(Editor’s note: This piece was originally published on 7 July and is being republished in light of the Vyapam scandal being handed over to the CBI)
The ‘caged parrot’ is likely to look into the Vyapam scam. But the thought hasn’t ruffled Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s feathers.
Chouhan is confident that his wings will not be clipped. And the caged parrot will not spot anything that his own watchdogs still haven’t.
Since Tuesday evening, Chouhan has been consistently on TV channels, in the print media, and at press conferences giving interviews, defending himself and attacking the Congress.
Unlike Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has become invisible and inaudible, and Vasundhara Raje and her son Dushyant, who disappeared when Lalitgate broke, Chouhan is taking it on the chin.
His confidence is endearing. He blames the Congress of being a party of Raja, Maharajas—ignoring the Maharani of Dholpur who rules neighbouring Rajasthan—and claims the real clean chit will come from the voters in the next election, which he will win.
He claims the whole party is solidly behind him (never mind rival and predecessor Uma Bharati’s veiled attack on his government) and that he will survive the storm.
Chouhan is convinced that the CBI will find nothing new in the Vyapam case. “My belief is that whatever there was to unearth, the STF has already done it. I don’t think CBI will be able to do much. But who am I to comment on what the CBI will do. Time will tell,” he says in an interview with the Indian Express.
Let us deconstruct the crux of Chouhan’s argument. He is basically saying, one, that the BJP will not replace him and he will be there to win the next election, which will prove his innocence; and, two, that the CBI will not be able to tell us anything new about the Vyapam scam or the mysterious deaths related to it.
Chouhan is justified in being so cock-sure about his own future and that of the probe.
It is unlikely that Modi will take action against Chouhan. The PM’s political past makes it absolutely clear that he doesn’t act even when serious allegations are made against his colleagues. He is known to brazen it out and prefers silence over action.
As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi didn’t act against Amit Shah when his name was linked to fake encounters in Gujarat. He retained Maya Kodnani as minister even when she was facing charges of orchestrating riots. In both the cases, Modi acted only after the court intervened (Shah was jailed and externed from Gujarat, Kodnani was declared an absconder, arrested and later sentenced to 28 years in prison) and made it impossible for him to let them continue in his government.
In 2012, Modi inducted two MLAs, Babu Bokharia and Parshottam Solanki, in his cabinet in spite of serious allegations against them. Both were acussed of corruption and theft. Solanki, popularly known as Bhai of Andheri, was facing five cases under several sections of the IPC. But, Modi ignored the opposition demand for excluding them from the Cabinet.
Soon after Bokharia and Solanki were sworn-in, Modi sent out a message to his rivals that epitomises his politics. According to a report in DNA, ‘After Solanki took oath as minister, he went up to Modi, hugged him and patted him on his back – a very symbolic gesture – considering he was the only minister the CM hugged on stage. This little scene played out right next to governor Dr Kamala is significant because the latest taint on Solanki is a fisheries scam worth Rs400 crore. The governor’s opinion had been sought by the Gujarat high court in his cases and she had opined in favour of Solanki’s prosecution.’
Modi, obviously, has his own code of conduct while dealing with charges. For him, corruption and criminality have to be conclusively proven in a court. If this doesn’t happen, Modi doesn’t believe in action.
We saw Modi’s political principle in action recently when charges against Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje were not just ignored but the BJP went to the ridiculous extent of defending Lalit Modi.
So, Chouhan can consider himself safe unless some court makes his position untenable.
Will the CBI, if it investigates Vyapam, be able to nail him?
The investigating agency’s track record in dealing with high-profile cases doesn’t inspire much confidence. Four important cases readily come to my mind: The Aarushi-Hemraj Murder, Encounter Killing of Ishrant Jahan, The Babri Mosque Demolition and Coalgate.
In the Aarushi-Hemraj case, the CBI was not able to prove conclusively who were the real culprits. After obfuscating the truth, it recommended that the case be closed since there wasn’t conclusive evidence to prosecute the perpetrators.
In Ishrant Jahan’s case, we still do not know if her encounter was genuine or fake, if she was an LeT operative or just an innocent girl gunned by Gujarat cops for promotions or if there was a political conspiracy behind the allegations against Amit Shah. Most of the police officers accused in the case are out on bail, some of them have been reinstated by the Gujarat government.
After the demolition of the Babri Masjid, two FIRs were lodged by investigators. FIR No. 197/92 against kar sevaks and FIR No. 198/92 against LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya and others for “making provocative speeches.” The case is still dragging on in various courts.
The most egregious example of the CBI’s incompetence is, of course, the Coalgate investigations. While probing the coal allocation scam, the agency was often dubbed the ‘Congress Bureau of Investigation’ by the Opposition and called a caged parrot by the Supreme Court. This happened after the agency told the apex court that it allowed the UPA government to interfere in the probe vet its status report.
Nothing has changed since then to convince us that the CBI has become free and is no longer the voice of its political masters. No wonder, Chouhan is confident that a CBI probe into the Vyapam scam will tell us nothing. While the parrot remains in its cage, the real culprits will remain free birds.
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