The war at the top in CBI gives ammunition to opposition parties & rivals and BJP leadership is worried as this hurts Modi’s image.
New Delhi: As the internal war in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) gets murkier and more brazen, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is concerned about how this can ‘dent’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image of being a strong, decisive and in-control leader — a major spoiler ahead of crucial elections.
A section in the party also believes that this will expose internal schisms in the BJP, with some senior leaders waiting to use this ugly fight to train their guns at the so-far powerful Prime Minister.
The CBI’s number 2 officer Rakesh Asthana — who is in the eye of the storm — is perceived to have been close to Modi as well as party president Amit Shah.
Controversial BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy hinted as much with his tweet Tuesday.
“The Gang of Four may presently swear by Namo but their aim is to structure the head ships of key institutions especially CBI ED IT RAW RBI etc by March 2019 to prepare, if BJP gets less than 220 LS seats, to foist a Congi friendly insider patron as PM: Coup d’état in the making (sic),” read Swamy’s tweet.
The Gang of Four may presently swear by Namo but their aim is to structure the head ships of key institutions especially CBI ED IT RAW RBI etc by March 2019 to prepare, if BJP gets less than 220 LS seats, to foist a Congi friendly insider patron as PM: Coup d’état in the making
— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) October 23, 2018
Swamy has been consistently attacking Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as well as some top officials in the PMO. This has been seen as part of jostling within the ruling party ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
The image issue
According to highly placed sources in the BJP, with the CBI war and the infighting between director Alok Verma and special director Asthana increasingly becoming a public spectacle, the party top brass is worried about how Modi’s image, carefully crafted since his chief ministerial days in Gujarat, will take a hit.
While the CBI registered an FIR against Asthana on 15 October for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 3 crore, Asthana wrote to the cabinet secretary and the Central Vigilance Commission alleging corruption by Verma.
In an unprecedented move, the CBI raided its own headquarters Monday.
The ongoing war forced the Prime Minister’s Office to step in, with Modi himself meeting the CBI chief.
“This very open battle between the top two officials of CBI makes it seem like this government is not in control. This reflects directly on the PM, who has always known to be decisive and fully in control,” said the source who did not wish to be identified.
“Our main pitch to voters has, in fact, been to vote on the basis of this image, as against a wobbling opposition. With key elections coming up, we cannot afford to allow this view to emerge and grow,” added the source.
Party leaders also say that given how Modi and the BJP always mocked former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for not being in control, the current CBI war gives opposition parties enough ammunition to accuse Modi of the same.
Moreover, the BJP as well as Modi always slammed the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s handling of the CBI.
In June 2013, Modi had even tweeted, “CBI has become Congress Bureau of Investigation. Nation has no faith in it.”
“The party top brass is now worried about the opposition going to town questioning Modi’s own handling of CBI after he blamed Congress. We also don’t know where this will end and whom will it take down,” said another party leader on condition of anonymity.
“We don’t know to what extent it will tarnish the government’s image,” added the second party leader.
Moreover, while the party leadership may be worried about Modi’s image taking a beating, Prime Minister’s consistent backing of Asthana is also noted.
In October 2017, the Modi government appointed Asthana as special director by promoting him from the rank of additional director despite Verma’s opposition on the grounds that he was under probe in the Sterling Biotech case.
Notably, leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, a part of the three-member selection committee, had also opposed Asthana’s appointment on the ground that he lacks experience.
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