Narendra Modi knew he had to take charge, even at the cost of exposing the government’s security flanks.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi won the Seoul Peace Prize for his contribution to “Modinomics” Wednesday, but it got overshadowed by the fratricide in the CBI. He held a Town Hall, also Wednesday, to launch the ‘Main Nahin Hum’ app encouraging IT professionals to donate their services to the country, but the war in the premier investigative agency intervened.
Certainly, the PM has had his hands full. Not only is the CBI at war with itself, but it has dragged the R&AW, India’s external intelligence wing, as well as the Intelligence Bureau, the internal intelligence wing, into this mess. Samant Goel, an additional director in R&AW, was named in ousted CBI director Alok Verma’s FIR, while several men with IB identity cards were found loitering outside Verma’s house Thursday early morning and were picked up by his men.
And so, Modi used the guillotine. He had to take charge. Even if the sacking of the CBI director as well as his deputy Rakesh Asthana shows nervousness and opens him to Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge’s accusation that the government has no constitutional right to take such a step unilaterally, the fact remains that the PM could not have allowed this bloodletting to continue.
More action is expected. The chief of Enforcement Directorate, Karnal Singh, will likely not be given an extension, and replaced by chief commissioner of Income-Tax Sanjay Kumar Mishra. Rajeshwar Singh, joint director in the ED, is also expected to be soon moved out.
Modi will, of course, put out that he is cleansing the rot in the system. But two things are clear here. First, that both Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana were appointed by the Modi government. The latter, an officer of the Gujarat cadre, is said to be close to the Modi-Amit Shah duo.
Meanwhile, it seems that Alok Verma, Karnal Singh and Rajeshwar Singh were working closely – and that all three were, allegedly, being mentored by BJP national executive member Subramanian Swamy.
It is clear that most of these police officers belong to the elite Indian Police Service (Rajeshwar Singh belongs to the UP provisional police service) and have accumulated power because their political masters allowed them to do so. The schism in the CBI is a direct manifestation of the warring political camps in the BJP.
It is no secret that Swamy has been targeting finance minister Arun Jaitley for some time. But even for Swamy to accuse his own partymen of disloyalty and cast his lot with certain key officials in the CBI means that the BJP’s famed discipline is crumbling.
It is rubbish to call the action of CBI Director as infighting. For the past 3 years the infiltration of corrupt Congress touts have polluted CBI to protect PC and other Congi chors. In our own ranks we have traitors helping. Hence Director Verma had done the right thing.
— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) October 25, 2018
The PM had to put an end to the fire otherwise it would have engulfed him as well.
But the truth is that the PM himself has encouraged bureaucrats to wield power, bypassing his political colleagues. He did this in Gujarat and he has done it in Delhi.
The Prime Minister’s Office is so powerful that it practically runs the country. Between principal secretary Nripendra Mishra (who is said to the ‘mai-baap’ of the new ED chief Sanjay Kumar Mishra), additional principal secretary P.K. Mishra (who makes and breaks the appointments of top bureaucrats), secretary to PM Bhaskar Khulbe and national security adviser Ajit Doval, Modi really doesn’t need anyone else.
In fact, when The Hindu recently named “South Block sources” as saying that external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had not taken permission from the PMO before deciding to hold talks with her Pakistani counterpart – a serious charge, if there was one – the ministry of external affairs (MEA) responded with stony silence.
The MEA and the PMO are both housed in a building known as South Block.
Certainly, this was an effort to tell Swaraj that she was little more than a flower decoration on the foreign policy table – Swaraj did the right thing by ignoring the charge. But the fact remains that one of Modi’s senior-most aides in “South Block” actually thinks he can chastise India’s foreign minister and get away with it.
With the CBI war coming in the wake of MEA junior minister M.J. Akbar being forced to resign on charges of sexual harassment, Modi had to move to dispel the impression that things were falling apart.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is now baying for blood. All the gloves are off. The political season has well and truly begun.
Modi has entered the toughest fight of his life and he knows it.
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