A Gang War
In one of the murkiest happenings in the history of Indian administration, infighting involving two top bosses, has broken out within the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). With allegations and counter-allegations of serious nature flying thick and fast serious damage is made on the image of the country’s premier investigating agency. Both officers, CBI Director Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana have gone public with charges of receiving bribes to settle a case against accused persons. The situation has gone to such a pass that the CBI arrested its Deputy Superintendent of Police Devender Kumar in connection with bribery allegation against Special Director Asthana. In an unprecedented move, the CBI had earlier booked Asthana for allegedly receiving bribes from middlemen to give relief to a businessman being probed by him in a case involving meat exporter Moin Qureshi. The agency had also booked him under charges of criminal conspiracy, corruption and criminal misconduct allegedly for fabricating charges against Verma. The CBI action had come two months after Asthana wrote to Cabinet Secretary on August, alleging that the businessman had paid CBI Director Alok Verma INR 2 crore to get relief in the case. The CBI also issued a statement, saying Asthana is under investigation for his role “in at least half a dozen cases”. All this give the impression of a full-blown gang war. While this development is bound to draw a division within the officials of the already squabble-ridden agency, it has already left the country’s media polarised. While the CBI is supposed to be held in high esteem, in reality it is not well-known to be an independent agency. It has often been accused of being used by successive governments as far as settling political scores are concerned. In the past, Narendra Modi had described the agency as the “Congress Bureau of Investigation”. The Supreme Court had also called the CBI a “caged parrot”. But with the political change taking place in the country, the blame has now shifted to the Bharatiya Janata Party for using CBI to bully the opposition. While Rakesh Asthana was widely believed to be a part of the inner-circle of bureaucrats and officers Prime Minister Narendra Modi always trusted, it is quite intriguing what has prompted his fall from the grace of the Government. The fact that he was assigned with high-profile investigations into the Godhra train fire, the fodder scam, the Agusta helicopter, INX Matrix cases involving former Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s son Karti and the land deal, involving Robert Vadra, Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, proves his trustworthiness to the Government. Interestingly, all these investigations were made issues by the BJP to corner its political rivals. Asthana was also appointed Special Director of CBI despite objection from the agency’s Director. Now the question is, who is telling the truth- Asthana or his superior Verma? Whoever it might be, skeletons, if kept in the CBI cupboards, are bound to tumble out sooner or later. But what has left the corridors of the CBI headquarters stinking is the ugly development which has taken the agency’s name to a lower level and downed the Government’s credibility further for near destruction of the institution.