Political tool

The CBI investigation into the disproportionate assets case against Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son and UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav is almost over and there are credible reports that the agency is set to file a closure report to the Supreme Court, absolving them of the charge of amassing wealth through misuse of office. The investigation is being done on the direction of the Supreme Court where a private complaint was filed to probe the Mulayam family’s wealth which had multiplied many times between 1993 and 2005. There will be no surprise if the investigation is closed now because it is widely believed that politics has been an important element in its six years of slow grind. Very rarely have politicians been found guilty of the kind of charges levelled against Mulayam.

When the investigation started the agency had reported to the Supreme Court that a case was warranted under the Prevention of Corruption Act. It had found that the assets had increased from a few lakhs to many crores and had concluded that there was “prima facie possession of assets disproportionate to known sources of income.” But the assets are now unconvincingly explained away as loans and gifts from relatives. The direction of the court to exclude the assets of Akhilesh Yadav’s wife from the  investigation, on the ground that she was not a public servant, also narrowed down the scope of the investigation. This was done on the basis of the opinion of the solicitor-general.

The impression that the investigation was used by the government as a Damocles’ sword over Mulayam Singh’s head cannot be easily dispelled. He was constrained to support the UPA government during the confidence vote in July 2008 after the withdrawal of support by the Left parties. The pressure was kept on whenever the government needed the SP’s support in Parliament in subsequent years. It again needs the party’s support for passage of the Food Security Bill in the coming monsoon session. All the talk and the claimed plans for giving  the CBI autonomy and the power to pursue investigations independently sound hollow in this context. The case is not just one of politicians acquiring wealth through misuse of office. The issue involved in it is also of the government using the charges and the coercive power at its disposal to put pressure on politicians and ultimately shielding them. 

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