The Narendra Modi government has drawn up a panel of three top Indian Police Service (IPS) officers—Border Security Force director-general Rajni Kant Misra, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) chief Rajesh Ranjan and National Investigation agency head Yogesh Chander Modi—even as it has drawn massive flak, especially from the Congress, for the manner in which it ousted Alok Verma.
All three on the panel belong to the 1984 batch of the IPS and, barring Misra, the other two have previously worked in the CBI in different capacities. The panel was drawn up by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) keeping in mind anti-corruption investigation background of the three probables. Interestingly enough, Y C Modi, who was moved to the NIA about a year ago, was previously a part of the special investigation team formed in August 2010 to probe the 2002 Gujarat riots. The names on the panel will go before the very selection committee which decided 2-1 against Verma’s continuation as CBI director.
Two days after he was reinstated to the position of CBI director by the Supreme Court, Verma, who had earlier locked horns with his immediate subordinate, special director Rakesh Asthana, resigned from the Indian Police Service today, citing “scuttling of natural justice” and that the “entire process was turned upside down in ensuring” his removal.
In a January 11 letter to DoPT secretary C Chandramouli, Verma preferred to bow out with his dignity intact than to subject himself to public humiliation after the Narendra Modi government shifted him as director general of fire services, an insignificant post, a day after the Supreme Court found no wrong-doing on his part and reinstated him as CBI chief, a post which was divested from him a couple of months ago as the fracas between Asthana and him became public.
Sources familiar with the manner in which Verma was ousted told the South Asian Monitor that the Central Vigilance Commissioner K V Chowdary was “ill-disposed towards” him. But Verma’s ouster does not mean that Narendra Modi’s “blue-eyed boy” Rakesh Asthana will have a smooth sailing. A Delhi High Court today ordered that the investigation against Asthana, on alleged corruption charges, will continue and refused to quash the case against the special director and two of his subordinates, deputy superintendent Devender Kumar and a “middleman” Manoj Kumar.
No previous CBI chief in the past has ever quit the service, though there have been occasions when a few withstood and suffered maltreatment and its consequent public humiliation. By quitting the IPS altogether, on the plea that he had officially superannuated on July 31, 2017 and was “only serving the government as director CBI till January 31, 2019” as the post had a fixed two-year tenure, Verma has now served notice to the Modi administration.
His intentions are clear: he has not only thrown away a 20-day job, he would now systematically expose the machinations that were afoot to push him to a corner. More importantly, Verma is now free to speak his mind on the politically hot subject involving the controversial Rafale fighter aircraft deal, which he had begun to show interest in when he was packed off on leave in November last year.
It is not known whether Verma has in his possession any damaging Rafale-related document, classified or otherwise, that might cause significant embarrassment to the Modi government should he choose to make them public when the crucial parliamentary elections are barely four months away. Sources close to Verma told the South Asian Monitor that the former CBI chief, who in November released his petition to the Supreme Court, besides encouraging two subordinate officers to also move the apex court against their transfer orders, would “not give up without exposing the intrigues, conspiracies and contrivances” that specific individuals within and outside the Modi government played to “bring him down”.
A former CBI director, who did not wish to be identified, said that the “while the selection committee has the power to appoint (a CBI chief), it also has the power to unseat him. They gave Verma a post which has no meaning, especially because he was too senior for that position”.
Verma may or not prove to be a “clear and present danger” to the government, but the Congress, which has made an election issue out of the controversial multi-billion-dollar Rafale deal, will certainly take up cudgels on his behalf and ratchet up its already shrill anti-Modi campaign. Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s catch phrase “chowkidar hi chorhai” (the sentinel himself is a thief) has caught on and will likely have a deleterious impact on the Modi-led BJP which stormed to power in 2014 on an anti-corruption and good governance platform. Verma appears to have garnered significant public support as well as the sympathy of the opposition parties, especially after alluding in his January 11 letter to the damage to institutions such as the CBI and that “this is a moment for collective introspection”.
Verma’s main grudge is that he was not given an opportunity by the selection committee (comprising the prime minister, Chief Justice of India and the leader of the opposition) to “explain the details as recorded by the CVC” who report against him “is premised on charges alluded (to) by a complainant (Rakesh Asthana) who is presently under investigation by the CBI”. By way of a bombshell, Verma claimed in the letter that “the CVC only forwarded a purportedly signed statement of the complainant (Asthana) and the complainant never came before Hon’ble Justice (Retd) A K Patnaik (supervising the enquiry). Also, Justice Patnaik has concluded that the findings/conclusions of the report are not his”.