Is the CBI director Ranjit Sinha, who exposed the latest low in the UPA government’s never-ending saga of corruption and impropriety, a hero or an opportunist who wanted to protect himself?
Unarguably, more than the Congress it must have been the BJP that was stunned by Ranjit Sinha’s historic deposition before the Supreme Court because it was the BJP that fought his appointment tooth and nail. Ironically, the same man has given them their biggest handle of the season against the UPA.
For a moment, Sinha indeed looked like a hero - a late arrival of moral rectitude in one of the most misused central government organisations. He looked as if he was taking on the UPA government in what appeared to be the beginning of an unprecedented cleansing. It was based on his deposition that the Supreme Court has said that it wanted the CBI to be relieved of the control of the government.
But wait a minute.
Isn’t he the same guy against whom Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitely wrote to the government, asking for the cancellation of his appointment? The same man that the BJP was unhappy about when he was picked as the Director General of ITBP?
Isn’t he the same guy against whom the Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar went to the Central Administrative Tribunal? Isn’t he the same guy who was at the centre of intense political lobbying at the time of the CBI director’s appointment?
Does it mean that he is a changed man now?
The developments later in the day on Monday showed that he hasn’t changed much and that he was not even an accidental hero.
Clarifying on the alleged meddling by the political executive, he said that the CBI was part of the government and that it was not autonomous, indicating that there was nothing wrong in the government previewing or vetting its reports. It was a de-facto admission that his apparent betrayal of political masters in court was out of sheer personal necessity.
A statement from the organisation made his (or the government’s?) intentions clearer. It said that the CBI was part of a system and needed to consult and take opinion on certain occasions. It was not surprising that this was the language that the government also pursued since its machinations were exposed in the court.
So, Ranjit Sinha is back where he belongs - in the happy company of his political masters. It can be surmised with reasonable probability that he would now speak the same language of Salman Khurshid, Manish Tiwari or any big leader of the Congress. The disclosure in the court was a minor blip of a 59-year-old officer, who is still unsure of his independence despite a firm two year tenure of office.
Ranjit Sinha’s past doesn’t tell us anything dramatically different either.
Remember Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rs 1000 crore fodder scam in which non-existing fodder was bought and transported in non-existent vehicles for non-existent cattle? The man who had allegedly botched up the investigation was Sinha. He had apparently submitted a “truncated and sketchy” investigation report to the Patna High Court.
The then CBI Joint Director UN Biswas, who was heading the investigation, had told the Patna High Court that the report submitted to the Court was not the original, but the one assembled by Sinha, who then was his deputy in the investigation.
In 2001, the leader of opposition in Bihar Assembly Sushil Kumar Modi alleged that Lalu had posted Sinha as an officer on special duty (OSD) in Bihar Bhawan in Delhi, after his exit from the CBI, to peddle influence in the cases against him. He recalled that it was Sinha who said no case could be made out against Lalu, an argument that was rejected by the Attorney General.
Modi had also alleged that Sinha had been indicted by the Accountant General for irregularities while he was the Superintendent of Police in Saharsa.
The Lalu and fodder scam connection was useful to Sinha later in his career. When Lalu became the railway minister, he appointed him as the Director General (DG) of Railway Protection Force, keeping the post vacant till Sinha was elevated to a DG level officer. When Mamata Banerjee got the railway ministry, she sent him out, but still Sinha landed a good job as the DG of ITBP, showing that he was still in the good books of the UPA.
The UPA would have certainly spotted a glint in Sinha’s fodder taint when it chose to ignore the written demand by the BJP leaders not to appoint him as the CBI director. Besides Lalu, apparently he also had the support of a few more politicians from Bihar.
And guess what, it was the Appointments Committee of Cabinet headed by none other than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Congress’ mascot of honest and integrity, which cleared his name.
There is an interesting sentence in Sinha’s statement after taking over as the CBI director: "I could see farther only because I stood on the shoulders of giants."
No marks for guessing who these giants are.
Updated Date: May 01, 2013 16:38 PM