New Delhi, Feb 4 (AGENCIES): Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said the “unfortunate” and “unprecedented” developments in West Bengal involving the CBI and the Kolkata Police indicate a constitutional breakdown, warning that the Centre has powers to take action.
Members from the Congress, BJD, NCP, SP and RJD spoke out against the Centre over the developments in West Bengal, with many of them alleging that the Narendra Modi government was misusing the CBI.
Amid noisy protests by Trinamool Congress members, Singh told the Lok Sabha that it was “unprecedented” that the CBI was stopped from lawfully doing its duty when it wanted to question Kolkata Police chief Rajeev Kumar regarding chit fund scams on Sunday.
A political slugfest has broken out over the incident, with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee sitting on a dharna, alleging misuse of the CBI. Various opposition parties, including the Congress, BJD, TDP, SP and NCP, have come out in support of Banerjee.
In the first reaction from the Centre on the incident, Singh said the CBI team wanted to question Kumar as he was “not cooperating”.
Making a statement in Lok Sabha on the prevailing situation in Kolkata, Singh described the action against the CBI probe team as “unprecedented” and a threat to the federal political system of the country.
“There may be constitutional breakdown in West Bengal… under the Constitution, the central government has been vested with the power to maintain normalcy in any part of the country,” he said.
“Whatever happened on Sunday, it indicates constitutional breakdown,” Singh said amid din in the House. He also said that a report has been sought from the Governor.
Further, the home minister hoped that the West Bengal government as well as other state governments provide a conducive atmosphere for law enforcement agencies to carry out their duties.
Earlier, opposition parties in the Lok Sabha attacked the government over the alleged misuse of central agencies against political rivals, saying it was against democratic norms. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan allowed members to raise the issue during the Zero Hour.
Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy said there is a crisis in West Bengal and that the Centre was “misusing” the CBI to politically capture the state.
While alleging that the Centre was “constantly using the CBI to throttle the Opposition”, Roy said the party is strongly protesting with all forces at its command.
BJD leader B Mahtab said the incident smacks of impropriety and also questions the integrity of the CBI. “We are not a banana republic…,” he said, adding the CBI is becoming a “political stooge and political weapon” in the hands of the Centre.
Stressing that the CBI should be a professional organisation, Mahtab charged that there have also been attempts in Odisha by the probe agency to defame the BJD.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge charged that the government was using the CBI as a weapon to finish the Opposition and put in place an autocratic regime.
Referring to alleged misuse of the CBI, Kharge said such things have happened not only in West Bengal but also in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Chennai.
Neither the people nor any party would bow down before such actions, he added. NCP leader Supriya Sule said her party is condemning the CBI for allegedly using its muscle power against a woman chief minister.
Dharmendra Yadav (SP) and Jaiprakash Narayan Yadav (RJD) also spoke against the Centre. CPI-M member Badaruddoza Khan said both the Trinamool Congress and the Centre were at fault, adding the CBI did not take action during the last four years. Saumitra Khan, who won on a Trinamool Congress ticket and had recently joined the BJP, also spoke.