For an institution that prides itself as the country’s premier investigation agency, the current fratricide within its leadership is an abomination. With CBI chief Alok Verma and his No. 2 Rakesh Asthana at each other’s throats, the decline in its credibility hasn’t been as precipitous ever before. Turf wars at the apex do happen but never before had those at the top fought like gladiators in a public arena. That PM Narendra Modi had to personally counsel them to stop it indicates the gravity of the problem. For a government that has made probity its calling card, it’s super embarrassing that leaders of an agency that is often used to ferret out black money are themselves facing corruption charges—hurled by each other.
Asthana and a few other IPS officers from the Gujarat cadre were handpicked by Modi and brought to the CBI to get a grip over the agency that was once called a caged parrot. That Asthana had been with the CBI in the past gave his resume added weight. He aspired to head the organisation but lost out to Verma. With several high-profile cases then under his belt, like those against Vijay Mallya, P Chidambaram and Lalu Yadav, Asthana tried to put Verma down saying he was interfering with them, indicating graft. The complaint has gone to the CVC, the supervising agency of the CBI.
Verma then showed who’s the boss with the CBI filing an FIR alleging Asthana was paid a bribe to go easy on arrested meat exporter Moin Qureshi. And a CBI officer in Asthana’s team was arrested. The Qureshi dirt ought to worry Asthana, as association with the meat exporter had proved toxic for at least two CBI chiefs,
A P Singh and Ranjit Sinha. Asthana has since sought court protection.Amid the showdown, there is this little thing called public confidence in the agency that lies shattered, if the bickering heads care to reflect on it a bit while massaging their bloated egos. It is up to the CVC to find a quick closure, through emergency surgery if need be, to treat the laceration and restore people’s trust.