawn by the state government to register and investigate cases in West Bengal, it seems, efforts are being made to use an old case to gain political mileage. Then, who has created this constitutional breakdown, if at all there is any?
Even then, let us presume for a moment that the Modi government is impartial in its actions when it comes to cases of corruption. It has to then answer why the investigations in the huge Rs 50,000 crore fraud of Krishna-Godavari gas basin, involving Mukesh Ambani, have been thwarted from the time the Kejriwal government registered it five years ago. In this case, when the CBI did not take cognizance of the complaint against five distinguished people in the country, the AAP government got it registered by its ACB and the investigations began in right earnest. But, promptly, ACB was usurped from the state government and placed under the Viceroy of the Centre, the Lieutenant Governor. However, not an inch of progress has been made so far. Initially, Najeeb Jung, a known Ambani man, and then Anil Baijal, BJP's marksman in Delhi, have taken care of the Ambanis so far. Although the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court has clearly ordered that an LG cannot usurp the powers of an elected government, legalese is still being used to restore the powers of ACB and Services Department to the state government. A division bench of the Supreme Court that has heard the matter further is now close to delivering its judgement. If at all Mukhesh Ambani and others are innocent, they should have been cleared with impartial investigations. But, such a huge fraud is not important to the government when compared to those of its political opponents!
BJP leaders describe Modi as a fakir who has no vested interests. The country would have celebrated this if his actions matched his image. But, for all the nine long years he was CM of Gujarat, the institution of Lokayukta had been closed down and, for the past five years as PM, the office of Lokpal has not even been opened. Self-proclaimed honesty is not what impresses people of this country. His soft-corner for the Ambanis has become too evident. While Mukesh Ambani's matter is still awaiting the apex court's judgement, BJP is yet to honourably wriggle out of the Rafale deal issue worth thousands of crores that involves Anil Ambani. At this juncture, can it be a coincidence that Anil Ambani has claimed insolvency of about Rs 50,000 crore? Who will bear the burden? People? Why? And, why the soft-corner for these people? The allegations of EVM tampering by the Anil Ambani group to help Modi assume power in 2014 are flying thick and high. Does it mean that there is some truth in this allegation? The country is left puzzled and confused.
There is one more reason why Modi's image is waning. BJP came to power by creating illusions based on several blatant lies, as admitted by its own leaders, like Rs 15 lakh would be deposited in the account of each citizen. Now, close to the elections, several sops are being announced. How many of them are again illusions?
Yes, the country knows that leaders of parties trying to cobble together to come to power are no saints. For long, some of them have been facing corruption charges. Animal husbandry, Taj corridor, DA cases, etc., are only a few examples. Some have been convicted and some have managed to escape the net. In the KG basin fraud, some big-wigs of Congress are also involved. Is it for this reason that the party is silent about this fraud, afraid of pursuing it? The new so-called voice of India, Rahul Gandhi, who is ferociously shouting against the Rafale deal and corruption, has to answer. Is it without any fire that smoke has come out in the National Herald matter? He also has to answer how the Lokpal Bill was diluted by his party government along with BJP and other parties in place of an autonomous body demanded by Anna Hazare, Kejriwal and others on behalf of the country. The problem is that the integrity of opposition leaders is also very suspect.
In Andhra Pradesh, Naidu, who was a BJP saint for four years, has suddenly turned a foe. He speaks extensively against the special status but is dead silent about the large-scale corruption pervasive across his own state – involving land, sand, mining, liquor mafias. etc. He did not even get an enquiry conducted when the tribal people of Araku valley raised their voice against the corruption of the local MLA and ex-MLA and illegal mining of black stone that was causing pollution and damage to their crops. But, when the Naxalites felled them down, Naidu promptly accommodated their kin in his Cabinet and government jobs. Had he followed this gesture after a thorough enquiry into the allegations, people would have loved him. But, his action only confirms his patronage of the corrupt. The Five Star Novotel Hotel at Vizag, which has been under a cloud for illegal construction, instead of being demolished is being patronised by his government; all senior functionaries stay here instead of staying in the government circuit house, that too when the state is reeling under a serious financial crunch. Such is the integrity of this chief minister who is trying to lead the cause of protecting democracy as if he is championing the cause of ethics in the country.
Yes, there are still some leaders for whom integrity is all-important, like the ex-CM of Tripura. Despite the Narada and Saradha scams, the personal image of Mamata has still not been sullied. Even in the case of Arvind Kejriwal, BJP has tried its best in the past five years to smear him with dirt, but without any success. It is hoped, if the Supreme Court mandate gives the ACB back to the state government, he would at least set an example for the country by creating an autonomous Jan Lokpal for Delhi, as he has promised.
Unfortunately, the more we look into the facades and interiors of leaders, parties and their false promises to the electorate, the more we are disillusioned. We have to only reconcile to the best among the worst. For this, we need a level playing field in the upcoming elections. The scene created by the BJP at Kolkata is only an unwelcome action that disturbs this requirement.
(The author is a retired IPS officer and former member of Public Grievances Commission, Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)