Raids against political rivals and critics increase 340% under BJP - Political vendetta or just coincidence?

An average of 75 raids were conducted per year by the investigative agencies under the BJP rule compared to only 17 per year during the Congress rule.

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Jitesh Surjiani | 21 Jan '22

The frequency of raids conducted, and investigations launched by Centrally controlled agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Income Tax department (IT), Enforcement Directorate (ED), J&K administration, Delhi Police, etc., under the BJP government has been a conversation piece in the political and social circles for a while now. An analysis carried out by a team at NDTV, based on data available in the public domain gives the subject an interesting perspective.

Raids against political rivals under BJP and Congress

Since BJP’s coming to power in May 2014, Central agencies have raided 570 politicians, their associates, media houses, activists, etc., at an average of 75 cases a year. In comparison, there were only 85 such raids conducted during the UPA-II rule at an average of 17 cases a year. BJP’s count of 570 is a whopping 340% increase over similar actions under the Congress-led UPA-II government. Interestingly, 93% of the raids (531 in total) conducted during the BJP rule were against its political rivals and only 7% (39) were against its own party colleagues and allies. During the UPA-II rule, however, 32% of the cases were targeted towards its own party members and allies.

Targets of raids by CBI and ED under BJP rule

Political rivals of BJP were the most targeted group given the 257 cases filed against them. Their relatives and associates were the next most sought-after target as they were raided/investigated 140 times by the sleuths in CBI, ED, and Income Tax. In addition, sweeps were conducted against many activists, lawyers, independent media houses, journalists, members of the film fraternity, and even government officials who questioned the BJP’s policies and actions.

These include Bollywood personalities like actress Tapsee Pannu and director Anurag Kashyap, bureaucrats like Ashok Lavasa, the former Election Commissioner, left-leaning activists like Sudha Bharadwaj, media establishments like Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar. All of them share one thing in common – their open criticism of BJP’s conduct, be it their economic policies, lack of secular beliefs, or their mishandling of Covid in the early days.

Political parties targeted under BJP rule

Probably in keeping with BJP’s oft-repeated slogan of “Congress-mukt Bharat”, the Congress party bore the biggest brunt of BJP’s wrath with 75 cases against them during the 7-year rule of BJP. Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, which overwhelmingly trounced BJP in the crucial West Bengal elections last year had investigative agencies at its doorsteps 36 times. Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party which defeated BJP three times over in the Delhi elections had 18 cases against them. There is virtually no political party that was spared across India - from the Abdullah family and Mehbooba Mufti in Kashmir to party colleagues and relatives of the DMK's Stalin in Tamil Nadu.

Smells of political vendetta

Using government-managed investigative agencies against its critics and political rivals is not new in Indian politics. What stands out here though is the questionably one-sided focus on the other side of the political divide while almost everyone under the BJP-led NDA umbrella continues to enjoy immunity just as long as they sing off the BJP’s hymn sheet. This can be gauged by a few statements made by its allies recently. Harshvardhan Patil, a former MLA from Maharashtra who crossed over from the Congress to the BJP prior to the 2019 Assembly polls, when questioned of his reason for the crossover, said that in BJP “everything is easy-going and peaceful’ and “he now gets sound sleep as there are no inquiries”. Sanjay Patil, another BJP MP from Maharashtra, said at a public function, "The ED won't come after me since I am a BJP MP. We have to take a loan in order to purchase luxury cars worth ₹40 lakh to show off. The ED will be surprised to see the amount of loan we have." As a case in point, central agencies overlooked the allegations of BJP (including an ex-CM) bribing legislators between 2018 and 2020 despite the Rajasthan and Karnataka governments releasing audio clips as proof.

The timing of the raids also raises a question mark on BJP’s intent as the alacrity of the investigative agencies picks up pace especially during elections. This can be seen from the huge number of raids conducted in UP against leaders of the Samajwadi Party just before the crucial UP Assembly polls next month.

The Opposition’s claims over the years that crossovers to the BJP get automatically “white-washed” have now stuck a discordant note. As a case in point, many members of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress were targeted over the Saradha Scam just before the West Bengal Assembly polls in 2021. However, the agencies went soft on Suvendu Adhikari, a trusted aide of Mamata Banerjee and one of the prime accused, as he switched over to the BJP and was seen as a key force to bring BJP to power in West Bengal.

World takes notice

BJP’s intimidating tactics have been criticized by the world media numerous times. These predatory tactics are partially responsible for India dropping its score on the Press Freedom Index year on year on which it currently occupies the 142nd position amongst 180 countries. As quoted in the Press Freedom Report in 2021, "The strategy for suppressing information is often two-fold. On the one hand, governments use innovative practices often derived from marketing to impose their own narrative within the mainstream media, whose publishers are from the same elite as the politicians. On the other, politicians and activists wage a merciless war on several fronts against reporters and media outlets that don’t toe the official line. The way India applies these methods is particularly instructive. While the pro-government media pump out a form of propaganda, journalists who dare to criticise the government are branded as “anti-state,” “anti-national” or even “pro-terrorist” by supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This exposes them to public condemnation in the form of extremely violent social media hate campaigns that include calls for them to be killed, especially if they are women. When out reporting in the field, they are physically attacked by BJP activists, often with the complicity of the police. And finally, they are also subjected to criminal prosecutions."

Releasing the ‘Caged Parrot’

The CBI, which is mandated to probe corruption and major crimes, comes under the administrative control of the Department of Personnel and Training under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The Supreme Court described the CBI as “caged parrot” and “its master’s voice” as early as May 2013 while citing evidence of interference in the agency’s inquiry into alleged irregularities in the allocation of coalfield licenses. In August 2021, the Madras high court made a few suggestions for bringing improvements in CBI’s functioning. It asked the Centre to consider enacting a law giving statutory status to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with a separate budgetary allocation to ensure its autonomy. The high court said the CBI’s autonomy would be ensured only when it is given statutory status just like the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), and Election Commission (EC) which is accountable only to the Parliament and not the ruling government.

It is a different matter altogether that the autonomy of the Election Commission is also being questioned given the times it has seen to be pliable and buckled under the pressure of the BJP...

As the saying goes, “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%.” The observation sure seems to find its own meaning in the world’s largest democracy.


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Jitesh Surjiani

Jitesh Surjiani

Jitesh Surjiani is passionate about progressive change for India and its citizens. He writes about issues that are roadblocks in improving quality of life and interpersonal interactions as well as areas of public governance that fall short in intent and action.

Raids against political rivals and critics increase 340% under BJP - Political vendetta or just coincidence? Raids against political rivals and critics increase 340% under BJP - Political vendetta or just coincidence?
Raids against political rivals and critics increase 340% under BJP - Political vendetta or just coincidence?
Raids against political rivals and critics increase 340% under BJP - Political vendetta or just coincidence? 0 min left

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