AFTER the unprecedented CBI vs CBI showdown in Delhi a few months ago, which actually signalled the beginning of a systematic purging of the premier investigative agency in order to pack it with police officers with dubious track record known for their proximity with the trio of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, we now saw the bizarre spectacle of an open clash between the CBI and the Kolkata Police. The CBI attempt to raid the residence of the Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar and arrest him without taking the higher echelons of West Bengal police and civil administration into confidence led to strange scenes of the Chief Minister rushing to the Police Commissioner’s rescue and the Kolkata police and the CBI squad detaining each other.
The showdown has now been temporarily resolved with the Supreme Court simultaneously restraining the CBI from taking coercive steps against the Police Commissioner and asking the latter to appear before the CBI in Shillong which was chosen as a neutral venue (neither Kolkata nor Delhi). While the future course of the CBI probe into the Sarada and Rose Valley fund scams remains to be seen, the showdown between the CBI and the Kolkata Police, and in turn between the Central Government and the State Government has given rise to some urgent questions about the way the CBI is being used as a tool in the Modi regime’s marauding mission of political vendetta and of course about the trajectory of the probe.
The phenomenal rise of the Saradha group, which tapped small savings from West Bengal as well as neighbouring states of Asam, Odisha and Jharkhand by promising high and quick returns and using prominent media, film and theatre personalities, retired top brass of the police and ruling politicians and ministers, coincided with the ascent of the Trinamool Congress to power in West Bengal. But the Ponzi scheme collapsed soon under its own weight, millions of small depositors lost their hard-earned money and thousands of young people who earned their livelihood by collecting these deposits lost their jobs. Powerful social and political protests in West Bengal forced the TMC government to institute a commission to assess the loss and recompense sections of small depositors and also to set up a Special Investigation Team to probe the scam. In May 2014, as directed by the Kolkata High Court, the probe was taken over by the CBI.
While the top executives of the Saradha group and several TMC MPs and leaders have since landed in jail, the probe slowed down as two of the key accused and beneficiaries of the Saradha scam, TMC leader Mukul Roy in West Bengal and Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma in Assam, joined the BJP. Now ahead of the crucial 2019 elections, the CBI has gone on a selective overdrive – while scams in NDA-ruled states are being ignored (the mega Srijan scam in Nitish Kumar’s Bihar, to mention just one example) and tainted BJP leaders are enjoying total immunity, opposition-ruled states and opposition parties and leaders are being singled out. While the BJP wants to use the CBI as a political tool, the victims of the Saradha and Rose Valley scams want justice. The Left forces in West Bengal have been in the forefront of this anti-corruption battle and will not allow the BJP to mislead the people and use the CBI probe to shield its own leaders.
Indeed, today across the country the BJP stands discredited as much for its communal and divisive agenda as for triggering acute economic disaster and monumental corruption. Corruption thrives on the twin pillars of crony capitalism and political tyranny. If the TMC government in West Bengal has emerged as a symbol of pervasive corruption, popularly known as ‘syndicate raj’ in the state, and tyranny, the Modi government at the Centre epitomises crony capitalism and communal despotism on a much bigger scale. There can be no way that West Bengal can fall into the BJP trap while fighting against the corruption and tyranny of the TMC regime. This is why the role of the Left is absolutely crucial at this juncture. While fighting against the corrupt and tyrannical Mamata misrule in the state, the Left must boldly resist every attempt by the BJP to hijack power by abusing central agencies.