Congress has built institutions, used them to its advantage whenever it chose and destroyed them whenever it found them inconvenient. But for the interregnum of the Janata Party in 1977, VP Singh government in 1989 and the NDA in 1998, Indian democracy would have taken a different shape, had Congress been in power uninterrupted. Perhaps, we would have been a banana republic.
Five years of the UPA rule have proved the most challenging for the Indian democracy from this yardstick. It has destroyed every institution during this period. The period was marked by not only a concerted attack on the icons of nation'sfaith and identity. It has managed to undermine every institution from the top most insignia of the Republic to the very sense and aspect of a free democracy. Sadly, the fourth estate looks more compromised if not managed as never before. Is it the clout of money power or the fear of the mafia?
The Congress has earned notoriety for its brazen disdain for political morality and fair play.
Remember it is the party of emergency and censorship. It is the party that superseded honourable Supreme Court judges and even at one time advocated the virtues of committed judiciary. This is the party that believes in purchasing members of Parliament to prove a majority. This party had at one time popularised the term rubber stamp President by its own acts of omission and commission. And it has for the first time imposed a Prime Minister of its choice on the country and proved that to be Prime Minister one need not even contest an election. Equally audaciously, it imposed a Chief Election Commissioner of its choice despite contrary opinions of the CEC at the time.
Only that the focus now is on the CBI. In the last five years this has perhaps been one of the most useful and active institutions for the party and so it is always in news for the wrong reasons. Its utility is such and so overweening that a former Congress chief minister on a campaign trail in UP threatened the state Chief Minister by citing the power of CBI.
It is natural that the agency has not been found wanting when it came to exonerating the darling of the establishment accused of the Bofors kickback.
As a consequence the CBI'simage as an independent and autonomous investigative agency, which was impervious to external influences, has once again come under a cloud. In the latest instance it had sought the withdrawal of the Red Corner Notice against Ottavio Quattrocchi, the Italian middleman who is an accused in the Bofors bribery case. Even friendly parties of the ruling alliance are now finding it difficult to defend the Congress.
The CBI is being charged with calibrating its probe in sensitive cases to suit the whims of the party in power. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice JS Verma, in an article published recently, said: ?It is sad that even now the CBI continues to disappoint the people whenever it deals with cases against the powerful. The blame can no longer be made elsewhere. It is too much of a coincidence that in sensitive matters, the outcome of the CBI'sinvestigation invariably depends on the political equation of the accused with the ruling power, and it changes without compunction with change in the equation.?
There have been several instances in the last five years when the CBI'sdecisions raised eyebrows. These include, the decision to withhold sanction to prosecute former Union Minister Satish Sharma. The non-filing of an appeal in the Disproportionate Assets (DA) case pending against former Jharkhand chief minister Shibu Soren, a key ally of Congress. The decision to change the public prosecutor in the corruption case pending against Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, establishment of a special bench of the ITAT, refusal to file an appeal and putting roadblocks in the Bihar government'sattempts to file an appeal in the Disproportionate Assets case. The flip-flop on cases relating to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati. The CBI first tried to get her off the hook in the Taj corridor case, but later activated the DA case when she withdrew her party'ssupport to the UPA. A similar change in its attitude was visible in the DA case pending against Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family members. It took a hostile stance when the SP-Congress relations were bitter, but changed tack after Mulayam Singh Yadav started backing the Manmohan Singh government. The closure report filed in the case relating to former Union Minister Jagdish Tytler'salleged involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Now the decision to withdraw the Red Corner Notice against Quattrocchi has fuelled demands for insulating the country'spremier investigative agency from political pressure. Accusing the Manmohan Singh government of undermining the autonomy of crucial institutions such as the Election Commission, Rashtrapati Bhawan and the CBI, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley has promised that, if voted to power, his party would set up a commission of inquiry, to be headed by a Supreme Court judge, to investigate cases of collusion of the CBI with the accused in all sensitive cases and suggest steps to restore and re-establish the agency'sautonomy.
The latest round of revelations on the attempts to bail out Quattrocchi, known for his proximity to the Congress president, is the most serious of all, because of its timing. Remember its first act after coming to power in 2004 was to defreeze the accounts of this man in a London bank. Now this has come in the midst of electioneering, perhaps its last act.