AHEAD of the 2019 elections, with every passing day the Modi government is stepping up its war on the institutions of governance. The subversion that was earlier going on behind the scene has now given way to open intimidation and confrontation. The CBI, the RBI and even the Supreme Court are all feeling the heat as the government unleashes a covert strategy of intimidation, intervention and coercion to snuff out every attempt to hold it accountable.
During the term of the previous government, the Supreme Court had famously termed the CBI a caged parrot. Far from letting the parrot free, the Modi government has from the very beginning been busy tightening the cage, unleashing the CBI only to target opposition leaders at the right moment so as to make or break alliances. The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate came to be known as partners of the ruling NDA coalition.
Defying all objections Modi appointed Rakesh Asthana, one of his most trusted police officials from his Gujarat days, as a Special Director of the CBI and amended the Prevention of Corruption Act to make it mandatory for the CBI or any other investigation agency to seek the permission of the government before probing any official for corruption. But the panic created by the unfolding details of the Rafale deal has made the Modi government wary of even the CBI and what we are witnessing now is nothing short of a government-led coup to bring the CBI under total control of the Modi-Shah coterie.
Even as CBI director Alok Verma, who was duly chosen by a collegium including the Prime Minister himself and had a protected tenure till January 2019, sought the government’s sanction to suspend and prosecute Rakesh Asthana in a case of bribery, the government removed the Director himself, deployed IB operatives outside his official residence to snoop on him and appointed a thoroughly tainted junior official M Nageshwar Rao as the interim director. Asthana had proved himself through his tenure in Gujarat whether by siding with Modi in the Godhra case or diverting huge sums from the police welfare fund to the BJP’s election kitty. Likewise Mr Rao has proved his eligibility through numerous corruption charges like the firebrigade uniform scam in Odisha and through his vocal espousal of various causes championed by the Sangh brigade. While packing the CBI and CVC with such trusted lieutenants, the Modi government has issued marching or transfer orders to officials engaged in key investigation cases and even unleashed unidentified intelligence officials to raid the CBI office and seize important files.
The coup in the CBI is emblematic of the government’s dealing with all major institutions of economic, administrative and judicial governance in the country. After refusing a second term to former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan and forcing the RBI to defend the Modi government’s most indefensible and whimsical step of demonetisation, the government is constantly chipping away at the autonomy and regulatory authority enjoyed by the apex banking institution of India. RBI insistence on adoption of stricter banking norms against corporate default or to defend its own baking reserve or retain its regulatory authority over all systems of payment, the RBI finds itself under constant and increasing attack from the government and RSS-backed economists who have already been planted on the RBI board of directors.
The most open confrontation is perhaps now shaping up between the government and the Supreme Court. After initially welcoming the Supreme Court judgement on the Sabarimala temple entry issue, the BJP has now taken a U turn. Amit Shah has asked the Supreme Court to issue verdicts that can be implemented and has called upon his party ranks to uproot the LDF government which has declared its commitment to the Supreme Court. And now that the Supreme Court has fixed the next hearing of the Ayodhya title suit in January, BJP ministers are advising the Court not to subject Hindus to a ‘test of patience’. The Hindutva brigade on the social media is much more explicit. The dome of the Supreme Court building is being openly bracketed with the dome of the now demolished Babri Masjid.
If you thought the Modi government was only waging war on Muslims, Dalits and ‘Urban Naxals’, it is time to open your eyes wider and look again. The war is no longer confined to the minorities and oppressed and marginalised sections. The bulldozer of fascist power is now targeting the venerable institutions of democratic governance. When a disaster hits an area it threatens to engulf all. The Modi government has turned out to be the harbinger of a comprehensive disaster – economic, social and political. India must be rescued from the Modi disaster without any further delay.