Vol. XLIII No. 03 January 20, 2019

Disfiguring CBI-Brazen Authoritarian Assault

Sitaram Yechury

THE recent attack on the CBI, once again, reconfirms our understanding of the character of the Modi government. This government is hell-bent to undermine all constitutional institutions in the country. Their autonomy is a hindrance to the attainability of a full fledged ‘hindu rashtra’, (the pernicious fascistic ideological project of the RSS) despite the BJP being in government with a majority of its own. This requires the transformation of the existing secular democratic republic into the RSS vision. Hence, the latest in the series of authoritarian attacks are a part of this larger agenda.

This second assault on CBI’s autonomy became inevitable for PM Modi as Director, Alok Verma was serious in conducting investigations into one of the biggest scams seen in years-Rafale deal. Along with this he had files pertaining to eight important cases which were pointing fingers directly to the prime minister’s office and eventually to the Prime Minister-Modi. There was panic in the government and hence a midnight coup took place at the CBI headquarters sending Alok Verma on leave in the intervening night of October 23 and handing over the charge to M Nageswar Rao, who earlier faced an enquiry over allegations of being pro-RSS.

Once the SC decided that the procedure by which the CBI director was removed was illegal and reinstated Verma, the high powered committee, Prime Minister Modi , Mallikarjun Kharge Leader of Opposition and Justice Sikri, was convened urgently within 48 hours. This was to take a decision, once again, against Verma over CVC enquiry over allegations. CVC inquiry report was based on allegations against Verma by Rakesh Asthana. The high powered committee took the decision to remove Alok Verma despite a strong dissenting note by Kharge. Clearly, the Modi government wishes to control the CBI as a tool to further its political and electoral prospects. At the same time, it wishes to use the CBI to protect itself, exonerate their cronies and to prevent the exposure of their loot of the country and unlawful activities.

Two former Chief Justices of India, Justice T S Thakur and Justice R M Lodha have termed the decision of the committee headed by PM as violative of principles of natural justice. Justice Thakur commented “……..the point is if you are taking a decision on the basis of a report which is adverse to an individual, then you must share that report with that individual. You cannot act upon the report which is adverse without disclosing the report to him and without giving him an opportunity to present his point of view.”

The high powered committee endorsed (2-1) the CVC K V Chaudhary’s  findings. What is extremely questionable is the way the proceedings were conducted by the CVC. Justice Patnaik who was appointed by the SC to monitor the CVC enquiry in the present case categorically stated “there was no evidence of corruption against Alok Verma and that the decision of the committee was very very hasty”. Further he said that the findings of the CVC report are not his, and, thus, distanced himself.

What does all this point towards? It exhibits extreme panic in the government. The government made all efforts using its strength to cow down an officer and dismantle the institution which was investigating important scams in national interest. Revelations are being reported now that the CVC before the midnight coup at the CBI office, visited Alok Verma on behalf of Rakesh Asthana and asked him to drop the charges against Asthana. He was acting as Modi government’s deal broker instead of being the independent authority monitoring vigilance. There are serious charges of bribery against Asthana who is a special director with the CBI. However the government wanted to protect him for obvious reasons.

Significantly, Rakesh Asthana’s plea before the Delhi High court to vacate ongoing investigations on allegations against him was rejected and the court has directed that the enquiry may be concluded within a timeframe of 10 weeks. Prima Facie, the court has found charges against Rakesh Asthana as serious and that he cannot be exonerated.

These developments have completely exposed the CVC who has acted with the deliberate intention of protecting a corrupt officer. Pressure must be mounted for his removal as his continuation in office is a serious threat to not just the process of delivery of justice but for the institution of CBI as well.

This episode of removal of Alok Verma, once again, exposes the hollowness of the ‘clean government’ narrative of the Modi government. The sheer anxiety over a CBI enquiry into the Rafale deal forced the government to stoop so low to set the established procedure aside and worked in an authoritarian and despotic manner. But the environment that this has created cannot be brushed aside. The country is witnessing events akin to Bofors in the past. People have been raising slogans that the writing on the wall is clear that the “pradahan chowkidar” is a thief himself. He is mortgaging the interests of the country.

There is another serious implication of the scams of this Modi government. Unlike in Bofors where after the kickbacks, the money trail was allegedly visible; in the Modi regime the trail is obfuscated by new diabolic forms of corruption that have emerged by creating an altogether new variety of the money trail. This is the outcome of the changes in law for political funding- ‘electoral bonds’ which were enacted recently. This is done by concealing the identity of the buyer and the beneficiary of these bonds. The sleaze of commission from dubious deals is concealed by simply giving such electoral bonds to ruling class political parties, particularly the ruling party. This is evident from the fact that out of the total bonds purchased, in the first tranche of electoral bonds, more than 95 percent was received by the BJP. It got Rs 210 crore out of Rs 222 crore electoral bonds purchased in the year 2018, as revealed in its accounts submitted to the Election Commission. The CBI could have exposed these sinister methods of political corruption with the needle of suspicion directly pointing at the PM.

The prime minister has been exposed thoroughly in the recent past. The veil of his veneer of an honest administrator has been ripped off by these developments. The ‘Ache Din’ slogan, which the BJP propagated, does not catch the imagination of the people any more. Additionally, the economic hardships mounted on the people have resulted in making it unpopular amongst various sections of the people including the ones that were its enthusiastic supporters. The election results of the five states assemblies has shattered the myth of the electoral invincibility of the BJP.

This Modi government has viciously unleashed a four pronged attack on the people- (a) severity of economic hardships that are making the lives of the people more miserable, (b) communal polarisation and its associated atmosphere of hatred and violence grievously disrupting the unity amongst various sections of the people, (c) promoting the swindling of national wealth by allowing crony capitalists to ‘loot and scoot’ and (d) constitutional institutions deliberately being destroyed. The people are rising in protests over these as seen in the recent kisan, agricultural workers militant struggles. The working class had held a two day nationwide strike with the participation of more than 20 crore workers.  

Many of BJP’s allies have started deserting the NDA. Given this situation, the RSS/BJP will use its entire strength to polarise the people on divisive and communal lines, while simultaneously doing out electoral jumlas. The narrative that the CPI(M) and other Left and democratic forces need to project is “ Na Hindu, Na Musalman-Mazdoor, Kisan, Naujawan” (the issues of workers, peasants and youth should polarise the political atmosphere rather than Hindu-Muslim issues).

This BJP government must be defeated to save India in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.  And on that basis, popular struggles must intensify to change the policy direction toward being pro-people. This is imperative to change India for the better.