Gang War In CBI

Cor­po­rate in­flu­enc­ing CBI probes sur­faced when Ra­jiv Singh, CBI Joint Di­rec­tor prob­ing PNB Bank Scam, was trans­ferred abruptly in midst of probe

The Day After - - FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK - By DANFES Feed­back on: re­porter@dayaf­terindia.com

The in­ter­nal war within the Cen­tral Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (CBI) is be­ing fu­elled by of­fi­cials in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice (PMO) and a cor­po­rate house, top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials have told.

Over the past two weeks, the sim­mer­ing hos­til­ity be­tween CBI Di­rec­tor Alok Verma and the sec­ond rank­ing of­fi­cer in the agency, Spe­cial Di­rec­tor Rakesh Asthana, has spilled out in to the open. Let­ters have been writ­ten to the Cen­tral Vig­i­lance Com­mis­sion (CVC), and then leaked to the me­dia. Asthana has ac­cused Verma of not al­low­ing him to pur­sue a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion against Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Ya­dav. On his part, Verma has ques­tioned Asthana’s cred­i­bil­ity, point­ing out that he is of­fi­cially the sub­ject of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in six cases. Ear­lier, in July this year, the CBI had told the CVC that Asthana had no author­ity to in­duct of­fi­cers in Verma’s ab­sence.

But it is now ap­par­ent that what we are see­ing is more than merely a clash of per­son­al­i­ties or egos in the CBI. The clash be­tween Asthana and Verma has deeper roots – and its im­pli­ca­tions will run much fur­ther than just the ca­reers of the two men.

While Verma has al­ways had a prob­lem with Asthana and fought tooth and nail to pre­vent his ap­point­ment as spe­cial di­rec­tor, the lat­est spat is con­nected to the CBI’s on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the coal scam.

TO CHARGE OR NOT TO CHARGE

The agency is in the midst of in­ves­ti­gat­ing the role of Bhaskar Khulbe, a West Ben­gal cadre IAS of­fi­cer, in the al­lot­ment of coal blocks to a Ben­gal based com­pany, Ram­sarup Lohh Udyog Lim­ited in the Moira-Mad­hu­jore block in the state. At the time, Khulbe was ad­vi­sor, in­dus­tries to the West Ben­gal gov­ern­ment.

Khulbe is no gar­den va­ri­ety bu­reau­crat. As sec­re­tary in the PMO, he is one of Naren­dra Modi’s most trusted aides. He han­dles all trans­fers and post­ings of Cen­tral of­fi­cials, work­ing closely with PK Mishra, Ad­di­tional Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary to the Prime Min­is­ter.

Of­fi­cials in the CBI say the in­ves­ti­gat­ing team has rec­om­mended that Khulbe be made an ac­cused, just as former Union coal sec­re­tary HC Gupta had been in a Jhark­hand coal block al­lo­ca­tion case.

Gupta was con­victed in De­cem­ber 2017 and sen­tenced to a three-year prison term. “From the in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer to the top most of­fi­cial su­per­vis­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the view is unan­i­mous. It has also been writ­ten on the file that Khulbe be made an ac­cused,” an of­fi­cial in the agency said.

How­ever, Asthana is be­lieved to have taken the stance that Khulbe should be made a wit­ness and not an ac­cused. That way, a CBI of­fi­cial said, he won’t be pros­e­cuted for his al­leged role in the scam. Within the agency, Asthana’s stand was hardly a sur­prise, given his prox­im­ity to Mishra in the PMO.

Mishra, a Gu­jarat cadre of­fi­cer, is ar­guably the most pow­er­ful per­son in the Modi gov­ern­ment. A few months ago, when a con­tro­versy had bro­ken out on Asthana’s ap­point­ment as Spe­cial Di­rec­tor in the CBI and it had be­come clear that Alok Verma was go­ing to ob­ject to his se­lec­tion in writ­ing, of­fi­cials say Mishra had sum­moned the Cen­tral Vig­i­lance Com­mis­sioner, KV Chowdary, and di­rected him to en­sure Asthana was ap­pointed.

“Mishra also di­rects cabi­net min­is­ters on var­i­ous mat­ters and is seen as a su­per prime min­is­ter so his di­rec­tions are never ig­nored,” an of­fi­cial in the CBI said.

Sources within the CBI also al­lege that the fight within the agency is be­ing stoked by a large cor­po­rate house with in­ter­ests rang­ing from steel to tele­com. “The cor­po­rate house is close to a top PMO of­fi­cial and is get­ting in­ves­ti­gated in some mat­ters by the CBI,” the of­fi­cial quoted ear­lier said.

The role of cor­po­rate in­flu­enc­ing CBI probes came to the fore­front re­cently when Ra­jiv Singh, the CBI joint di­rec­tor prob­ing the PNB bank scam, was trans­ferred abruptly in the mid­dle of the probe. Agency of­fi­cials say Asthana did not have a good re­la­tion­ship with Singh.

The CVC, who has now been en­trusted with in­ves­ti­gat­ing Asthana’s claims against Verma, is seen as an of­fi­cer mired in con­tro­versy. His name had sur­faced in the former CBI chief Ran­jit Sinha’s vis­i­tors di­ary scan­dal. Chowdary, after be­ing ap­pointed CVC, was also spot­ted in the of­fice of Nikhil Mer­chant, a busi­ness­man be­lieved to be close to the prime min­is­ter.

A PIL against his ap­point­ment was filed in the Supreme Court by the NGO Com­mon Cause, which ques­tioned his fit­ness for the anti-cor­rup­tion job given his ear­lier re­luc­tance, as a top in­cometax of­fi­cial, to in­ves­ti­gate the con­tents of in­crim­i­nat­ing doc­u­ments re­cov­ered by his depart­ment from the cor­po­rate of­fices of the Birla and Sa­hara group.

Asthana has ac­cused Verma of not al­low­ing him to pur­sue a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion against Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Ya­dav. On his part, Verma has ques­tioned Asthana’s cred­i­bil­ity, point­ing out that he is of­fi­cially the sub­ject of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in six cases

CBI Di­rec­tor Alok Verma

CBI Spe­cial Di­rec­tor Rakesh Asthana

Sec­re­tary, PMO Bhaskar Khulbe

Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary, PMO P K Mishra

Rabri Devi, Misa Bharti & Te­jashwi Ya­dav

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