Probably Prime Minister Narendra Modi has suddenly realised that the elections are around the corner and he needs to show some action to woo the public, which resulted into a vigorous pursuance of those corruption allegations over which his government was sitting quietly for the past four years and nine months. CBI raids are conducted throughout India against the public figures who are considered as threat to the hegemony of Modi and his coterie in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
In this recent spree to hound the opposition politicians, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee‘s recent strident outburst against the Modi regime gave a jolt to the so-called “anti-corruption” crusade of the BJP. The “na khaunga na khane dunga” (neither shall I eat nor shall I let others eat— said by Modi in context of his so-called crusade against corruption) rhetoric monger couldn’t bear the brunt and cocooned in his narcissist shell.
When the CBI reached the doorsteps of one of Ms Banerjee’s favourite police officers and Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar to interrogate him for the infamous Chit Fund scam, all hell broke loose on the streets of Kolkata as, on one hand, the Kolkata Police and CBI men had a scuffle that ended with the former arresting the sleuths who came to raid their boss’s place, while on the other, the chief minister herself came out to protest, what she called, a coup d’etat against her government by the Modi regime.
The CBI is alleging that the Kolkata Police chief had tampered with the evidence of the infamous ponzi scheme – chit fund scam in the state that rocked West Bengal’s politics in 2013, and which is called one of the largest political setbacks of the chief minister who earlier epitomised herself through her sycophants as the icon of honesty.
Kumar was a part of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by Banerjee after the Saradha scam was exposed in 2013. It’s alleged that as he and his team were the first to enter the Saradha office to investigate the scam, therefore, they may have tampered with crucial evidence to protect top bosses of the TMC.
The CBI, which couldn’t interrogate Kumar earlier as he ignored CBI summons and refused to present himself for questioning, took permission now from the Supreme Court to interrogate Kumar in Meghalaya’s capital city Shillong.
Though the CBI was handed over the investigation of the Chit Fund Scam by the apex court in May 2014, it didn’t progress much into the case except for arresting few of TMC leaders like Madan Mitra, Tapas Pal, Kunal Ghosh, etc. No chargesheet is filed in these five years that it took to investigate the case. The Supreme Court rejected a plea recently asking it to monitor the investigation for a speedy conclusion.
However, the CBI did help the Modi regime to coerce Banerjee’s once-upon-a-time lieutenant, TMC co-founder and the former railway minister Mukul Roy to join the BJP.
Despite their attempt to bring him to the BJP’s fold along with a share of the booty of Saradha’s spoils from December 2014, Roy switched to the BJP only in 2017. While BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh once declared that his party will ensure that Mamata and Mukul run away from West Bengal, the party didn’t mind embracing the same Roy with a torn sash in 2017. The CBI didn’t bother Roy after this point.
Similarly, former Congress leader of Assam — Himanta Biswa Sarma — who was named in the Saradha scam and it was alleged he got Rs 2 million every month as commission from Saradha owner Sudipta Sen, switched to the BJP in 2015 and became its prominent face in the entire north east region.
A man who was called a scammer by the BJP earlier is now called the party’s master strategist in the region. Undoubtedly Biswa Sarma’s track record was cleansed too as the CBI never returned to question him for his role in the scam.
Actually, except periodic arrests of people like TMC MP Tapas Pal, no one heard much about the Saradha, Rose Valley, ICore or other chit fund companies and their scams from 2017 onwards. Rather, the BJP, in connivance with the RSS, started a massive communal polarisation campaign in West Bengal after sensing the widening of the fissure between the Bengali Hindus and Bengali Muslims.
The situation and the strategy changed when Banerjee started pursuing her ambitious project to become the prime ministerial candidate in the 2019 general election. Soon after August 2018, the TMC supremo started uniting different opposition parties and the process of bringing them on a common platform. She implicitly exhibited her desire to become the consensus candidate for the post of prime minister, in case of a hung parliament, with the support of the Congress.
This irked the BJP, which emphasised on isolating the TMC by hyping the notorious and utmost reactionary Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, and intensifying its propaganda to widen the rift between the Bengali Hindus and Muslims.
On 19 January 2019, Banerjee organised a massive rally in Kolkata where leaders of 23 opposition parties joined hands and expressed their desire to combat the Modi menace together. Though Modi and his coterie kept lambasting this gathering as a unity rally of corrupts, they very well comprehended that it’d be impossible for the BJP to arrange around a half million people for Modi’s brigade rally in Kolkata.
At the same time, the CBI’s acting chief was forced by the Modi regime to push the West Bengal government to the wall by upping the ante over the Chit Fund Scam. The Kolkata Police Commissioner, became an easy target as he is extremely close to the TMC’s top leadership and has an in-depth knowledge of the scam. This resulted into the sudden attempt to raid Kumar’s residence in Kolkata in a bid to intimidate Banerjee.
This hyper activism of the CBI few months before the Lok Sabha election reminds the invisible “caged parrot” tag that it wears around the neck. It’s not surprising to see how pressure from above and servility of its leading members force the CBI to act in a bizarre way. This spree of investigating scams wouldn’t have been questioned if the CBI would’ve balanced the investigations by including those cases where the BJP leaders are also accused.
No one is talking about investigating Vyapam Scam that rocked Madhya Pradesh and saw the mysterious murders and purported suicides of more than 50 witnesses so far. Despite being ousted, the former chief minister of the state Shivraj Singh Chouhan is not questioned or grilled for his role in this gigantic scam.
There was never an attempt to investigate and book the notorious Adani group for its circuitous tax evasion that costed the government hundreds of billion rupees.
No one is bothering to investigate how Shah’s son Jay Shah’s company suddenly earned an annual revenue of Rs 800 million, a whopping leap from a revenue of Rs 50,000 a year before, and winded up the business soon after earning such a huge amount.
