[dropcap]C[/dropcap]ome December. It can be the cruellest month for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party BJP. If the present trends continue and the Congress and the other opposition parties can meet the electoral challenge of the assembly polls in the five states-Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana, the results on December 11 might be devastating for the saffron forces. If the BJP loses MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the anti-BJP forces will be getting such a momentum that the most powerful government of the BJP at the centre will be converted into a lameduck one.
CBI fiasco NDA’s lowest ebb
As of now, the NDA government led by Modi has reached its lowest ebb of governance with the CBI under the stewardship of the PMO riven by unheard of factional fighting in the history of this investigating agency. The myth of minimum government and maximum governance lies shattered. It is now clear to the people that the BJP government has made use of the CBI to serve its political ends rather than really unearthing the corruption in the government and the economy. The CBI director himself has charged in the court that his deputy, known as a Modi acolyte, has been operating an extortion racket in the investigative body itself. Prime Minister’s desperate efforts to restore peace in CBI have failed miserably as both feuding bosses have gone to court and made public what corrupt practices have been continuing in the CBI under the watchful eyes of the self-proclaimed leader of anti-corruption. Though both the CBI chief and the deputy has been sent on leave on Wednesday, the fighting continues.
PM’s diktat does not rule any more among top bureaucracy
It is by now clear that Prime Minister’s diktat does not rule any more among the top bureaucracy, otherwise, this sordid development in the CBI leadership would not have happened. The next hearing on the CBI tussle in Delhi High Court is on October 29 and the same day, the Supreme Court will have the hearing on the PIL on Rafale deal which questions the decision-making process of the Prime Minister in changing the earlier agreement to facilitate the induction of the Reliance Defence Ltd of Anil Ambani as offset partner in the Rs. 59,000 crore deal with the French Government. The apex court bench headed by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi will go through all the documents submitted by both the petitioners and the government to arrive at the conclusion whether there was any violation of the accepted practices of the Government procedures, especially of the Defence Procurement Policy in announcing the deal by the Prime Minister on April 10, 2015.
Already enough documents have come out to establish that there was serious violations of the accepted government policies by the NDA government in deciding on the revised deal. In a complaint letter to the CBI, former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie as also senior advocate Prashant Bhushan said that Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Defence Ltd neither had any land to set up its defence manufacturing unit nor did it have an industrial licence when it made a joint venture offset agreement with the Dassault Aviation for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircrafts in 2016.
Alleging that the Prime Minister ignored these crucial aspects while recommending the RDL as an offset partner to Dassault, the trio said that Mr. Narendra Modi’s decision to enter into a sudden inter-government agreement with France by retracting the previous purchase agreement which the UPA government had struck with Dassault, was a motivated one. They questioned PM’s logic behind sidelining a reputed public sector company like HAL having more than five decades of experience in manufacturing planes and recommending RDL which was formed merely 12 days before the PM announced the purchase of 36 aircraft in April 2015′
Supreme Court to conduct hearing on October 29
All these uncomfortable issues will be in the Supreme Court’s domain on October 29 and the focus will be on the Prime Minister’s governance style which gives all signs of authoritarianism. If the Court, after going through all the documents and hearing both sides, gives some adverse verdict on the PM’s decision making process in Rafale deal in November/December, that will make the Prime Minister politically more vulnerable.
Economy on a downhill journey
- Along with these, the economy is on a downhill journey. Only six months before the scheduled Lok Sabha elections in the country, the BJP leaders are not daring to mention of ache din the promise Narendra Modi made before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Prices at retail level are so high that the common people with fixed income are struggling every day to maintain a normal living. The prices are high but the farmers are not getting their due. The distress in agriculture is continuing without any viable policy getting implemented. The industry is dwindling as the investment is at a low ebb. The NBFC’s are in a critical condition after the collapse of the IL&FS.
- ￼The job market is shrinking. Where will be the new entrants for employment going? The Modi Government’s demonetisation, the tardy implementation of GST and the jobless growth programme, have brought disaster to both informal and formal sectors of the economy. The NDA government, in its last year of its present tenure is neck deep in crisis. The ground is fertile for the opposition. The Congress and the other anti-BJP parties have only to unite before the Lok Sabha elections to give a big push to the Modi government to get it out of centre in 2019 poll. They can miss this opportunity only at their own peril.
Opposition steps up attack against Narendra Modi
- Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan, along with former BJP minister Yashwant Singh and senior journalist Arun Shourie had submitted a written complaint to the CBI alleging corruption in the Rafale deal. A deal which was 95% done was suddenly changed around completely and the only beneficiary was Modi’s good friend Anil Ambani. The entire deal reeks of corruption and that is exactly why no enquiry is being allowed into the deal, Bhushan said.
- Responding to the Centre’s decision to appoint the agency’s joint director M Nageshwar Rao as the head of CBI, Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter: “Modi government buries the ‘last nail’ into the independence of CBI. Systematic dismantling and denigrating of CBI is now complete.”
More of the same?
- For any government, the loss of control over a major institution is tantamount to a loss of face. It is also a godsend to the opposition. Even more than the Rafael aircraft deal which is being used by the Congress to accuse the government of crony capitalism, l’affaire CBI will give the party a handy stick with which to beat the ruling dispensation.
- As it is, the CBI had been called a “caged parrot” by the Supreme Court when it was described as the “Congress Bureau of Investigation” when Manmohan Singh was the prime minister. The expectation was that the outfit would be put back on its feet by the new dispensation so that it would be able to retain its reputation for integrity and efficiency. But the latest turn of events suggests that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
(Author is a Senior journalist)