Home » Politics » #Modi-KejriWar: CBI's raid on Kejriwal was a bad idea

#Modi-KejriWar: CBI's raid on Kejriwal was a bad idea

Suhas Munshi | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 1:25 IST

The raid

  • CBI raided the office of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday
  • The reason was a corruption charge against his principal secretary Rajender Kumar

The fallout

  • Kejriwal has gone on the offensive, directly targetting PM Narendra Modi
  • The Opposition has come out in Kejriwal\'s support

More in the story

  • Is there any substance to the case against Rajender Kumar?
  • How will this backfire on the BJP?
  • What is Kejriwal\'s next step?

There is no way to prove that CBI's raid on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's office was politically motivated. But it is clear that the raid was not worth the embarrassment that it has caused.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), in effect, shut the CM out of his office for one full day. And given that the CM in question is one with a clean record and a hypersensitive temperament, this was clearly a bad idea.

The grounds for the raid were that the Delhi's present Principal Secretary Rajender Kumar is alleged to have committed some acts of corruption, before Kejriwal's tenure.

Even if Kumar, who is still being questioned by the CBI, is found to be corrupt, the manner in which CBI conducted the raid has come across as a personal attack on Kejriwal. This had united the Opposition against Modi.

The manner in which CBI conducted the raid has come across as a personal attack on Kejriwal

The reactions

Opposition party members began describing CBI's raids as 'political vendetta' even before detailed reactions poured out from AAP itself.

There were protests in Parliament and both Houses were stalled over the raids on Tuesday morning. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was among the first to sympathise with Kejriwal, 'Sealing of a Chief Minister's office is unprecedented. I am shocked @ArvindKejriwal' she tweeted instantly getting a response from Delhi CM, 'Mamata Di. This is undeclared emergency.'

Banerjee's colleague Derek O'Brien called it "a campaign to take-down state governments".

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said, "Not that CBI doesn't have authority, but there is a way to conduct raids. It should be conducted in such a way that the relation is not strained."

It isn't just chief ministers who came out in Kejriwal's support.

"This goes against the spirit of federalism. This is something very uncalled for and definitely needs to be condemned," senior Congress leader Kamal Nath is reported to have said.

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D Raja said, "The BJP-led Union government and Mr. Modi should acknowledge that there is an elected government and a CM in Delhi; I think the Union government is still finding it difficult to acknowledge that reality and act accordingly."

Raja added that the Union government can come up with any number of statements and explanations, but "the timing and the circumstances indicates an element of political vendetta. It is undermining the federal principles of our governance".

The reasons

But why did the CBI team turn up at Delhi CM's office in the first place?

CBI claims that Kumar along with others abused his official position in awarding contracts from Delhi government to private firm, while he was in charge of education and IT departments in the Delhi government between 2007-14.

According to an official from the agency, CBI registered the case recently after conducting preliminary verifications of a complaint made by the Delhi Dialogue Commission's former member secretary, Ashish Joshi.

Joshi, 1992-batch IP&TAFS officer, was earlier this year appointed member-secretary of the Delhi Dialogue Commission (DDC), and a month later controversially sacked by DDA vice-chairperson Ashish Khetan.

This was not the first time that a complaint of financial misdemeanor was filed against Rajender Kumar. According to sources, a complaint against him in CBI was filed against him in 2007 which followed another complaint in 2014. However why the agency chose not to react then is not known.

Another aspect about the raids that isn't really clear is the specific offence that Kumar and six others are alleged to have committed. Did the 'abuse of official position' mean that Kumar awarded, or was involved in awarding, government contracts arbitrarily? Or did he draft the contracts in a manner that benefitted only particular agencies?

According to a CBI official, one of the irregularities found in Kumar's files was that tenders were not issued while awarding contracts to private firms, though they were empanelled. However as a senior bureaucrat explains, issuing tenders is not necessary.

"One has to issue a rate contract for an item, based on which different departments of the government can place orders with any of the empanelled agencies for that item. Issuing tenders is not necessary. One basically has to make attempts to discover the fair price of that object," said the bureaucrat.

As it seems, this is not an open and shut case of corruption. Neither the specific corruption charges nor the money trail is clear.

CBI will have to prove quid pro quo to justify their raids. And it needs to do it soon to avoid further embarrassment. However, as a CBI source said on condition of anonymity, no such evidence has been found so far.

Neither the corruption charges nor the money trail is clear in the case against Rajender Kumar

All that CBI has recovered from Kumar is Rs 2.4 lakh in Indian currency and about Rs 3 lakh in foreign currency and some documents about three immovable assets at Kumar's south Delhi residence. However, CBI didn't confirm whether any of this had been acquired illegally.

The six other accused named in CBI's FIR, are three Managing Directors of a private firm, two directors of another private firm, and one firm. CBI has recovered more money - about Rs 10 lakh - from a former senior Delhi bureaucrat.

Kejriwal's counter charges and fallout of the raid

Kejriwal hasn't looked as charged up in months as he did while addressing the press on Tuesday evening. Clearly, the CBI has given him what he relishes - a fight.

The Delhi CM's counter charge, as he delivered it before the cameras in a dramatic pose, is perhaps his first major battle against the Modi government since he assumed power in February.

He claimed that if CBI wanted to crack the corruption case against his principal secretary, they should have gone to the concerned departments of education and IT rather than raid his office, where no old files are kept.

Kejriwal alleged that the actual reason CBI came to the CM's office, shut it and went through all the files was because they were looking for an inquiry committee file relating to the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) that "traps" Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

"Jaitley was the DDCA president for many years and I had set up a committee to probe all the corruption that took place during his tenure. The committee has submitted its report and a commission of inquiry was to be set up over it. A file pertaining to it was in my office," alleged Kejriwal.

If the CBI raid was an error, Kejriwal too crossed the line by personally attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi through a series of tweets, even calling him "a coward and a psychopath".

Being shut out of office perhaps gave him time to work on memorable one liners to sum up the mood on Tuesday. And so he came up with "Rajender to bahana hai, Kejriwal nishana hai (Rajender is an excuse, Kejriwal is the target)," during his address.

Again challenging Modi, Kejriwal said that his government won't get scared with the CBI bogey, "aur Modiji aapko nahi pata main kis mitti ka bana hun (Mr Modi, you have no idea what I'm made of)."

A belligerent Arvind Kejriwal called PM Modi a coward and a psychopath

Kejriwal is likely to hasten the commission of inquiry against DDCA. It is also possible that he will start unearthing and filing law suits against the alleged acts of the corruption by the central government.

Meanwhile CBI is unlikely to find anything at the Delhi CM's office. What is worse for the BJP is that the raids have squandered away the advantage it had over the Opposition after the National Herald row.

Now it has to brace itself for a united and more combative Opposition both within and outside Parliament. Perhaps the government may have to give up any remaining hopes it had of getting the GST Bill passed in Parliament during the ongoing Winter Session.

First published: 16 December 2015, 12:34 IST
Suhas Munshi @suhasmunshi

He hasn't been to journalism school, as evident by his refusal to end articles with 'ENDS' or 'EOM'. Principal correspondent at Catch, Suhas studied engineering and wrote code for a living before moving to writing mystery-shrouded-pall-of-gloom crime stories. On being accepted as an intern at Livemint in 2010, he etched PRESS onto his scooter. Some more bylines followed in Hindustan Times, Times of India and Mail Today.