The dramatic Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) vs Kolkata police showdown that began yesterday evening in connection with the Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund scams has now become a Opposition vs the Centre face-off. The unprecedented development was sparked off by the CBI's attempt to question Kolkata Police chief Rajeev Kumar in connection with the scams. As the head of a Special Investigation Team (SIT), formed nearly six years ago to look into the Saradha scam, Kumar allegedly withheld or destroyed evidence collected during the probe before it was handed over to the investigative agency.
But when the team of 40 CBI officials attempted a surprise visit on the top cop's Kolkata residence yesterday, they were not only denied permission but the state police also bundled them off to a police station where they were briefly detained.
Before long, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee joined the drama and began her ongoing dharna - her "satyagraha" - in the heart of the city to protest against "the attack on constitutional norms". She also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah of "trying to organise a coup" in West Bengal, and using federal agencies to disrupt harmony in the state that is up for elections in a few months. The BJP, on the other hand, has alleged that Kumar had destroyed crucial evidence on Banerjee's instructions since they supposedly raised fingers at people from her party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Here are the top 10 new developments that happened today in this still-evolving political slugfest:
1. CBI moves Supreme CourtThe agency filed an interim application in the top court specifically naming top cop Kumar as a "potential accused" and seeking directions to the West Bengal government and police to cooperate with its probe. According to India Today, the CBI has also filed a contempt plea in the Supreme Court against West Bengal's Chief Secretary and Director General of Police and Kolkata Police Commissioner for wilful and deliberate violation of apex court's orders.
"If the Kolkata Police Commissioner even remotely thinks of destroying evidence, bring the material before this Court. We will come down so heavily on him that he will regret," said Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi. The apex court is scheduled to take up the plea tomorrow morning.
Meanwhile, Kumar has reportedly moved Calcutta High Court seeking protection from the agency.
2. New CBI chief takes charge
Newly-appointed CBI chief Rishi Kumar Shukla took charge of the probe agency today. The arrival of the 58-year old Intelligence Bureau veteran and a former DGP of Madhya Pradesh is likely to bring some sort of order in the agency that is fighting the messy turf war with the Kolkata Police.
3. Ruckus in both houses of Parliament
The developments in West Bengal also disrupted the ongoing Budget Session of Parliament. The Lok Sabha reportedly witnessed three adjournments following heated arguments by the opposition parties accusing the CBI of abuse of power. The Upper House, too, was adjourned for the day.
However, Union Home minister Rajnath Singh defended the CBI action in West Bengal in Parliament saying that it "was taken after the Supreme Court had ordered an investigation" into the scam. "The way a CBI team was roughed up and stopped from performing their duties by Kolkata police points to anarchy and constitutional breakdown in West Bengal," he said, adding that Kumar had been "summoned many times but he did not appear". Further, terming the developments in West Bengal as "unprecedented", he warned that the Centre has powers to take action.
4. Several politicians come out in support
Describing her ongoing dharna as a "non-political" protest, Banerjee today said that support has poured in for her from different quarters of the country. Over 20 political leaders have expressed solidarity with her protest so far, including 10 serving and former chief ministers and a former prime minister apart from Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
The names on the list include Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi CM and AAP president; former J&K chief ministers (CM) Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti; HD Kumaraswamy, Karnataka CM; DMK President MK Stalin; Yashwant Sinha, former Union minister; Sharad Pawar, former Maharashtra CM; Jayant Chaudhary, former MP and RLD leader; Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani; former Bihar CMs Lalu Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav; former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu.
5. Governor's report submitted
Officials told PTI that the Home Minister had reached out to West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi to take stock of the situation and the former said that he had asked the chief secretary and director general of police (DGP) to take immediate action towards resolution. In the second half of the day the governor reportedly also submitted his confidential report on the situation.
6. Not a short fight
Interestingly, Banerjee pulled off the gloves and announced at the dharna site that the ongoing fight is against the Modi government and not the CBI. She also told the gathering that her sit-in will continue till February 8, stopping only due to the upcoming Board exams. "I am ready to give my life but not compromise. I did not take to the streets when you touched TMC leaders. But I am angry when they tried to insult the chair of the Kolkata Police Commissioner, he is leading the organisation," she said, adding that she is fighting to save the Constitution.
She was also seen conferring medals on policemen near the dharna site this evening, with Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar by her side in uniform.
7. Election Commission approached
Meanwhile, a high-level BJP delegation led by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman submitted a memorandum to the Election Commission to highlight instances that show that the TMC does not believe in democracy. The BJP has accused the state government of not allowing its political programmes in the state and sought the poll panel's intervention so that the Lok Sabha polls can be held in a "free and fair" manner.
The ruling party on Sunday had alleged that the Banerjee government had denied permission to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's chopper to land in the state to address two scheduled rallies.
8. Game of one-upmanship continues
The game of one-upmanship between the CBI and the Kolkata police also saw CBI Joint Director Pankaj Srivastav ignore summons by the state police to fly back to Delhi today.
9. TMC workers take to the streets
Party workers organised protest marches in several districts, shouting slogans against the CBI and carrying posters that depicted Modi as German dictator Adolf Hitler, with 'Modi Bharat Chhodo' written on them. They also burnt effigies of Modi and Shah, obstructed train movements in a couple of districts, put up blockades on national highway in Bankura district and vandalised a BJP office in Kolkata.
"Law and order has completely collapsed! No one is safe under TMC," BJP Bengal tweeted this afternoon.
10. BJP wants President's Rule
Describing the showdown in Kolkata as a "constitutional crisis", the BJP wants President's Rule be imposed in the state. Reacting to such speculation Banerjee yesterday had declared, "Let them do whatever they want to do to gag us. We are not scared. We will see. Let them announce President's Rule. This is Bengal and history is witness to how the state has always stood against atrocities and against those who tried to toy with democracy."
Edited by Sushmita