One day after the DMK withdrew support to the UPA government the CBI raided the residence of Mr. Stalin who was a known hawk of the DMK advocating withdrawal of support. The CBI conducted the raid in pursuance of a probe into alleged financial irregularity committed by Mr. Stalin. Opposition parties naturally put two and two together and alleged that the government was misusing the CBI to carry out a political vendetta against the DMK. Then, strange things started to happen. These happened because of the silent struggle within the UPA government right at the top. I will refrain from elaborating on that aspect. Instead let us consider the government’s odd reaction which exposes systemic farce.
Finance Minister Mr. Chidambaram almost immediately after the raid condemned it and criticized its timing. Subsequently Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh echoed his colleague and stated that it was not the government which had ordered the raid and demanded explanation from the CBI. These statements by the cabinet made against India’s premier investigative agency were astounding and raise certain obvious questions.
Nobody has questioned the merits of the CBI allegation of irregularities committed by Mr. Stalin. The cabinet’s criticism was related to the timing of the raid. So the first question to be asked is whether the CBI should pursue its investigations keeping in mind the government’s political interests or pursue its duties unmindful of extraneous considerations.
The PM has stated that the government did not order the raid and therefore the CBI must give an explanation about why it occurred. The second question to be asked is whether the PM implies that the CBI contravened bureaucratic procedure to conduct the raid and whether the Ministry of Home Affairs was kept out of the loop. If such be the case the PM is stating that a fifth column has penetrated the CBI and subverting the government. This is a profoundly serious charge.
If the CBI did not violate bureaucratic procedure to conduct the raid and merely kept cabinet ministers out of the loop a third question arises. Why should the government object? Day in and day out the government claims that it never interferes in the functioning of the CBI and allows it to operate independently. Why then should the PM and FM publicly object if the CBI has done just that?
Do their objections imply that normally the CBI acts only at the behest of the cabinet and this time it departed from set practice? In other words do they imply that all their earlier protestations about never interfering in the functioning of the CBI were just a load of hogwash?
Either way the government is caught in a Catch-22 situation. Surely the raid was ill timed and has greatly damaged the government’s image as well as the fate of the Sri Lanka debate in parliament. It is a most serious issue. But it has arisen because the government is badly divided at the top. It glaringly exposes the systemic flaw that renders cohesive governance impossible. Readers can draw their own conclusions about why the PM and FM made their unprecedented statements criticizing the actions of their own agency which they claim should and does act independently of their influence. It will be difficult to sweep this issue under the carpet. The fundamental systemic flaw that caused it will have to be addressed. MPs in Parliament must demand answers from the government: If the government did not order the raid, who did? If the CBI Director acted at the behest of an extra-constitutional power, he must be sacked.
The PM's statement reveals a grave threat to national security.