According to Islamist traditions, when a Caliphate is announced, all adherents of the religion are expected to immediately give their baya’a (pledge of allegiance) to the new leader.
A similar principle, our political traditions tell us, guides the CBI, which is expected to immediately offer an unspoken baya’a to the party that forms the government at the Centre. The agency, as the Supreme Court rightly pointed out, behaves like a caged parrot that sometimes turns into a hunting hound for its political masters.
Those who are singing paeans to the CBI’s neutrality after the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal’s principal secretary Rajendra Kumar should cast their memory back to Narendra Modi’s Mann Ki Baat in July 2010. That July morning, Modi was in Delhi. Just a few hours ago, the CBI had booked Modi’s trusted lieutenant Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin encounter case, forcing the then Gujarat CM to seek his minister’s resignation. What Modi said about the CBI sounds like an echo of Kejriwalspeak: “Today, CBI has thousands of cases that are pending, so why is Gujarat given the priority? This shows that there is politics behind it."
Another rule of thumb of the Indian justice system is that whatever the CBI touches often turns to mud. Writing for Firstpost, Bikram Vohra argues that (Kejriwal) should accept that “the CBI would tread very carefully before making an arrest that could backfire so badly as to place the whole investigative agency on the carpet. If one recalls this gentleman was raided last year. So, someone has been building a case brick by brick till there was enough to haul him in.”
Unfortunately, the CBI has a proven track record of acting in haste and slipping badly on cases it is expected to build brick by brick. Remember Shah’s arrest, LK Advani’s Jain Hawala ordeal, the accusation against Rajasthan home minister Gulab Chand Kataria of being complicit in Sohrabuddin’s fake encounter, the probe into Bofors kickbacks? Remember the mud on its face after the botched investigation in Aarushi Talwar’s murder?
Almost a year ago, the CBI started investigating the Vyapam scam of Madhya Pradesh, which had led to more than a dozen deaths in suspicious circumstances and involved a multi-level gang of brokers and politicians, including ministers in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, who rigged entrance exams and recruitment tests in the state. So far, the agency has not made a single arrest in the scam or blown the cover off a single perpetrator.
If the CBI has not been able to make any progress — it won’t till it is bound by its current baya’a — in a case with so many smoking guns, only the naïve should be hopeful of the agency taking the case against Kumar to a logical conclusion. But, serving the cause of justice has seldom been the rationale behind the CBI’s enthusiasm. Since the Congress perfected the art of using it to arm twist rivals, it has often served the limited purpose of blackmail and coercion. And, it seems to be acting out that script again.
According to NDTV, Kumar has been accused of favouring Endeavour — a front company he had set up — providing work contracts without tenders to the tune of Rs 50 crore at a huge loss to the Delhi government between 2007 and 2015. In the process, the agency claimed, the two bureaucrats (the other accused is Ashok Kumar) had taken undue benefits to the tune of Rs 3 crore.
It is for the courts to go into the merits of the case against Kumar. But something doesn’t really add up here. In February, a special CBI court had sent a reference to the Delhi High Court for initiating contempt proceedings against officials investigating the case against Kumar. The court said the CBI had flouted norms with impunity, misled the court in its replies and was ambiguous in its probe against Kumar. Earlier this month, the judge who reprimanded the CBI was shunted out. Soon after that Kumar was arrested.
Considering the spree of dubious cases against AAP leaders and officials of the Kejriwal government during the past few weeks, and the hasty action by cops, it is difficult not to agree with what Modi said in 2010: This focus on just one state suggests there is politics behind it.
Kejriwal is in the middle of a feisty campaign in Punjab. Ground reports and surveys suggest he is the front-runner for the job of the state’s CM. It is quite likely and logical that if AAP wins the election, Kejriwal would bequeath Delhi to his deputy Manish Sisodia and take over Punjab. (Why would he let someone else run a state and himself remain the glorified mayor of Delhi?) Simultaneously, his party is making inroads into Goa where elections are due soon. Gujarat is next.
Kumar’s arrest is unlikely to pin down Kejriwal for the simple reason that the case dates back to 2007. Even in the worst-case scenario of Kumar being presumed guilty, Kejriwal can be blamed for trusting a bureaucrat with allegations of a scam in his cupboard. In the current political milieu where rape accused like Nihalchand Meghwal are offered Cabinet posts at the Centre, this is a minor hypocrisy Kejriwal would merrily brazen out.