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The Gujarat division of CBI

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An extraordinary push to appoint officers with a ‘Gujarat connect’ has turned the country’s premier investigative agency into a messy, divided house.

The irresistible urge to use the Central Bureau of Investigation for political ends has plunged the country’s premier ‘independent’ investigative agency into a serious institutional crisis, triggered this time by a competing desire to nurse the ‘Gujarat connect’.

The discreet subtlety that often went into the political management of the CBI is now a thing of the past. It has given way to an open show of strength, leaving the agency a divided house with its top two officials arraigned against each other.

So, how did matters reach here? The extraordinary push to appoint officers with a ‘Gujarat connect’ into the CBI seems to be at the root of the problem.

The appointment of Y.C. Modi, who was part of the SC-monitored Gujarat riots Special Investigation Team that exonerated Narendra Modi, as head of the National Investigation Agency, is a clear indicator of this trend. Y.C. Modi, incidentally, moved to the NIA from the CBI, fast emerging as a political incubator for investigators.

The larger mess, however, is best represented in the case of Rakesh Asthana, a high-profile Gujarat cadre officer who was recently promoted as special director. Asthana had probed the burning of the Sabarmati Express in Godhra and had as a Superintendent of Police in CBI arrested Lalu Prasad Yadav in the fodder scam in 1997.

But the problem for him is that his name has allegedly figured in the infamous ‘2011 diary’ recovered in the IT raids of the Sandesara Group which owns Sterling Biotech. The political belief is that this case may lead to Congress bigwig Ahmed Patel and his family, a notion reportedly strengthened by the arrest of Delhi-based businessman Gagan Dhawan in the case, who is said to be known to Patel.

This is a politically critical case for the BJP, which is now soured by the Asthana twist bared, incidentally, by none other than CBI Director Alok Verma himself. He is believed to have officially pointed out the alleged noting of Asthana’s name in the 2011 diary maintained by the Sandesara brothers, when his name was placed before the CVC-led committee for promotion to CBI special director.

Now, Asthana has been the government’s favoured candidate for the top job and was even made director for a few months in 2016 until the Congress raised a storm, especially on the government overlooking other senior batches. And given that the leader of opposition is now part of the selection process of the CBI Director, Asthana’s name had to be dropped. A fresh panel of officers from senior batches was created, which is how Verma got a shot at the post and eventually made it to the top.

But Verma finishes his term in January 2019, which is when it’s widely expected that Asthana would take over – just before the general elections. The Sandesara-Sterling twist is a threat to this roadmap, something that senior advocate Prashant Bhushan has latched on to in challenging Asthana’s promotion in the SC despite a point of order raised by the CBI director in the committee.

Why would the CBI director want to take on Asthana? This brings to fore another Gujarat cadre officer, A.K. Sharma, who is a joint director in the CBI and was IG (Intelligence) in Gujarat during the sensitive Mansi Soni ‘snoopgate’ incident.

Sharma, it appears has found favour with Verma, who made him both the Joint Director (policy) as well as in-charge of the anti-corruption headquarters, the wing which oversees high-profile cases. These are the two most vital posts within the agency and are usually never rolled into one. But it was done for Sharma, who has emerged quite powerful within the system, providing the present CBI director his very own Gujarat connect.

Then again, in the few months that Asthana was CBI director he created a Special Investigation Team under him for a unique set of quick delivery cases. These included the Vijay Mallya probe, Agusta probe, corruption case against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and the politically sensitive Rajasthan ambulance scam case, among others.

This SIT remains with Asthana, making him an important power centre within the agency. The other side got one better when they moved on Lalu Prasad, apparently without his knowledge, in the railways hotel sale case in July, which sparked the break-up between Nitish Kumar and Lalu.

Much as all this may sound like police politics, they have a significant bearing on the political management of the opposition. The brazen competitiveness within the CBI to show performance on this front is eroding the very institutional credibility on which this turf war is being fought.

And that’s been an unfortunate pattern with the CBI, an agency which has two of its UPA time directors under probe while the current ones strive for political attention. The stench, and there’s ample evidence of it, is enough to demand a drastic overhaul. But then, the political potency of the ‘Gujarat connect’ outweighs all such considerations for the moment, leaving the CBI a broken institution, but a political strong arm.

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  1. As Gandhi said”Gutter Reports”deserve little attention,even though featuring in a journal(political biased/aligned or maligned).
    As an insider,let me inform the readers that the author is making a fool of himself by casting aspersions and creating rifts when the same din’t exist.

  2. Media packs itself with clannish coteries – Bongs and Mallus. And then there’s the topmost guy who can’t think beyond Gujarat. Do you think these men are insecure or incapable of working with people from other states? Doesn’t it limit their intellect and generally make them very narrow people? Also their English is poor as a result as they go on jabbering in their mother tongues

  3. Now this officer Asthana is a very Honest and sincere person and has amazing capabilities,his IQ is superbbbbb and we should respect the decision of what the BJP Govt has taken.He had also served as the organisation’s interim chief for a month, before Verma took over as CBI director.The 1984-batch Gujarat cadre officer has been serving the Nation in His various position and earlier had also served as on officer in the CBI.
    We are proud of him and appreciate the Govt Decision.

  4. Such expose about the country’s premier investigating agency CBI leaves a common Indian citizen like us to wonder where to obtain unbiased justice???? Where are our constitutional Institutions???? They are all being eroded by politics with no morale strength to function independently without influence. Of late we see the Judiciary shaking and the Higher leadership in the Armed Forces are getting affected by political bias. Media is not far away too from succumbing to allurement and pressure. Thank you for warning us for the misery that is stored for us in near future.


  6. PDS ought know his name sakes are in jail of Odisha for inhuman crimes.He cant show more loyalty to Italian Mafia by his hatred for MODI as PM.He has shown to his madam that he is a loyal stooge journo of Italian Mafia.He ought know how his madam Sonia Gandhi killed one brilliant IPS officer of Odisha cadre posted in CBI as DIG who was investigating 2G scam and AIRCELL scam with PCs son and DMK chiefs nephew.Its prerogative of PM to appoint his loyal man in such high posts to keep him abreast with all info and save him from any sabotages.Loyal Bureaucrats is need of the Ministry.If MODI found them trusted loyal he appointed them in strategic posts.But MODI knows them as honest and intelligent.They did not succumbed to the pressures put on them by Sonia Mafia in power for 10 long years. It is a matter of discussion among all supporters of MODI why he is not persecuting the corrupt ministers in Sonia Gandhi’s govt.I call it Sonia Gandhi’s govt as MMS was a DeJure PM and Sonia Gandhi was Defacto PM.PDS may be his loyalty with the italan mafia as his brothesr are loyal to her and now in Jail of Odisha for their mafia don works.

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