Misuse of Central agencies to trap opposition leaders

With the central agencies like Central Bureau of Investigation, Income Tex and Enforce Department unleashing a reign of terror among the leaders of the opposition parties, the BJP led National Democratic Alliance government seems determined to break a broad-based opposition unity that has emerged fearing an electoral setback ahead of general elections to be held few months from now.

However, the government while refuting opposition allegations defended the actions of the central agencies saying there has been greater coordination among the law enforcement agencies in tackling issue of corruption. The recent activities of the central agencies in the aftermath of coming together of all political parties averse to the BJP seems to have rattled the ruling BJP led combine because a unity among the opposition will create problems for Modi government. The number of cases of corruption against the leaders of opposition parties since the BJP came to power at the centre is increasing by the day and some of the cases even involving prominent opposition leaders including three opposition parties heads, two serving opposition chief ministers and former union ministers. The cases are being filled few months before polls.

The central investigating agencies which hardly took any action during the last four and half years have suddenly swung into action have and began raiding the premises of opposition leaders forcing at least two chief ministers of opposition ruled states Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal to put a ban on the entry of CBI sleuths in their respective states without prior permission. The latest incident that has put the chief minister of West Bengal in a war path with the centre is the event in which CBI officials landed at the premises of police commissioner of Kolkata to conduct raids on Ponzi scam. The state police raised objection and did not allow them to enter into his house in absence of any search warrant. The chief minister Mamata Banerjee who came to the rescue of the police commissioner sat on a dharna in protest against the centre accusing it of misusing the agencies to intimidate and terrorise opposition leaders. The matter took a serious political turn when Ms Banerjee received widespread support from opposition leaders ranging from Congress to SP, BSP and TDP.

“The centre government is misusing central agencies like CBI and Enforcement Department to settle political scores, leading to an atmosphere of distrust, fear and terror in the country. The (agencies) are not instruments to be abused by the government for targeted political vendetta. The agencies are trying to extract confessions of corruption,” said Anand Sharma, a senior Congress law maker.

In the recent past the CBI and ED had conducted raids on the premises of some to top opposition leaders including Akhilesh Yadav, P Chidambaram, Arvind Kejriwal, Bhupendra Singh Huda, Virbhadra Singh, Mayawati and Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. However, even after raiding several places and properties belonging to the opposition leaders, the central agencies have not yet come out with any credible evidence that could prove in the court of law that leaders of the opposition parties were deeply involved in acts of corruption. Interestingly, the CBI tried to conduct raids on the premises of police commissioner of Kolkata on the same chit fund fraud case whose two main accused Mukul Roy and Hemanta Biswa Sharma are now two important leaders of the BJP. They have been let off after joining the BJP.

The major cases of corruption against the opposition leaders that CBI and ED have been probing included disproportionate asset case against former and current Congress presidents Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi respectively, similar cases against SP supremo Akhilesh Yadav, his father Mulayam Singh Yadav, BSP chief Mayawati, the coal block allocation case against former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi, land scandal case against Robert Vadra and former Haryana chief minister Bhupindra Singh Huda and some of the top leaders of DMK. The cases of corruption against DMK leaders were referred to the CBI after its working president MK Stalin announced that his party would continue to stick to its alliance with the Congress. His declaration that he wants to see Rahul Gandhi as the next prime minister has further created problems for DMK leaders.

 “Where was this government in the last four-and-a-half years? This (CBI) action comes at a time when elections are approaching. They (BJP) are trying to prevent an alliance so it may not cause BJP’s defeat in the polls. He is being intimidated so he does not forge an alliance  The government is misusing probe agencies to target opposition leaders in an effort to stall an alliance ahead of the 2019 polls. The CBI’s action against Akhilesh Yadav is a clear case of political vendetta,” said Ghulam Nabi Azad, a senior Congress leader and leader opposition in Rajya Sabha.

The prestige and integrity of India’s premier investigating agency CBI has not hit so low as it is now. The agency is not only fighting a war within but also has succumbed to the pressure of the government. The recent actions clearly indicate that the agency has been working as a stooge of the central government particularly the Prime Minister Modi. The appointment of former Director General of Police of Madhya Pradesh Rishi Kumar Shukla as the new chief of the agency had raised some hope that under him the agency might regain its lost glory, but such a hope seems elusive as he is considered to be a close aide to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

Notwithstanding all these shortcomings and political machinations one should not carry bitterness and rivalries of politics into the domain of police and civil administration in the country. Undoubtedly, the CBI has been often misused by the successive governments in the power at the centre. But that is no reason to emasculate it by arbitrary and impulsive prohibitions against undertaking search operation in the opposition ruled states. Such a situation will create an atmosphere of mistrust between the states and the centre. The political class of the country should put their heads together and evolve an amicable solution. A via-media ought to be found to immediately put an end to situation that could lead to an anarchic situation in the country.

(Kushal Jeena)