India Today - - INSIDE - By Kaushik Deka

The un­prece­dented pub­lic spat last month be­tween the top two of­fi­cers of the Cen­tral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (CBI) has em­bar­rassed Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, un­der­min­ing his image as a great or­gan­iser with an iron grip on the bu­reau­cracy. His pen­chant for mi­cro­man­age­ment, once touted as a strength, has back­fired. Se­nior bu­reau­crats have not taken well to Modi’s ten­dency to para­chute ‘favourite’ of­fi­cers into prom­i­nent roles. Turf wars have been rife, as has one-up­man­ship, in the CBI, as well as the En­force­ment Direc­torate (ED), the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices and the Cen­tral Vig­i­lance Com­mis­sion (CVC).

When Modi has not found the ‘right man’ for a post, he has pro­moted oth­ers out of turn. San­jay Ku­mar Mishra, for in­stance, has been ap­pointed as the in­terim chief of the ED for three months. Mishra, who is known to be close to high of­fi­cials in the PMO, had not even been em­pan­elled as an ad­di­tional sec­re­tary at the time of his ap­point­ment, mak­ing it nec­es­sary for him to ac­cept the job as an ad­di­tional charge. M. Nageswara Rao, the in­terim head of the CBI, was sim­i­larly not em­pan­elled when ap­pointed to his post—af­ter the de­par­tures of di­rec­tor Alok Verma and spe­cial di­rec­tor Rakesh Asthana—and is de­scribed as “Modi’s blue-eyed boy” in press cov­er­age of the CBI feud. Rao had writ­ten to Union home sec­re­tary back in Au­gust to com­plain that the gov­ern­ment-ap­pointed panel ex­am­in­ing his case for a pro­mo­tion to the rank of di­rec­tor gen­eral was bi­ased and hos­tile. He al­leged he was vic­tim of “skul­dug­gery” and “in­ces­sant, in­ternecine fights”

among his fel­low of­fi­cers of the Odisha cadre. Rao reg­u­larly en­gages with a think-tank founded by na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Ajit Do­val and BJP na­tional sec­re­tary Ram Mad­hav, and this ap­par­ently over­rides any reser­va­tions those on the ex­pert panel may have about his fit­ness for pro­mo­tion.

The ap­point­ments of Mishra and Rao sug­gest that the gov­ern­ment wants no truck with in­con­ve­nient of­fi­cers be­fore the gen­eral elec­tion next year. The out­go­ing ED chief Kar­nal Singh, whose ten­ure ended last week, sided with Verma, an old col­league from Delhi Po­lice, in the lat­ter’s bat­tle with Asthana. This is why Singh has not been re­placed with a per­ma­nent ap­point­ment. Singh him­self was a tem­po­rary ap­pointee, given two ex­ten­sions, be­fore the Supreme Court in­ter­vened. Singh had al­ready an­noyed the gov­ern­ment with his sup­port for his deputy Ra­jesh­war Singh, who had ac­cused rev­enue sec­re­tary Has­mukh Ad­hia of “sid­ing with scam­sters”. Singh had also dis­missed an R&AW re­port that sug­gested his deputy had con­tacts with Pak­istani in­tel­li­gence. The re­port, sources say, had been pre­pared by Sa­mant Ku­mar Goel, a Pun­jab cadre IPS of­fi­cer, who is a close friend of Asthana. BJP’s Ra­jya Sabha MP Subra­ma­nian Swamy de­scribed Ad­hia and Asthana as part of a “gang of four” in­tent on shield­ing the likes of for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter P. Chi­dambaram and fugi­tive Ni­rav Modi. But if there are al­le­ga­tions, as with Verma’s against Asthana, there are counter-al­le­ga­tions too. Ra­jesh­war Singh, who has Swamy’s sup­port be­cause he was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Air­cel-Maxis case in­volv­ing Chi­dambaram and his son Karti, is be­ing probed for amass­ing as­sets dis­pro­por­tion­ate to his known in­come. The SC gave the go-ahead for the probe in June. He has also left the ED on a two-year study leave, coin­cid­ing with the de­par­ture of his boss Kar­nal Singh. It is, ob­vi­ously, a tan­gled web.

It is widely ac­knowl­edged that the PM has in­tro­duced re­forms in the bu­reau­cracy, in­clud­ing a more trans­par­ent ap­praisal sys­tem, stricter vig­i­lance, and com­pul­sory re­tire­ment for erring of­fi­cers. The stricter ap­praisal sys­tem has re­duced the num­ber of em­pan­elled of­fi­cers—from 87 in 2014 to 11 this year for joint sec­re­tary posts. The gov­ern­ment is op­er­at­ing with only 34 per cent of the of­fi­cers it needs, a prob­lem ex­ac­er­bated by Modi’s in­sis­tence on ap­point­ing ei­ther Gu­jarat cadre of­fi­cers or those with a work­ing re­la­tion­ship with his in­ner cir­cle. In the process, too many ad­min­is­tra­tors have been alien­ated.

The gov­ern­ment is op­er­at­ing with only 34% of the of­fi­cers it needs, a prob­lem ex­ac­er­bated by Modi’s in­sis­tence on ap­point­ing Gu­jarat cadre of­fi­cers


‘CAP­TIVE BUREAU’ Congress work­ers protest­ing out­side the CBI head­quar­ters in New Delhi on Oc­to­ber 26

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