It never rains, it pours as far as the troubles of the UPA government go in recent times. Any hope that the scams which have been unearthed and their aftermath could be put behind it as it enters the final phase of its tenure before elections 2014 has been belied after the disclosure by the Central Bureau of Investigation director Ranjit Sinha that the agency had shown its report on the multi-million rupee coal scam to the law minister. The matter is now before the Supreme Court, which will take a decision by April 30. But the worrying issue is that of a serious erosion of the government’s credibility in its conduct in what has now been dubbed coalgate, even as allegations of impropriety are floating around on the handling of the 2G case.
The government and indeed previous governments have always been quick to assert the independence of agencies like the CBI. Indeed, it is in the government’s own interest to have an agency which is seen as non-partisan. In which case, the very fact that the report was shared with the law minister, even if this is a draft and not the final one, casts doubts on the findings. If the CBI were indeed an independent body and that too investigating a very sensitive case, why did it accede to the request of the law minister and now it would seem coal ministry officials and PMO officials to share the report? The law minister, we assume, should also have known better than to seek to see, many say vet, the report before its submission. Even if nothing has been changed in the report, it should not have been handed around like a common and garden document.
Whichever way this pans out, we can expect a pitched battle between the government and the Opposition on the issue of tampering with the report and also the need for the law minister to go. And, of course, there have been demands for the prime minister to go. Now that the political class is embroiled in this issue, we cannot really expect any progress on vital legislations that are pending before Parliament. The latest embarrassment comes after emotions have been running high on the Joint Parliamentary Committee’s report on the 2G imbroglio in which the chairman has been accused of bias raising demands for his resignation. Allegations about who knew what are flying thick and fast, vitiating an already toxic political atmosphere. The government needs to do a lot to restore confidence in the impartiality of the CBI, the premier investigative agency and one in which many ordinary people still repose a lot of faith. That it has become a political bone of contention does no credit to either the agency or the political class.