NEW DELHI— Prime Minister Narendra Modi is using his office and the office of National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval for "manipulating" the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yashwant Sinha has said.
Sinha made his comments in an interview with HuffPost India, in the context of the two senior-most officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana, accusing each other of corruption. Both men are currently on administrative leave.
On Wednesday, Sinha, former BJP leader Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan told the Supreme Court there was "enormous pressure on the CBI" not to investigate Modi's controversial purchase of Rafale fighter aircraft.
"The CBI has been thoroughly misused, manipulated by previous governments but much more so by this government," Sinha said.
When asked who in the government he thought was doing this and why, Sinha said, "The government is the PMO (Prime Minister's Office) in this case because CBI is directly under the Prime Minister and therefore whatever happens, he takes responsibility as the departmental minister. The Prime Minister through the PMO and the NSA's office were manipulating the CBI and CVC."
Describing how this "manipulation" may be operationalised, Sinha said, "If you want to manipulate an institution, the most important thing to keep in mind is to put people there who would be willing to collaborate with you. And it was with this intent that the special director [IPS Rakesh Asthana] was brought into the CBI and, as I said, against all norms."
Asthana, Sinha said, was "helping the government manipulate things" and when they realised that CBI Director Verma "may not be amenable to some of the actions of the government", they worked to "create a situation where he feels forced to get out".
This, Sinha said, led to Central Vigilance Commissioner KV Chowdary divesting Verma of his role.
When pointed out that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had stated that the government had only acted upon the CVC's recommendations, Sinha was quick to retort, "That is all pretence."
"Who is the CVC?" Sinha continued, claiming that Chowdary too was placed in his position by the government to manipulate his office.
On being asked why the PMO would want to manipulate such premier agencies of the union government, Sinha said, "This government has many purposes. You want XYZ to be chargesheeted, to be raided, this is what happens when you have people like this then they will do this."
Sinha said the current controversy at the CBI was unfortunate, but to be expected, as Asthana had been brought into the CBI with the "express intent of helping the government manage the cases in which it was interested".
"Confrontation was in the nature of things," Sinha concluded. "It was built into the arrangement."