Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma
The government's decision to send CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana on leave amid an escalating feud within the country's premier investigative agency has triggered a political backlash from the Opposition parties, with Rahul Gandhi linking the Rafale deal to the crisis in the CBI.
Taking to Twitter, the Congress president said:
"CBI chief Alok Verma was collecting documents related to the Rafale scam. He has been sent on leave forcefully. The prime minister's message is absolutely clear – that whoever comes close to the Rafale deal, that person would be removed. The country and the constitution are in danger."
At a rally in Rajasthan's Jhalawar, he reiterated his comments, saying, "Yesterday night, the chowkidaar (referring to PM Modi) removed the CBI director because CBI was raising questions over the Rafale deal."
Not just that, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy interestingly called the appointment of Asthana – believed to be close to the Modi government – “very dubious". Speaking to the media on the CBI crisis he said:
“...I know that Mr Verma was a very honest officer. It was Mr Asthana who went first to the CVC and gave a complaint against the director. And Mr Asthana’s appointment was itself very dubious, it didn’t meet the requirments of the appointments committee, but it was rushed through... I want to know whether our committment to corruption will continue.”Subramanian Swamy
Catch all the live updates on the CBI crisis here.
‘PM Modi Has Buried the Last Nail in the Independence of the CBI’
Responding to the CBI crisis, the Congress said that "PM Modi has buried the last nail in the independence of the CBI".
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala wondered if Verma was "sacked" for his keenness to probe the "layers of corruption" in the Rafale scam and sought an answer from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Congress' Abhishek Manu Singhvi also accused the BJP-led government of 'paralysing' the investigative agency to misuse their powers.
"The prosecution agency, and the officers, have been paralysed by this government only to support an accused pinned with an extortion charge," he said.
Meanwhile, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury asserted that the "Modi government and the Prime Minister have conducted a political coup against the CBI."
“They have conducted transfer of all the officers and directors, and the main objective appears to be to protect the chosen officers of the Prime Minister posted at CBI.”CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury
'CBI Has Now Become BJP Bureau of Investigation'
Other prominent Opposition leaders, including Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee, Tejashwi Yadav and MK Stalin, took to Twitter to slam the Modi government over the chaos in the investigating agency.
Questioning the appointment of Nageshwar Rao as the interim director, DMK President MK Stalin said:
“Several complaints were sent to CBI director against Nageshwar Rao and there are reports that the CBI director Alok Verma wanted to initiate investigations into allegations against him.”MK Stalin
He also questioned whether the developments in the CBI were initiated to cover up Rafale scam investigations.
“This shows an undeclared emergency has been imposed in our country. The appointment of a controversial officer like Nageshwar Rao is nothing but to ensure that the CBI remains the caged parrot of the BJP government.”MK Stalin
Essential to Restore CBI's Institutional Integrity and Credibility: Jaitley
On the other hand, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government's decision to remove the CBI director and special director was based on the CVC's recommendations, asserting that it was absolutely essential to restore the agency's institutional integrity and credibility.
Jaitley said that the allegations by the top two officers of CBI led to a "bizarre and unfortunate" situation. A Special Investigation Team will probe the charges and both persons will "sit out" as an interim measure, he added.
Jaitley also dismissed as “rubbish” allegations of Opposition parties, that Verma was removed because he wanted to look into the Rafale fighter jet deal.
In a swipe at them, Jaitley said their allegations indicate they had access to what was going in the mind of the officer concerned, an apparent reference to Verma.
That itself demolishes the integrity of the person they are trying to support, he said.