The politics of vendetta and witch-hunting got a new avatar on July 7 when the Central Bureau Investigation (CBI) decided to raid 12 premises of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad Yadav, his family members and some other people in pursuance of an 11-year-old issue following an FIR lodged at Delhi on July 5.
The utter haste and manner in which these raids were conducted underline the paradigm shift in terms of the standard operating procedures of these agencies, apart from the fact that the independence of these agencies appear to be under serious doubt. Under the rule of law it is presumed that law which is administered, and enforced is accessible, fair, and efficient. It is obvious to anyone that the nuances of rule of law have been compromised in this case — maybe at the behest of the whims of those at the helm of affairs.
We need to first understand the stated “merit” of the case by the CBI director in his press conference on that day. IRCTC, which awarded the lease to these hotels owned by the Yadav family, was constituted by then NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999; its stated objective was to provide high quality of tourism and catering services to travellers. Since its formation, IRCTC has awarded leases to more than 150 food plazas and food parks on the basis of H1 bidder (Technically Qualified and Highest financial bidder).
According to the facts of this much-sensationalised case by the CBI, IRCTC invited open competitive bidding tender notice for four ‘Yatri-Niwas’ complexes at Delhi, Kolkata, Ranchi and Puri in the latter half of 2006. On the basis of established and prevalent norms i.e. awarding the lease to the highest bidder, the leases were accordingly awarded.
The present regime, which has directed the agency to investigate a “quid pro quo” in these awards, has chosen to ignore the fact that under the same process leases were awarded to the Tata group and Meghalaya hotels for 15 years at Delhi and Kolkata respectively. These leases were awarded in December 2006. Whereas, the alleged transaction of the land to Delite Marketing, owned by Lalu Yadav’s family, took place in February 2005 on the basis of reasonable and adequate compensation as per extant circle rate.
But the BJP government at the centre and its new alliance partner, the CBI, have gone in for a make-believe kind of “quid pro quo” just to tarnish Lalu ji’s image and also to silence his vocal posture against the right-wing authoritarian regime of BJP and RSS.
The CBI under the new director, wants us to believe that the sellers of the land in February 2005 had a divine revelation that two years later, they shall apply for the lease of the ‘Yatri-Niwas’ complexes and eventually become the H1 bidder. It is a mockery of the interpretation of the rule of law, when under direction from “above,” the agency choses to ignore the fact that once a policy decision is taken by the cabinet, routine issues like invitation for tender etc is executed by the corporation, in this case by IRCTC. They should have acknowledged the established precedent that the minister does not intervene in such matters, thereafter. The use of the phrase— quid pro quo and its strange interpretation is repugnant.
Thus, the rationale behind these high decibel raids by the CBI is quite apparent. Many people believe there is a direct correlation between the quantum of opposition against the BJP/RSS and the actions of investigative agencies against the person or political outfit opposing. These supposedly “independent” have begun to “collaborate” with the ruling regime which is making them function like qasi-political outfits. This signals that things are horribly wrong with the grand idea of the “rule of law.”
The fact that these investigative agencies are cherry-picking their cases – picking up some, ignoring others – is what raises grave doubts about them. The same CBI has maintained a worrying silence over the Vypaam matter, which has witnessed at least 50 unnatural deaths. The agency takes the same posture vis-à-vis the DDCA, where a BJP MP has been raising serious issues of financial embezzlement and money laundering involving a top minister in Narendra Modi’s cabinet. This list is getting only longer, what with Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya, apart from the power tariff scam by private companies perceived to be in proximate corridors of power at the centre.
The reality is that the investigation going on against several leaders of the Opposition are largely based on false and malicious accusations. Many of these cases may not stand in a court of law. However, it provides certain short-term gains for the BJP in managing media headlines – the Vipaksh Mein Sab Chor Hain, or, All Opposition Leaders are Thieves point of view, with the help of some influential TV channels. In fact, the whisperings of the next target has already begun.
It is an established fact that whenever the political churning for Opposition unity gets momentum, the BJP machinery unleashes a campaigng to malign the image of the leaders of the Opposition. This is how the investigative agencies are being increasingly seen as a new instrument in the BJP’s politics, under the present leadership. That is, if you are incapable of dealing with your Opposition through political vocabulary or programmes, you take the cover of these agencies to malign and discredit them. Certainly, this might allow for a few moments of glee for a day or two but it shall destroy the very idea of independence of these agencies which is intrinsic to the rule of law.
The acceptance and legitimacy being manufactured for this kind of politics of vendetta does not bode well for our democratic political culture.