A day after Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal withdrew their “general consent” to the CBI to investigate cases in these states, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Saturday that “there is no sovereignty of any state in the matter of corruption”, and that “only those who have a lot to hide take the step of not letting the CBI come to the state”.
Jaitley, who was addressing reporters after releasing the BJP’s manifesto for the November 28 Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, alleged that the decision by N Chandrababu Naidu’s government was motivated by a general fear of what investigations might reveal rather than by any particular case.
Jaitley said, the top leadership of the Trinamool Congress was involved in corruption, and that the alleged “Saradha and Narada (scandals) cannot be wiped out by merely saying we will keep out CBI”.
Officials said Friday that the CBI would no longer be able to carry out searches, raids or investigations in Andhra Pradesh without the state government’s consent. Soon afterward, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said her Andhra counterpart N Chandrababu Naidu had “done the right thing”, and “we will also do the same”. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted his support for Naidu’s decision and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “misusing” the CBI and Income-Tax Department. On Saturday, Jaitley said: “We have a federal structure under which the CBI was created initially to probe central government employees and then to investigate certain serious cases in states either referred by them or on the direction of courts. Only those who have a lot to hide will take the step of saying let the CBI not come to my state.
“How will the central agencies working in AP and West Bengal be probed now? If tax officials [of the central government] engage in corruption in these two states how will they be probed?… Maybe the Andhra Pradesh government has some specific information and has taken the step to save someone.”
Jaitley also referred to demonetisation as “a highly ethical move”. Many people in the country were not tax compliant, and compelling them to put their undeclared money in banks had an ethical rationality to it, he said.
“Every move the government has taken so far, from demonetisation to implementing the GST, has helped us formalise large parts of the Indian economy. It’s a work in progress,” Jaitley said, adding it had generated revenues for both the central and state governments.
Naidu is trying to rally non-BJP parties ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. On Friday, the BJP referred to the “grand alliance of most corrupt parties to protect their interests”, and said that “a nervous and completely rattled Naidu is trying to save his government”.