In the past four years, nobody in the ruling NDA has even raised the topic of an independent CBI.
The recent CBI versus CBI fracas—which ended with Alok Verma’s ouster as director of the premier investigation agency—unfolded like a political thriller that would put to shame the best-selling fiction of the Ludlums and the le Carrés.
One should not be surprised if Verma is urged to write a candid, tell-all autobiography (or biography) by publishers. Of course, it would not be called An Accidental CBI Director, because neither his first appointment, nor his being sent on leave and returning as CBI chief only to be removed immediately after, was an accident. Every decision was part of an evolving plot, yet not even the scriptwriters are sure how it will go from here.
Because from the Prime Minister to the Supreme Court, from the CBI director (whoever is in office) to RAW, and from the Central Vigilance Commission to the media, every entity is pretending to be more ethical than the rest.
The fact is nobody is above board in this naked game of power.
Indeed, as the Bible says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” The tragedy is we saw that nobody even bothered to wear sheep’s clothing this time.
The Intelligence Bureau and the National Investigation Agency have had their credibility questioned a long time ago. With the CBI imploding, it has now shattered the illusion that most people had about the cloak-and-dagger operations of the premier investigation agency.
Every time there is a murder or a massive financial scam, a grand robbery or a rape, there is clamour for a CBI inquiry. But it has become clear now how naïve our belief in the institution is.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) used to be at the forefront of demands for an independent and autonomous CBI.
In 2011, most political experts and the media were mesmerised by the so-called anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare. And there was a chorus seeking to liberate the ‘caged parrot’ with ‘India Against Corruption’.
The frenzy generated by the Anna movement had convinced a large number of people, including the self-styled intellectuals, that a ‘corruption-free India’ was synonymous with ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’!
In the past four years, nobody in the ruling NDA has even raised the topic of an independent CBI, nor has anyone ever spoken about the ‘Jan Lokpal’, which was meant to cure the country of the disease of corruption.
Anna and his ‘revolutionary’ followers are perceptibly silent and the parrot is already dead.
The internal conflict in the CBI is so bizarre that it is seems almost impossible to rebuild the institution. It appears the judiciary, which was expected to restore the balance, too has succumbed to the powers that be.
The cabal led by Narendra Modi, not only does not want an independent CBI, it also does not want any institution to be autonomous.
He would prefer the investigating agency to be in the Prime Minister’s Office, as a department reporting directly to him. Given his style and approach, he would like to have the judiciary, the election commission, the Reserve Bank, et al too in the PMO.
He may want the Jawaharlal Nehru University to be renamed Deendayal Upadhyay University and prefer to rename what was the former Planning Commission (NITI Aayog) to Atal Yojana!
He has come to believe that he has been elected to be a Prime Minister for a lifetime like Chinese President Xi Jinping. Listen to his speech at the BJP Maha-Adhiveshan — any sane individual will either be embarrassed or outraged.
He would not utter a word about the ‘grand success’ of demonetisation, about jobs, not even mention India joining the Security Council with the US and Russia’s support. Neither would he refer to lynching or growing communalism explicitly, nor speak about the economic reforms he had promised the corporate class and the right wingers and not even discuss education or culture.
And yet, it is said that he has huge support among the middle class, the urban intelligentsia, the Non-Resident Indian community, the Hindutva lobbies as well as the diplomatic community. He appears convinced that once he jails Sonia and Rahul and liberates India from the ghost of Nehru, there would be universal salvation, even before Universal Basic Income!
The Alok Verma episode will not vanish into thin air. Nor will Urjit Patel’s resignation or the decline of the RBI. Even the Rafale controversy will remain in the domain, whatever the court’s judgments.
The so-called 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker upper castes has become yet another pipe dream. There is not enough foreign investment and ‘swadeshi’ capital is shrinking.
Vast armies of unemployed citizens are roaming the streets, and anti-social elements threaten to cause social chaos.
The shine of the Modi promise of 2014 has gone, but the sound of it reverberates. The 2019 Lok Sabha elections will prove how far the sound has overwhelmed the shine.
Kumar Ketkar is a former editor and Congress member of Rajya Sabha.