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95% Jump in Number of Opposition Leaders in CBI net under NDA

Out of 124 prominent leaders being probed by the CBI under the NDA rule, 118 are from the Opposition compared to 43 out of 72 during the UPA era.
Central Bureau of Investigation

Central Bureau of Investigation. Image Courtesy: PTI

The number of Opposition leaders probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under the last eight years of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rule is a whopping 95% compared to 60% during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) era (2004-2014). 

Out of 124 prominent leaders being probed by the CBI under the NDA rule, 118 are from the Opposition, an investigation by The Indian Express has revealed. The report shows that more than 80% of around 200 key politicians booked, arrested, raided or questioned by the CBI in the last 18 years belonged to the Opposition. 

A CBI official denied the “targeting” of the Opposition and called “the disproportionate share of Opposition leaders under any regime merely a coincidence”. 

“A large number of our cases have been ordered by the courts. Be it the case against NCP’s Anil Deshmukh, the Saradha and Narada cases or TMC leaders such as Partha Chatterjee or the West Bengal poll violence case—all have court orders behind them,” the official told The Indian Express.

Defending the CBI, the official said that it is the agency’s “duty to follow court orders and legitimate recommendations made by the state government or the Centre” adding that several “cases have been recommended by state governments where politicians of the previous dispensation are under probe”.

However, the data suggest otherwise. For example, out of 72 important leaders probed by the CBI during the UPA era, only 29 were from the Congress or its allies. 

Out of the 43 Opposition leaders under CBI probes during the UPA rule, 12 belonged to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Union home minister and then-Gujarat minister Amit Shah in the alleged encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, former Karnataka chief minister (CM) BS Yediyurappa, Bellary mining magnate GJ Reddy and former defence minister George Fernandes and Pramod Mahajan in the 2G spectrum allocation case in 2012.

Significantly, the number of CBI cases against Opposition leaders spiked during the NDA rule with only six BJP leaders facing investigation. The Trinamool Congress with 30 leaders topped the list of Opposition politicians under the CBI net followed by the Congress at 26. 

Key Opposition politicians facing CBI probes included Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, former Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath and former Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh.

The TMC and the Congress  are followed by RJD and BJD at 10 each, YSRCP 6, BSP 5, TDP 5, AAP 4, SP 4, AIADMK 4, CPM 4, NCP 3, NC 2, DMK 2, PDP and TRS at 1 each and an Independent.

In December 2021, an NDTV analysis found that 570 Opposition politicians, their relatives and aides, activists, lawyers, independent media houses or journalists, members of the film fraternity and even government officials who had questioned the NDA’s conduct faced the wrath of Central agencies—a shocking rise of 340% against political opponents compared to the UPA-2 government. 

Only 39 people linked to the BJP or its allies faced such probes during the same period, NDTV found despite the Association of Democratic Reforms discovering that in the reshuffled Narendra Modi Cabinet in July 2019, 34 of the 78 ministers had declared criminal cases against themselves and 25% serious criminal cases, including murder, attempt to murder, robbery, etc. 

The timing of CBI raids under both the UPA and the NDA is also questionable. Two days after the DMK quit the UPA in 2013, the CBI raided party leader and current Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin’s Chennai house in a case related to the import of 33 luxury cars. Though the CBI knew about the cars a month ago, it registered a case only after the DMK quit the coalition.

In 2007, a preliminary enquiry  was raised against SP leader and former Uttar Pradesh CM Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family in a case of alleged disproportionate assets but it was closed in 2013 after the SP helped the UPA survive following the Left’s exit over the US nuclear deal.

Similarly, the CBI started a probe against the YS Rajasekhara Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh over alleged corruption cases after his son YS Jagan Reddy rebelled against the Congress following his father’s death in 2009.

In August, the agency raided multiple premises of RJD leaders, including one allegedly linked to Bihar’s d CM Tejashwi Yadav, on the day of the trust vote of the Grand Alliance, comprising the NDA’s erstwhile partner CM Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and the Congress. 

In 2015, the CBI raided the offices of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s principal secretary Rajendar Kumar in a corruption case. The agency started multiple probes against AAP leaders, including deputy CM Manish Sisodia and health minister Satyendar Jain ahead of the Punjab polls in 2017. Last month, Sisodia was booked and his residence raided in connection with a case of alleged corruption related to Delhi’s liquor policy.

The CBI has also been accused of going soft on past cases against senior leaders of the ruling party or Opposition leaders who join the BJP. The agency did not file an appeal against Shah’s discharge by a special court in the Sheikh case. The CBI raided premises associated with then-Congress leader and current Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma in the Saradha chit fund scam and questioned him but didn’t take action against him after he joined the BJP. 

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