CBI drive against Akhilesh acts as a glue, not a wedge
If the objective of setting the CBI upon Akhilesh Yadav was to prevent the emergence of a formidable coalition in the key state of Uttar Pradesh, the tactic appears to have boomeranged for the time being and reinforced perceptions of a state-sponsored operation to arm-twist political rivals.
The flurry of action, including weekend raids, in an old mining case and suggestions that the CBI might question the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister triggered unusual reactions.
First, Mayawati and her Bahujan Samaj Party publicly and formally rose to the defence of Akhilesh. “Do not be shaken by such gimmicks,” Mayawati, who dialled Akhilesh, told him. She described the CBI overdrive as “dirty politics and election-related conspiracy”.
“The BJP, like the Congress, is an expert in misusing government machinery to implicate its rivals in fake cases,” she added.
The Congress, which has so far been kept out of the proposed alliance by both the Samajwadis and the BSP, too blasted what is saw as the Narendra Modi government’s “politics of vendetta”.
Senior Congress leaders, who were upset with the SP and the BSP for unilaterally finalising the alliance in Uttar Pradesh, sounded unusually sympathetic on Monday, recalling how Mayawati was pressured before the last round of Assembly elections.
They said Mayawati did not align with the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh as agencies “physically tortured” one of her relatives.
Mayawati herself did not refer to the recent Assembly elections but she did refer to an earlier instance. The BSP leader said she was “framed” in the Taj corridor case in 2003 when she did not agree to an alliance for the 2004 general election. The case was eventually closed by the Supreme Court.
In the Lok Sabha, Samajwadi MPs shouted: “Tota se gathbandhan bandh karo.”
The evocative slogan suggested that the Modi government had struck an alliance with the parrot (the CBI) to prevent the political alliance in Uttar Pradesh.
If the latest instance of strong medicine from the CBI was supposed to scatter the potential allies, it appears to have ended up uniting them as of now.
BSP leader Satish Mishra’s decision to publicly defend Akhilesh demonstrated the two parties’ determination to stay together.
Mishra asked: “How can the chief minister be held responsible if officials violate rules while allotting mines? Recently, a sting operation showed the private secretary of the mining minister taking a bribe. The BJP government (in Uttar Pradesh) arrested the secretary and didn’t even question the minister. But they are targeting the chief minister in the SP’s case. This shows the BJP’s desperation.”
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said: “All the political parties had joined hands against Rajiv Gandhi (during the Bofors campaign) but which leader was tormented by the CBI and the ED?”
Azad added: “Alliances are political decisions and can’t be dictated or manipulated by the CBI. They are trying to do so in Uttar Pradesh and other states as well. We condemn the CBI action. Such politics and dictatorship cannot be allowed in India. This action comes at a time when elections are approaching.”
The Congress, NCP, RJD, BJD, DMK, SP and the BSP have all alleged in the past that the CBI was acting selectively to harass Opposition leaders. The Opposition believes that a few parties may have yielded to pressure in the past but they will respond differently once the election comes nearer.
Akhilesh had said on Sunday that he was ready to face the CBI and warned the BJP of retaliation if the culture of vendetta became acceptable in politics.
On Monday, both in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, Samajwadi members protested against the alleged misuse of the CBI.
Allahabad High Court had in July 2016 ordered the CBI to probe the Rs 4,000-crore sand-mining scandal in Hamirpur district in 2012-14, when then chief minister Akhilesh also held the mining portfolio, but the raids and bookings came only on January 5, 2019. Four Samajwadi politicians, including an MLC, and three BSP leaders are among those booked.