2024 LS Battle: Litmus Test for Modi’s Credibility

While the Centre’s request to reconsider its earlier decision on the extension of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra’s tenure, the Supreme Court judges asked the Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta whether there are no other competent officers in the department to replace him. The poser is sharp and clear over the Lordship’s apprehensions on the Centre’s motive on giving an extension to the incumbent. The SC, however, relented and accepted the Centre’s request for extending Mishra’s tenure for the third time, but for a month less than what it had sought, which is considered to be the rarest of the rare. The tenure now ends on September 15. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which stormed into power in 2014, is relentlessly pursuing alleged corruption cases against Opposition leaders, but not those who have crossed over from other parties thereafter, or some of its own. As a result raids and summons were intensified, especially when an election is around the corner. Thus far, the promised fight against corruption of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) looks more one-sided as the party conveniently spares its own leaders accused of corruption. And, the selective nature of this ‘anti-corruption’ crusade makes it abundantly clear as a witch-hunt, rather than a real intention to weed out the guilty. In all, there are around 122 from the Congress and Opposition under the Income-Tax (I-T) and ED lens. However, the Narendra Modi government ever since it came to power has intensified its fight against corruption. Yet, the Opposition accuses Modi of targetting only it, letting off his party leaders likes former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa or the Reddy brothers in Karnataka. The Opposition also blames the BJP for inducting those allegedly corrupt from other parties, especially the Congress and regional outfits, to destabilize the democratically-elected governments by promising not to proceed with investigations against them by the Central agencies. They even branded the BJP for becoming a ‘laundry party’ as all the corrupt crossing over to it become ‘clean’. There may be some truth in the Opposition’s allegations and the chiefs of the investigating agencies like the I-T, ED, and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) need to do a lot of explanation.

However, of the 122 who are facing money laundering cases, only a handful are from the BJP and the rest belong to the Opposition, who might have shifted their loyalties only to save their skin. But, can the Opposition leaders, especially from the United Progressive Alliance-I and II governments headed by the Congress, dare deny that major scams happened between 2004 and 2014?  And that leaders of the Congress’s allies like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), besides others were tried and sent to prisons? Whether the Rajas or Kanimozhis of the DMK or Lalloo Prasad Yadav besides Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy, all were sent to prison and served their sentences during the UPA’s decade-long tenure. However, although cases were filed against the Congress adversaries like Mayawati of the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) and Mulayam Singh Yadav of Samajwadi Party (SP), these were used only for political gains, not taking them to logical conclusions. This reminds one of the infamous observations of the apex court which called the CBI as ‘caged parrot.’ Some of the prominent Congress and Opposition leaders who are facing graft or money laundering charges include former Congress presidents, Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party and his nephew, Ajit Pawar, who is the deputy chief minister of the BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra, Trinamool Congress’ Abhishek Banerjee and Mukul Roy, besides others who are already serving their sentences in various prisons, to name a few and the list is quite long.

On the contrary, the BJP government pursued the cases pending against several political leaders, including all powerful lawyers like P Chidambaram, MP, and his son Karti Chidambaram and sent them behind bars. Besides Chidambaram, it also ensured to push behind bars, leaders belonging to Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Shiv Sena, and NCP, in money laundering cases. The NDA is also instrumental in filing money laundering cases and they are in various stages against the National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah and Suvendu Adhikari (former TMC member and now the BJP’s floor leader in the West Bengal assembly). So are the cases against the present Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who defected from the Congress. The other prominent BJP leaders facing money laundering cases are; Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Union ministers Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Narayan Rane, to complete the list. Well, the Prime Minister might have declared his party’s determination to push all those who are corrupt behind bars by raking up the ‘controversial’ ‘Red Dairy’ unravelled by the suspended Congress minister Rajendra Gudha against his own Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, in the Sikhar public rally in Rajasthan. He might have seen enthusiastically declaring the ‘Red Dairy’ as yet another fresh product of Congress’ loot. But, will he also ensure that similar cases pending against his party men are also drawn to logical conclusion? That’s the moot question even his supporters would like to ask to prove that his tall claims of ‘sparing none against graft’ become more credible and reality too! Or else, he too shall not be spared by the Indian electorate as far as the ‘fight against corruption’ is concerned.