West Bengal fiasco: Credibility of CBI is the issue and not Mamata vs Modi

Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India Feb 04, 2019, 06.39 PM(IST) Written By: Kartikeya Sharma

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

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For many, it may be a case of constitutional crisis and deteriorating relationship between the Centre and state, but CBI’s credibility and its pending reform lies at heart of the matter.

Credibility Lost

At the heart of CBI’s attempted raid in West Bengal, lies the credibility of the central agency as an institution in India. Indian politicians have failed the institution miserably. CBI continues to derive its power from the Delhi Police Establishment Act of 1946. Today, entire Opposition is crying foul and accusing the present government of misusing CBI. 

In 2012, the then minister of the state in charge of DOPT, Narayan Swami, went on to say that CBI has adequate and functional autonomy and there exists no proposal within the government to grant constitutional status to the investigative agency.

Both Congress and BJP, despite being in government for several years, neither initiated reform within the institution nor pushed for legislative debate to reconceive the legal architecture of the agency. 

This inertia continues despite the fact that Guwahati high court declared CBI unconstitutional on November 7, 2013. The agency, thereafter, had to rush to the Supreme Court to take a stay order on the decision on November 9.

It proves that both Congress and BJP want the makeshift arrangement to stay alive and kicking because it allows them to use the CBI as a 'political weapon'.

This arrangement received further nourishment after the 1989 elections when the era of coalition dawned on Indian politics. The successive governments ended up using CBI to shore up political support by hectoring regional parties with cases of corruption. 

It allowed them to survive with less numbers in Parliament. It is for this reason, even BJP, which enjoys majority in Lok Sabha, did not move an inch to appoint the Lokpal system which UPA 2 had to adopt under duress.

What makes the case of government even weaker is that the Supreme Court itself has passed relevant instructions to the CBI. As per the Supreme Court’s interim order given on July 16, 2018, both state police and CBI were supposed to work in tandem. More so, the court had directed CBI to approach high court in Calcutta in case they faced any obstruction. 

Though Centre did give reminders to the state government on multiple occasion but the relief should have been sought from the relevant court as directed by the Apex Court.

In this case, it becomes very clear as to what direction the Apex Court may head to. For many, it may be a case of constitutional crisis and deteriorating relationship between the Centre and state, but CBI’s credibility and its pending reform lies at heart of the matter.

Regional Chauvinism vs Corruption

There is no doubt that Rose valley and Sharda scams represent underbelly of India’s crony capitalism. It represents the way political parties organise funding for its day-to-day running, and election expenses. 

BJP wants the matter to appear as a campaign against corrupt politicians, whereas TMC wants it to turn into an issue of regional pride and authoritarian assault by Centre against non-BJP state governments.

There is no denying the fact that most of the accused in the scam were closely associated with TMC. It explains TMC’s nervousness in the case and proves that case cannot be hushed forever. 

Regional chauvinism has succeeded on multiple occasions in Indian politics. Be it the case of NT Rama Rao in Andhra Pradesh or Nitish Kumar during 2015 Bihar elections or Naveen Patnaik in Odisha. 

BJP wants West Bengal to be the new harvest ground to make up for the losses in other states.

Mamata, on the other hand, is trying to turn the issue into Federal constitutionalism. She has rallied support from many regional parties on this issue. Which issue will succeed in run up to the Lok Sabha elections is a million-dollar question, but one thing is clear that Mamata’s role will not be limited to West Bengal in case electorate throws up a hung house.

Regional Parties

BJP has already mangled its equations with regional parties. It has been primarily a result of expansion of BJP’s footprint in far corners of India. 

BJP has taken up issues which have pitted the party against small and regional parties.

It is going to pose a great challenge to the Saffron party in case it falls short of numbers. BJP will have to face a lot of political hectoring from smaller players in case it needs to shore up numbers for a simple majority in Lok Sabha.

The attempted raid not only brings many smaller players on one platform but will also test the issue of corruption in 2019 elections. It worked in 2014. However, same can’t be said today when the focus has turned to economy and jobs where it has failed miserably.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)