Modi Government’s crusade against the opposition

enforcement directorate

On March 11 the leader of the Bharat Rashtra Samiti and daughter of the Telangana State Chief Minister, K Kavitha was questioned for nine hours by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the Delhi liquor policy case. Manish Sisodia, the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, and a prominent leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was arrested in late February by the Central Investigation Agency (CBI) for his alleged role involving corruption in the same liquor case. Lalu Prasad Yadav, the former Chief Minister of Bihar from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), and his wife Rabri Devi; also an erst-while Chief Minister were questioned by the CBI in a land-for-job scam, while his son Tejashvi Yadav also on the list of CBI summons awaits his lay. In the meantime, Rajshree Yadav, his wife, pregnant, fell ill while getting questioned by the Enforcement Directorate team for fifteen long hours.

India moving toward its 18th General Election in 2024 next year is swelling with arrests and summons, in what I call a lateral government policy of keeping the opposition in place. Various government agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Income Tax (IT), and the Central Investigation Agency (CBI) are doing roundabout tours of the lanes of the opposition leaders. Withstanding the fact that corruption and financial irregularities should be cramped down with an iron fist, what makes all the arrests and summons fishy is that it is all directed toward the opposition parties of India. And so much so, that now summons from these agencies before any election is a foresight, often a twitch for cartoons and humour. But as the jokes subside, what lies naked, underneath, is a systematic dismantling of the constitutional bodies created for checks and balances.

The Enforcement Directorate has carried out 3010 raids or ‘searches’ between 2014 and 2022, a 27 times increase from 2004 to 2014. While answering a question from the Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi, the Minister of State for Finance, Pankaj Chaudhuri told the Rajya Sabha (The House of States) that the robust measures are being taken “in order to dispose of pending investigation in old cases and to complete investigation in new cases in a time bound manner under the PMLA”. However, the official data does not support the claims made by the minister. Between March 2011 and January 2020, the ED has managed only 9 convictions out of 1569 investigations, a rather low profile for any agency. An investigation by The Indian Express found that 95% of the total number of politicians summoned, raided, booked, interrogated, and arrested after Narendra Modi-led NDA coalition came into power are from the opposition parties. Further analysis shows that out of 121 leading politicians being probed, 115 belonged to the opposition. The opposition-scorching wrath of the agencies is greatly targeted against the largest opposition party in India-The Indian National Congress. Rahul Gandhi, the Minister of Parliament from Wayanad (Kerela) and the most prominent face of the opposition was questioned for 55 hours by the ED in the National Herald Case, while Sonia Gandhi, the former Congress party president has also been probed about the same. Robert Vadra who happens to be the son-in-law of the Gandhis’ was also questioned several times in a money laundering case. While there perpetuates a lot of hues and cries whenever they were summoned, but the substantial probation never results in anything beyond political gimmicks.

Narendra Modi in a special televised address to the Nation announced a complete lockdown of 21 days to deal with Covid-19 back in 2020. Opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee were writing letters beforehand to the Prime Minister asking to stop or curb flights coming in from China, but in a different political milieu, a strange, but now common subversion of electoral democracy was taking place. A democratically elected government was toppled in Madhya Pradesh. With the rebel Jyotiraditya Scindia leaving Congress and joining Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a day later along with his loyalists-another 22 MLAs, a process had begun, which now runs unhinged across several states where an opposition party is in power. The process, then subdued, has now become more brazen. And the latest toil, Maharashtra, manifests the grotesque rot its roots hold. The rebels were flown to Assam and accommodated in extravaganzas by the BJP-running state Chief Minister when the thence state was flooding and people were running difficulties for minimal food and shelter. The un-democratizing of the process meant to elect a government democratically started in early 2017 with the ‘invention’ of the Electoral bonds, which then claimed by the government will be a cornerstone for transparency involving funding to the political parties. Opposition squealed, Public Interest Litigations (PIL) were filed in the Supreme Court, and activists spoke that the anonymity of the subscribers of the bond puts the process in a labyrinth, leaving no scope to know from where the money flows to whom. But the hearing dates get piled up in the apex court and eventually, the BJP becomes the richest party probably in the world.

While the government has consistently reinforced that the allegations of the opposition against the agencies are nothing but political mudslinging, time and again in a riveting and seeming informed intervention, the agencies never find the leaders of the ruling party worthy of any fault. In fact, the charges get dropped or lost under the files once, and when the leaders decided to change the camp and joined BJP. Suvendu Adhikari, now the leader of the opposition in Bengal was coaxed with charges in the Saradha Chit Fund Scam, joined the BJP before the Bengal assembly election, and has never been summoned by the CBI after that. The list of the turned shoes is long, and seemingly long is the fall of the credibility of these agencies brick by brick.

Sayantani Upadhaya is a student of Literature. She has written for Gaon Connection, FeminisminIndia, LiveWire, Brownhistory, and more. She has a special interest in Partition literature and hopes to become a writer someday. She tweets at @Upadhy_Sayntani
You can reach me at [email protected]

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