CBI’s freedom from govt best news in Bansal nephew bribery episode

For the first time in its history, the CBI has conducted its operation in a thoroughly professional manner and turned the tables on the government — and that is good news for the nation


Ajay Singh | May 7, 2013

Manmohan Singh with bansal after railway budget: The PM has a unique ability to turn Nelson`s eye to evidence about involvement of his colleagues in shady deals.
Manmohan Singh with bansal after railway budget: The PM has a unique ability to turn Nelson`s eye to evidence about involvement of his colleagues in shady deals.

In reflective mood in the twilight of his life, former prime minister VP Singh once told me that the post of India's prime minister is endowed with immense and unique power. “Nothing, particularly corruption, escapes his attention," Singh had said.

In his typical Allahabadi accent, Singh recounted a tale to buttress his point. A minister in the VP Singh government was believed to have been involved in corruption to clinch a deal in favour of a corporate house. "I was briefed about it by various agencies," Singh said, adding that he called the minister (refusing to name him), asked him to choose either to return the money and resign, or face the music and go to the jail. The minister opted for the first.

Similar tales can be heard about Atal Bihari Vajpayee from his colleagues, including the redoubtable bureaucrat-turned-politician Yashwant Sinha.

But prime minister Manmohan Singh appears to be an honourable exception. He is not only blissfully unaware of corruption but has also shown a unique capability to turn a Nelson’s eye to incontrovertible evidence about involvement of his colleagues in shady deals.

Such a political scenario in the country is depressing, to say the least, barring sudden sighting of a flicker at the end of this gloomy tunnel. The manner in which union railway minister Pawan Bansal’s nephew Vijay Singla was arrested on charges of accepting a bribe of Rs 90 lakh in cash from railway board member Mahesh Kumar is all set to redefine the relationship between the CBI and its political masters.

For the first time in its history, the CBI has conducted its operation in a thoroughly professional manner and turned the tables on the government, which is in the dock for making the probe agency its handmaiden. There is little doubt that the agency is in possession of enough evidence to prove a direct link between Singla and Bansal so far as this ‘deal’ is concerned.

Sources in the agency feel it is inconceivable that Bansal was not aware of his nephew’s escapades, and the resultant prosperity. And in the course of investigation, it is unthinkable to surmise that the minister would remain untouched by the scandal.

In face of such overwhelming odds, what does the government gain by protecting Bansal? In fact, the answer to this can easily be traced to a sudden metamorphosis of the CBI from a pliable tool to a nonconformist investigating agency. The political class, particularly the ruling elite, is yet to reconcile with this new avatar of the country’s premier investigative agency, perceived to be at the beck and call of its political masters. Irrespective of political colour of the governments at the centre, there are many cases — like the Bofors scandal, Ayodhya, disproportionate assets case against Mulayam, Mayawati, Lalu Prasad and Jayalalithaa, among others — that cast doubt on the CBI’s neutrality.

And the political class was reconciled to this image of the CBI.

But Bansal’s case was entirely different. Perhaps the operation lasted for months on end with the CBI picking up every thread to prove the case conclusively. And what is particularly noteworthy is the fact that the agency kept the operation a closely guarded secret, which was revealed to even the CBI director barely hours before Mahesh Kumar and Singla were in the net.

To carry out such an operation without informing the prime minister would have been inconceivable even two decades ago. As VP Singh had pointed out, trust in the PM’s office was so high once upon a time that corruption would have been nipped in the bud.

The railway board bribe episode exposes the harsh truth about total erosion of trust in the PM and his office, which is not a good news. But that the CBI stuck to professionalism to weed out corruption is certainly the best news we have got of late.



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