Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his Cabinet colleagues and the Opposition on Thursday slammed the Central Bureau of Investigation for conducting searches at DMK leader M.K. Stalin’s residence in Chennai, the investigating agency defended the move by stating that the operation was as per procedures and not targeted against any individual. The CBI also ordered an enquiry to look into any procedural lapses in carrying out the searches.
In its clarification issued immediately after it started facing severe criticism from almost the entire political class, the CBI said the “operation was strictly in accordance with procedures and there was no intention whatsoever to target any particular individual.” The cases pertained to a complaint regarding import of 33 vehicles in Tamil Nadu and their sale in violation of import provisions, causing a loss of up to Rs. 48 crore to the exchequer, it added.
The searches evoked sharp reactions as it came two days after the Congress’ long-time ally, the DMK, quit the UPA and withdrew its Ministers from the government.
As political tempers soared in Delhi, Dr. Singh told journalists that he was “upset” at the development and that his government had “no role” in the searches.
“We are all upset at these events. The government had no role in this that I am sure of. We will find out the details. This should not have...[happened]. The timing of the raid is most unfortunate,” he said.
Chidambaram disapproves CBI action
His senior Cabinet colleagues P. Chidambaram, Kamal Nath and Kapil Sibal were more vocal in their criticism of the CBI. “I strongly disapprove of the CBI action. Whatever be the reason… it is bound to be misunderstood. I have conveyed my views to the Minister in-charge [Minister of State for Personnel and Training V. Narayanasamy],” Mr. Chidambaram said.
The BJP termed the CBI action “blatant misuse” of power by the UPA government for its survival.
While party leader M. Venkaiah Naidu said the CBI was government “controlled,” party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said: “The CBI is indeed the ‘Congress Bureau of Investigation’… while there are endless charges of corruption against the Congress, it is attempting to stifle voices of its alliance partners who plan to abandon it.”
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury termed the agency “Congress Bureau of Investigation’ and warned other allies in the Congress-led coalition to beware of similar treatment.
“If the PM, as the head of the government, does not know what his government is doing, it is a sad state of affairs… these raids are a clear signal to the supporting parties to look out for,” he said .
The Bahujan Samaj Party, which has been extending crucial outside support to the government, also criticised the CBI raids. Its leader Mayawati said she too had been a victim of “misuse” of the CBI by both the BJP and the Congress to further their political interests.