The ongoing CBI mess has unfolded a royal drama with the government late on Tuesday night appointing CBI Additional Director M Nageshwar Rao as the interim Director of the agency. The appointment with immediate effect was reserved after incumbent CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana, the two officers at the centre of the ongoing feud within India’s premier investigating agency, were sent on leave.
Moreover, the government has also sidelined all the three additional directors, number three in the agency hierarchy, including AK Sharma whose name was mentioned in the complaint filed by Asthana.
Hailing from Borenarsapur village in Warangal District of Andhra Pradesh, Mannem Nageshwar Rao is a 1986 batch officer of the Odisha cadre and served in various capacities in his cadre state. Following that, he became a Joint Director at CBI and was recently promoted as the Additional Director. The Additional Director of Railway Police was the last responsibility served by him in Odisha. Besides, he was also the No. 3 in the pecking order at the CBI and was handling the Chandigarh branch along with certain branches in South India.
The Verma-Asthana rift started in October 2017 when Verma, during a meeting of the five-member CVC, objected to Asthana’s promotion as Special Director. The reputation of the Central Bureau of Investigation has crashed deep down after Alok Verma recently filed an FIR against Asthana alleging him to have demanded a Rs 5 crore bribe from a Hyderabad-based businessman through middlemen in order to help him be out of trouble in controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi case, in which Asthana was heading the Special Investigation Team. Asthana too accused Verma of attempts to thwart investigations in important cases while the CBI has already issued a statement defending Verma.
Rao getting new designation in the CBI is too tainted with controversy as many have called him another black sheep in the CBI backed by BJP Telangana. As an acting chief of the investigation agency, Rao has firstly commanded the transfer of the investigation officer (IO) Ajay Bassi, the Deputy Inspector General Manish Sinha, and the whole team probing the bribery case against Asthana. What are all these indicating to? Is this how our Prime Minister wanted or promised to fight the deep-rooted corruption in the country? Why is the central government, through its appointee Rao, trying to shatter the squad investigating fraudulent activities?
BJP MLA Sardar Tara Singh said, “I believe that a capable person must be given the charge of this feud and action must be taken against those who are involved in corruption. So, if a corrupt CBI official is suspended from his post, then it is a good step.”
When asked about Rahul Gandhi’s allegations on Modi suspending Alok Verma to stop the investigation on Rafale deal scam, he commented, “Rahul Gandhi’s agenda is to speak against Narendra Modi every now and then. However, he will not derive any benefit by accusing Modi as the citizens are aware of Modi’s capability and his good work for the nation’s development.”
The ongoing discord in CBI moved the government to take charge in controlling the clutter. However, the Prime Minister-led Appointments Committee choosing Nageshwar Rao with its dramatic midnight mode has caught many eyeballs. Moreover, as per sources, even after being tarnished with corruption charges in his parent cadre Odisha, Rao’s closeness to native Telugu speaking officers helped him to be inducted into the CBI with an active recommendation by former union minister Venkaiah Naidu. A detailed complaint with corruption charges against Rao was sent to the then Director of CBI. The relevant portion of the complaint, which has been exclusively accessed by Afternoon Voice, reveals a huge scam.
It says that “though the FIR against the VGN Developers in a high-valued property case was registered on December 28, 2016, Nageshwar Rao failed to instruct the I.O. to conduct any search operations in connection with the case. Due to this serious lapse, sources say, some serious evidence of bribery by the VGN Developers to various state and central government officials was lost. Instead of allotting this case for investigation to an I.O. of police/investigation background, Rao assigned the investigation of this sensitive case to one Velayutham, an Indian Bank depute best known to him.”
“Rao failed to issue any clear instructions with regard to the investigation of this case or monitor the progress of this investigation. However, he had ensured that he is always kept in the loop with regard to any developments. Though the allegation as per the FIR is that the land in dispute which was purchased by VGN developers was purchased below market price, there are widespread allegations of the involvement of two senior IAS officers of TN cadre who facilitated the issuance of NOC for the sale. The sources also claim that one Ram Mohana Rao, who was a former Chief Secretary of TN government, had also received sizeable money from VGN promoters,” the report further unveiled.
Maj Gen (R) AJB Jaini asserted, “It is unfortunate that CBI, that is noted to be the ultimate agency for doing the right, is being accused of corruption. This is going to shatter the confidence of people as they have already lost faith in the police, judiciary, and the government. The government is removing corrupt officers but appointing even more corrupt people to make them their parrots. The government must remain aloof from the investigation agencies. If the credibility of CBI comes into question, where should the common man go?”
Narendra Modi-led government’s decision to divest Alok Verma of his duties and commissioning M Nageshwar Rao as the CBI Director is slammed by the Opposition parties. While Congress called it “the ‘last nail’ into the independence of CBI” and interpreted Verma’s keenness to probe the ‘layers of corruption’ in the Rafale deal scam as a possible reason behind his sacking, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury termed the removal as “illegal”. Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too voiced their acrimony.
Congress leader and MLC Bhai Jagtap expressed, “The credibility of CBI is at stake today. Whatever Rahul Gandhi said in his speech about Alok Verma’s removal from the post of Special Director of CBI is not just allegations but a reality as the Rafale deal is a crystal clear fraud and the biggest of all corruption. Now, the transfer of the officials who were investigating the Rafale scam shows that the government wants to dilute the issue.”
On the appointment of Nageshwar Rao, an official with tainted records, Jagtap smirked and asked, “Not just me but the whole nation wants to know that what is BJP up to as how does it make sense to remove an officer on the charges of corruption but appoint another corrupt officer as the CBI Director.”
“If the government honestly wanted to sack the corrupt officers, they should have given the charge of CBI to someone who has a track record with an impartial approach towards cases. The government just wants puppet officers who can simply dance on their tunes,” he added.