The real crises that Indian democracy must contend with

The eagerness on the part of political parties to exploit critical institutions to settle scores shows no sign of abating

  • Published 6.02.19, 8:46 AM
  • Updated 6.02.19, 9:42 AM
  • a min read
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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during her sit-in protest against the Centre over CBI's attempt to question the Calcutta Police commissioner in connection with Saradha scam in Calcutta, Tuesday, February 5. PTI

Indian institutions, including elected governments, seem to possess a rather dim sense of propriety. It was thus left to the Supreme Court, once again, to uphold the principle of rectitude while deliberating on a tussle between the West Bengal government and the Central Bureau of Investigation over Calcutta’s police commissioner, who has been accused of tampering with evidence in the Saradha financial scandal. The highest court of the land has ruled that the police commissioner, Rajeev Kumar, would have to cooperate with the Central agency in connection with the investigation into the alleged financial irregularities. However, the court has also restrained Mr Kumar’s pursuers: the CBI has been instructed not to initiate coercive action against, or arrest, Mr Kumar. The apex court’s reasoned judgment stands in sharp contrast to the aggressive postures adopted by the two contestants. The CBI had reportedly appeared at Mr Kumar’s door unannounced and without a warrant. It is also strange that the CBI is yet to show such alacrity when it comes to interrogating some of the other accused in the Saradha scam. Does this have to do with the fact that they belong to the ruling party at the Centre? The response of Bengal’s chief minister was equally dramatic. Describing the CBI’s action as unconstitutional, Mamata Banerjee undertook a dharna to protest against what she claims is yet another intervention by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre.

What lies at the heart of such unprecedented developments is the germ of politics. There are whispers that the CBI swung into action after receiving a nod from an influential politician. Perhaps the recent show of strength by the Opposition at a rally in Calcutta made it necessary for the powers that be to set the ‘caged parrot’ upon its target. Ms Banerjee also has reasons to be pleased with the outcome. The political mileage that she drew out of the crisis could be useful in cornering the BJP, not just in Bengal but also in India. The eagerness on the part of political parties to exploit critical institutions — is not the CBI one? — to settle scores shows no sign of abating. There is considerable strain on the federal structure too. These are the real crises that Indian democracy must contend with.

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