Minimum government

When he was campaigning in the last general elections as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in 2014, Narendra Modi had said once in power he would ensure ‘minimum government, maximum governance.’ The promise of ‘minimum government’ is being implemented but perhaps not in the sense that the prime minister meant it. One of premier agencies of the Government – the CBI – was witnessing a no-holds-barred war between its director and its special director. Both accused each other of corruption. An FIR was lodged against the special director who went to Delhi High Court, challenging it and asking it to be quashed. As the ‘civil war` within the CBI was turning uglier by the day, the Government acted in the wee hours of Tuesday, sending both officers on forced leave and appointing an interim director for the agency. Now the director who has been divested of his powers has gone to Supreme Court challenging the Centre’s order divesting him of his powers.
The way the fight between the two has intensified has made many wonder whether it is a proxy war being fought by two powerful political lobbies. Rakesh Asthana, the special director, belongs to the Gujarat  cadre and is known to be close to the prime minister while the other, Alok Verma, is known to be an independent-minded officer conducting some investigations not liked by the ruling party.  The official press release issued by the PIB says: “The grave allegations of corruption by senior functionaries of CBI one against another which has been widely reported in media, has vitiated the official eco-system of the organization. The environment of faction feud has reached its peak in the CBI leading to a potential loss of credibility and reputation of the Premier Investigating Agency of the Government.”
This is evident. But the question is why the situation was allowed to degenerate to an extent when it “reached its peak”, enormously embarrassing the Government. In fact the bickering between the two top officers has brought disrepute on the agency and eroded people’s faith both in its efficiency and its impartiality. Now, in the wake of the two sackings, there has been a great flutter in the dovecotes of the CBI. A large number of officers have been transferred. A senior officer who was investigating the charges against Asthana has been sent away to Port Blair, known during the Raj days as kalapani or a punishment post. Much damage has already been done to the image not only of the CBI but of the Government itself. The Prime Minister should take steps to prevent further damage. ‘Minimum government’ should not mean no government.

Thursday, 25 October, 2018