No agency is trying to look into corruption allegations against BJP’s infamous Bellary brothers accused of mining scams or into the corruption cases in which B S Yeddyurappa, the BJP leader of the Karnataka assembly, is an accused, including the recent attempts by him to poach an MLA from the Janata Dal (Secular) to topple the present government.
There’s absolute silence within the CBI, ED or other organisations over the infamous Rafale Jet scam in which the prime minister is a key accused. Absolutely no agency dares to talk about the scam that jeopardises national security to help a crony and comprador capitalist earn huge amount of profit at the expense of a public sector unit.
Rather, the CBI director, who promised opposition delegates that he will look into the Rafale files, had to quit his job because one of Modi’s favourite lackeys levelled corruption allegations against him to deter him from pursuing the case against Modi and his crony capitalist patrons like the Ambanis.
For Modi, this reliance upon a servile CBI, manned by his lackeys, to chase and bully the corrupt opposition parties also works as a shield to cover up his government’s and the BJP’s complicity in helping a gang of looters and scamsters who have duped public sector banks of hundreds of billions, to evade the claws of law and flee to foreign countries.
Vijay Mallya was helped by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before his escape, Nirav Modi was seen with the prime minister’s entourage before escaping, Mehul Choksi was addressed in a friendly way by his fellow Gujarati prime minister.
Neither the CBI nor any other agency had taken cognisance of the gravity of the situation post these exposures and no one took any concrete step to investigate the scams and prosecute the culprits.
If, instead of the BJP, any of the opposition politicians would have been involved in actively helping any of these fugitives then the CBI and other enforcement agencies would’ve torn into them by now.
Grasping the opportunity created by the CBI during the sudden raid at Kumar’s residence, Banerjee amplified her rhetoric against the Modi regime with a roborant fervour and raised the issue of violation of the federal structure by a strongly unionist government that wants to do away with the federalism enshrined in the Constitution.
Returning to the streets, Banerjee came before the people who have forgotten her “fire woman” image, the street fighter that she was when the Left Front was ruling, to ensure that they support her party even now when it’s quagmire in a series of corruption allegations, in unbridled loot, extortion and every sort of criminal activities in the state.
Apart from initiating her theatrical performance against the Modi regime, Banerjee actually polarised the entire opposition, from RJD’s Tejasvi Yadav to TDP’s N Chandrababu Naidu, from AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, from former prime minister H D Deve Gowda to DMK chief M K Stalin, from SP chief Akhilesh Yadav to BSP chief Mayawati. Everyone vocally supported her in her outcry against Modi’s vendetta regime.
Soon after her “Dharna” (sit-in protest), Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu started his own protest in New Delhi opposing the Modi regime’s step-motherly attitude towards Andhra Pradesh, which is still not granted the package it was promised when Telangana was separated from it. This protest showed that Banerjee has rolled the dice and the game is on.
Banerjee is also blaming the Modi regime of trying to enforce President’s Rule in West Bengal by ousting her citing a Constitutional crisis and law and order issue. Many other opposition politicians have raised their concern about President’s Rule too and criticised Modi’s fascist approach quintessential of Indira Gandhi. It’s another story that Banerjee was herself vocal for the imposition of Article 356 of the Constitution to oust the Left Front government between 1999 to 2004.
Corruption is an integral part of Indian politics and none of the ruling or former ruling parties can claim that they’ve been immune from its allurement.
The CBI and other institutions of the state’s law enforcement have always worked as per the commandments of their political bosses and have worked to intimidate the opposition.
However, the audacity of the Modi regime and its marketing blitzkrieg portraying the entire opposition as corrupt and the ruling clique as utmost honest is of an unprecedented scale, which wasn’t visible in Indian political theatre since the days of Indira Gandhi.
By her street politics and no holds barred opposition of the Modi regime’s policies, Banerjee is trying to occupy the central position among the non-Congress and non-BJP parties. In her attempt to be the prime ministerial candidate, Banerjee has actually played the role of a magnet that brought together often warring sides of the opposition on one platform. Now her street politics, her ability to spin lies and use post-truth with more vigour than the prime minister have already worried the BJP.
The BJP has understood that corruption allegations, pinching the chit fund wound and citing the rule of extortionist syndicates promoted by Banerjee’s party will help them expand their voter base better than communal polarisation in West Bengal. It has therefore, without shedding its communal vitriol, readopted the corruption charges against the ruling dispensation to gain leverage in the electoral battlefield of the state.
Modi will leave no stones unturned to lambast Banerjee and her allies., and the opposition coalition she is heading, before the crucial election. However, the more the BJP and the Modi regime will carry out their witch-hunt, the more they will fuel their own nemesis by uniting, sharpening and strengthening the parliamentary opposition.
The 2019 Lok Sabha election won’t be as smooth a ride for the BJP as 2014. This time the BJP will be judged by its own deeds and the crimes committed against the common people. By collaborating with those who are accused of siphoning off people’s money through the ponzi schemes of the chit fund companies, the BJP showed that it cares less for the people of West Bengal and more for power.
Therefore, the BJP’s communal, corrupt, opportunist and divisive politics will not find much ground in West Bengal where it now faces difficulty in even paying its party workers their share of the booty regularly from the scams it has done in the state without even being in power. Banerjee and the TMC may or may not win in the poll battle, however, by manifesting its utmost corrupt, opportunist and communal character, BJP will definitely lose the political battle waged against it by the common people of India and West Bengal.
An avid reader and a merciless political analyst. When not writing then either reading something, debating something or sipping espresso with a dash of cream. Street photographer. Tweets as @la_muckraker