BJP's strategy of using ED, CBI to silence critics likely to gather pace in run up to polls

PM Modi’s usage of the phrase ‘urban Naxals’ in a speech indicates that his govt is set to gag intellectuals, academics and social activists opposing the tyrannical and divisive regime led by him

BJP's strategy of using ED, CBI to silence critics likely to gather pace in run up to polls

Arun Srivastava

By calling upon voters in Gujarat to stay alert and away from the "urban Naxals and foreign agents who were creating roadblocks in development and pursuing a malicious agenda to wreck India,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently betrayed how nervous the BJP is ahead of the Assembly polls due to be held in his home state and the 2024 General Election later on.

He was also parroting the views expressed by the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who recently remarked, “Maoism has always been urban and the neo-Left doctrine of urban Naxals is to establish an anti-national leadership with blind followers”. He went on to accuse 'urban Maoism' of propagating falsehood and spreading hatred in the society.

Modi’s probable poll strategy was also manifest in this observation made by him in the speech: “Urban Naxals are now flying into the state by sporting a new get up…I was determined not to let Naxalism gain a foothold in Gujarat and that is why I started development of the entire eastern belt”.

Recent developments have made it explicit that Narendra Modi and his deputy Amit Shah, sensing adverse results in the forthcoming round of Assembly polls and then the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, have chalked out a nefarious plan to try and turn the situation in the BJP’s favour. They can, of course, go to any extent to achieve success in such a mission. 

Modi’s comments indicate that his regime is all set to launch a repressive drive against intellectuals, academics and social activists who have been consistently opposing his tyrannical and divisive model of governance.

Already, a group of intellectuals and academics are languishing in the jails of Maharashtra on the charges of being ‘urban Naxals’.

Incidentally, it is quite intriguing that while the Union government conceded on the floor of the Parliament that it was not aware of any such term, Modi continues to use it.

On his part, Bhagwat went a step ahead, saying that to establish an anti-national leadership with blind followers solely committed to them is the 'neo-Left' doctrine of these ‘urban Naxals’.

 BJP leaders had used the phrase ‘urban Naxals’ just before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections also. With Modi dusting it off ahead of the 2024 general election is clearly nothing but a deep design to silence critics. The Modi government clearly intends to crack down on the vocal section of the society which dares to question him.

This will evidently be achieved with the help of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the CBI, which have both turned proactive just ahead of the Assembly polls.  

ED is the most feared agency right now. It has carried out a huge number of raids even though it failed to substantiate its charges against the arrested persons. Its objective is quite simple: Arrest the person and put him in jail. This is enough to terrorise the dissenting voices.

Let's take a look at some recent cases. On July 31, it detained Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut in connection with an alleged land scam case and interrogated almost all his family members. TMC leader Partha Chatterjee was arrested in Kolkata on the charges of hiding a huge stash of cash worth nearly Rs 60 crore. He was interrogated several times and is still behind bars, even as the ED is yet to come out with a tenable charge against him. 

It served notices to former chief minister of Bihar, Rabri Devi and her son Tejashwi Yadav, the current deputy CM of Bihar. The latest name added to the long list of the victims of central agencies is Manish Sisodia, deputy CM of Delhi.

ED has filed more than 5,400 money laundering cases but has secured conviction against just 23 persons till now. Its conviction rate is as low as 0.5 per cent even after the dramatic increase in raids. It probed 18,000 cases under FEMA in 6 years.

In all, the Central agency imposed penalties worth Rs 4,312 crore over these years. The government data shows it issued 27,000 summons and conducted 771 raids. After the amendment in 2015, with addition of section 37A in FEMA, ED can now attach properties in India if it finds that any assets are held outside India in contravention of the rules.

Of the 3,610 Show Cause Notices, 538 were issued in 2016-17, 791 in 2017-18, 844 in 2018-19, 718 in 2019-20, 529 in 2020-21 and 190 last year till November 30.

In a written reply in Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary confessed that till 31 March 2022, the ED recorded 5,422 cases under the PMLA, attached proceeds of crime worth Rs 1,04,702 crore (approximately), and filed prosecution complaints (chargesheets) in 992 cases resulting in the confiscation of Rs 869.31 crore and conviction of 23 accused.

It is crystal clear that the Modi government has been using the ED to target the channels of funding for its detractors. While the BJP is reluctant to reveal the money it has received in donations, it is out to clog opposition sources through such unethical means.

Interestingly, the functioning of the CBI has come under the lens of the Central Vigilance Commission. It has claimed that the CBI has been slow in investigating certain cases. As per the CVC’s annual report, released some days back, about 25 corruption investigations in CBI are pending beyond five years. Overall, total 1,239 investigations and enquiries were pending in CBI till December last year.

Another worrying trend for the CBI, the report said, pertains to pendency of its cases in courts. As of December 2019, a whopping 6,226 cases lodged under the Prevention of Corruption Act probed by the CBI were pending trial in various courts across the country, some for more than 20 years.

Taking into account the appeals and revisions filed by the agency and accused persons in various high courts, Supreme Court and additional session courts, a staggering 11,380 appeals/revisions are pending in courts, the CVC data suggests.

Like the ED, the CBI is also being used to goad and terrorise the Opposition leaders, politicians and social activists. A retired senior CBI official recently said that the manner in which the ED and CBI have swung into action indicates that a number of Opposition politicians and activists may be put behind bars in the run up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

(IPA Service)

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