“They’ve Much To Hide”: Arun Jaitley On Andhra, Bengal Revoking CBI Pass

BHOPAL: When Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal withdrew the “general consent” provided to the CBI for conducting raids and probes on Friday, a stinging response from the BJP-led central government only seemed par for the course. It came today, from none other than Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
“Only those with a lot to hide will take the step of not letting the CBI come to their states. There is no sovereignty of any state in the matter of corruption,” Mr Jaitley told mediapersons in Bhopal after releasing his party’s manifesto for the November 28 Madhya Pradesh assembly polls.

While the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government in Andhra Pradesh said it took the decision in the wake of the CBI “losing its independence” under the Union government, the Trinamool Congress government in Bengal has repeatedly alleged that the probe agency is now just a tool with which the BJP targets political opponents. Inter-departmental infighting, which led the government to take action against the CBI’s two top officials, was also cited as a reason for the move.

The agency will now need permission from the respective state governments to carry out any investigations, although exceptions can be made on cases against central officials and those ordered by courts.

The Union minister claimed that Andhra Pradesh’s move was not motivated by any particular instance, but “by the fear of what is likely to happen”. “We have a federal structure in India, and under that federal structure, the CBI was created initially for central employees and then, to investigate very serious cases in the states, which were referred to it either by the states or courts,” he added.

Mr Jaitley also clarified that this move will not help Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee government in cases that are already being investigated. “Investigations into Saradha (chit fund scam) and Narada (sting operation) cannot be wiped off merely by saying: I de-notify the CBI,” he asserted.

Opposition parties have long accused the Narendra Modi government of using central agencies to target political opponents in various states. Among the most glaring instances, they say, are the Income Tax raids against Karnataka Congress leader DK Shivakumar while he was hosting 44 Gujarat MLAs to prevent horse-trading ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls last year and searches conducted on business establishments close to the TDP months after it parted ways with the National Democratic Alliance.