The CBI Diaries
Three issues on the beleaguered ‘Central Bureau of Infighting’, as it has been renamed, refuse to die down. Alok Verma may have hung up his boots in protest, but it may not be the last one hears from or of him. Sources close to a group within the ruling dispensation not exactly pleased with his ouster claim the former CBI chief may not walk into the sunset. “Verma’s forced retirement could be the Modi Government’s V K Singh moment,” they say. Unlike V K Singh’s case, the Verma episode has also split the judiciary and besmirched the current CVC, K V Chowdary.
Particularly after the Supreme Court-appointed monitor, retired Justice A K Patnaik, made a statement on the charges against Verma, saying there’s “no proof of corruption”. Secondly, we are still left pondering the fate of A K Asthana, the other half of the #CBIvsCBI hashtag. The FIR against him stands, and the Delhi HC has given a 10-day deadline for the probe. Clean chit or not, his career too seems over. That brings us to the third question: who will take over from interim CBI head Nageshwar Rao? Y C Modi, NIA director-general, seems to be the frontrunner. He has had two stints in the CBI, and enjoys the PMO’s confidence. Meanwhile, Verma, when he made his final exit, seems to have left with three bags. Talk is Nageshwar Rao is desperate to find out their contents.
West Bengal politics is seeing some interesting pre-poll ‘adjustments’. Not of political parties, but of individual MPs. Already, two Trinamool Congress MPs, Saumitra Khan and Anupam Hazra, have switched to the BJP. Not surprising. Khan was originally a Mukul Roy recruit to the TMC, and has now been taken to the BJP by his patron. In the saffron party, Roy’s declared job description is ‘talent hunt’ and he seems to be on it with full gusto, claiming another six are ready to jump the TMC ship for BJP.
What’s surprising is that he’s naming big names like long-time TMC MP Dinesh Trivedi and Saugata Roy, both senior, articulate faces of Mamata Banerjee’s party in Parliament. Though from Gujarat, Bengal has long been Trivedi’s real home and Saugata Roy is one of the founder members of TMC. Nor is the symptom is restricted to one party.
Late Congress veteran Abdul Ghani Khan Chowdhury’s niece, the two-term MP Mausam Noor, it seems, may join the TMC. TMC’s Derek O’Brien was heard telling Congress’s Ambika Soni that “Noor is not against the Congress, but she can’t win without our support!” If that happens, one of the last GOP bastions in Bengal, Malda, would have gone from its hands.
In Maya’s thrall
The SP-BSP ‘gathbandan’ may have left the Congress rather lonely in UP, but UPA coalition-makers have still not given up on Mayawati. Sharad Pawar, who’s overseeing the NCP-Congress seat-sharing in Maharashtra, is said to be keeping a few seats in Vidarbha for the BSP. The exact seats are yet to be decided but there seems to be in no doubt that she’ll be “with us”.
Meanwhile, in Lucknow, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati have not only left the GOP high and dry, they did not bother to invite RLD’s Jayant Chowdhury to share the dais when they announced the alliance. This gives notice to the speculation that the Congress too may be conjuring up a ‘gathbandhan’ of its own with smaller parties, including the RLD, the Nishad Party, the Peace Party and the SBSP, the Apna Dal, the last two disaffected NDA members.
BJP Rajya Sabha MPs were in for a double treat at the end of the winter session. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vijay Goel organised a dinner for them at a famous vegetarian restaurant in Old Delhi run by the ITC. What surprised them most was Amit Shah’s presence, and the bonhomie which with he chatted with everyone. This was followed by a special mention of the ‘Margdarshan mandal’ veterans, L.K. Advani and M.M. Joshi, by PM Modi at the BJP national convention. The hoi polloi are reading this soft outreach as a “course correction” after the recent poll drubbing.