Some selective leaks suggesting that Narendra Modi and Amit Shah were in the know of the ‘plot’ to eliminate Ishrat Jahan has yet again stirred the worst fears of the BJP that the CBI was working overtime to somehow implicate their leaders. The issue is being talked about in the political circles and the date, July 4, when the CBI is expected to file the charge sheet in the alleged encounter case, has suddenly assumed great significance. Beyond the legalities and merits of the case, how the CBI proceeds will shape the political discourse in the coming days.
The BJP calls it a copy book case of misuse of the CBI by the UPA government. It was thus not without substantive reasons why Modi himself chose to talk extensively about the misuse of CBI at a book release function in Mumbai yesterday. “See the CBI and the level of misuse that can happen. Had I not experienced it myself, I would not even know. Those who cannot accept victory and defeat through democratic means are misusing the CBI. And now, it is CBI versus IB. Does it happen in any nation? Institutions are being broken and just see how,” he said. Earlier this week in Ahmedabad, he had hit hard at the CBI saying “CBI is Congress Bureau of Investigation… I warn CBI officers who are misleading the people and putting wrong cases on officers and leader in Gujarat.”
Ishrat Jahan’s mother collects the body of her daughter. AFP
The issue is weighing heavy on minds of Modi and his supporters. Other senior party leaders too have been consistently critical of the CBI in this matter. Though for now they are sticking only to the technical and propriety part, CBI taking on the IB.
The timing of the filing of charge sheet in Ishrat Jahan alleged encounter case would be loaded with political implications should the CBI decide to name Modi. It would be difficult to hazard a guess at this time but there are many who believe that even if the CBI does not get any worthwhile material to name him, the ‘leaks’, could help the ruling Congress in keeping the negative perception about Modi alive in a section of the electorate. The parliamentary election is not too far away and all political parties have already gone into the poll mode.
Since Modi has now been anointed as chairman of BJP’s poll campaign committee, any serious preoccupation back home, particularly in a case of this nature, could affect his ability to travel all across the country, concentrate fully on making a strategy and implementing that on ground to dethrone the ruling Congress. More so, it would give the Congress a talking point and help the coming elections be fought on the secular-communal divide. The BJP wants to avoid such scenario and wishes to keep focus on corruption, misrule and price rise under the Congress-led UPA government.
Last month, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley had produced an explosive CBI note dated 23 June 2010 saying ‘request you to refer again to annexure ABC, arrest proposal of Amit Shah dated 14 April with underlined importance of annexure C…….for its potential in respect to Chief Minister (Narendra Modi) also.’ After this note, which linked Shah’s arrest with Modi’s fate, the permission to go after him was immediately granted. Shah was then arrested but granted bail by the trial court, upheld by the High Court and subsequently by the Supreme Court. Jaitley’s point was that in murder cases, the court’s generally don’t grant bail but the evidence against Shah was too weak. Jaitley had charged that “this was real face of the CBI.”
The CBI first failing to file charge sheet in Ishrat Jahan case within the stipulated period of time and getting a fresh date, July 4, to file it has raised eye brows and speculation on its possible motive. Some argue that by doing it the investigative agency could get ‘arm twisting’ time – time to lure or frighten a person, accused and witness included. Senior Gujarat BJP leader Jay Narayan Vyas says the CBI could use it for flexing its muscle and for fear or favour. The former minister in Modi government alleges that CBI’s conduct in this case gives rise to various suspicions on its motive and raises questions that could impact national security scenario.
Vyas is agitated that the CBI, working under the Union Department of Personnel and Training, could pounce on the IB, working under Ministry of Home Affairs, without sanction from the highest quarters. If IB is forced to reveal its source, channels of information routing and verification it would not just open a Pandora’s box but also jeopardize security, he feels.
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh had earlier come out in support of the CBI in its move against the Special Director of Intelligence Bureau, Rajinder Kumar. “Is the IB officer against whom there is clinching evidence in a case investigated by CBI above law?” Singh had tweeted. “There has also been the allegation that some IB officials have done something wrong along with the Gujarat Police. If CBI has the evidence, they should be given the opportunity to prove them,” he had later added.
The nine-year case has surely acquired political overtones. There were statements and counter statements by Congress and BJP leaders since the day the alleged encounter took place on June 15, 2004, but the Congress went on the back foot for some time when her name appeared as a martyr in a Lashkar-e-Taiba-sponsored website. But since then the Lashkar has corrected itself and the CBI has concluded that information generated by the IB that Ishrat was a terrorist or a mole was fake.
Will July 4 prove to be one decisive date in the political calendar? The CBI will have answers.