BJP leader Subramanian Swamy. (Photo: PTI)

Allegations Against CBI Director Verma A Joke, Says Subramanian Swamy

Subramanian Swamy, parliamentarian from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, is upset that his party’s government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not fulfilling its anti-corruption promise. The latest example of that, according to him, is the war within the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Swamy, while speaking with BloombergQuint, called the charges of corruption against CBI Director Alok Verma a “joke”, saying that the “honest officer” would not misappropriate even a “bag of salt”.

Verma, who initiated investigation against his deputy and Special Director Rakesh Asthana for alleged bribery, has been asked by the government to go on leave. Asthana, who levelled similar charges against Verma, too has been sent on a leave.

But why is Swamy backing an officer that his government seems to have shunted out? Swamy suggested that Prime Minister Modi is so busy with the “big picture” that he hasn’t noticed the situation.

The number of banquets he (Modi) attends of heads of states itself takes 30-40 percent of his time. The question is, does he delegate his authority to those people who are honest and have them probed from time to time to see whether they have become rogue or not. He didn’t do it.
Subramanian Swamy, Member of Parliament, BJP

Watch the full conversation here:

Here’s the edited transcript of the interaction

You said that you would stop all the anti-corruption cases that you have taken to court if you got the feeling that your government wasn’t backing you. Where is all of this coming from?

Since we came to power… I had already by then had a reputation for taking corruption cases to courts and getting a result. The 2G spectrum case is an example of that. Thereafter, I had filed another case in 2013 which was against (former finance minister) Chidambaram in the Aircel-Maxis scam. Before we came to power I had also filed a private complaint in the Patiala House Court on National Herald case. There was lot of expectation I would see that a government with a majority would be able to remove all the obstacles that I might face in a partisan government. But I found the opposite happening. I found that the finance ministry was dragging its feet, giving public statements that crime was so trivial and you could get away by paying a small fine. Then came along Mr (Shashi) Tharoor’s case which is where it was clear, and the autopsy reports said that Sunanda Pushkar had died an unnatural death. And there also there was a refusal to register a FIR. This was piling up that somehow our government, though better than Congress, was in fact not very keen to bring all these things to a finality and closure. All kinds of arguments were given to me that if Chidambaram was charge sheeted, Congress will not allow parliament to function, etc.

In this background, I found that officers who are honest were being targeted. Not only were they being targeted in the UPA period but they were targeted by our government. For example, the case of presently the joint director of ED (Enforcement Directorate), Rajeshwar Singh, whose promotion is being held up for one year by the finance secretary Mr (Hasmukh) Adhia. He was targeted by Chidambaram. He removed him from service while he was investigating the Aircel-Maxis case. I went to SC and it set it aside and gave a direction. Surprisingly, when our government came Mr Jaitley took him to the High Court and tried to get him removed. For that also, I had to go against my own government. So, a background was created that somehow, we’re not serious about corruption.

That’s when I found that a man as honest as Mr Verma, I knew him when he was Delhi Police Commissioner and seen his work and how he reduced corruption in Delhi Police and prosecuted officers of misdemeanor. He was given a promotion on merit as CBI director and then they started targeting him. They brought totally illegally, Mr Asthana from Gujarat and placed him as special director. Then they all began to work to see that Mr Verma leaves and Mr Asthana takes over. But Verma turned out to be a tough guy and that’s how the whole clash has come and that’s why I am supporting Mr Verma.

Why do you feel that this government has not managed to fulfill the anti-corruption promise and how is that being seen in the case of Alok Verma as he has been accused of corruption too?

It’s a joke. I don’t think you can even charge him of corruption of a packet of salt. That is all manufactured and started by Asthana. So that he would resign and Asthana could take over as director. To say that the director targeted, then investigation showed that Mr Asthana was complicit with Mr Chidambaram. Chidambaram had a lady journalist who was friendly to him. She used to come and see him. Then there were undesirable characters which are declared by CBI itself as undesirable characters who should not be allowed in the corridors of power. They began meeting him. They began filing PILs (public interest litigation) which I had to go to court and get it squashed. Now, those racketeers are in Tihar jail for a whole lot of crimes. All this was happening to pressurise Verma to resign and go. There is no chance of Mr Verma of any validity. The CVC himself is (of) a dubious character in my opinion and he should never have been appointed. But he played safe for all this time and suddenly erupted with all kinds of statements.

Mr Asthana is believed to be close to the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office). Why would Asthana go slow on corruption cases of political oppositions of the government?

I was happy when they selected Verma and I celebrated it. In Gujarat, Mr Modi was looking at the big picture. The lower levels following the Gujarat riots and dealing with Dawood’s people, etc… The officer has a complete free hand. Modi was known for the fact that he gave free hand to officers. I don’t think he thought that anyone could be bought. I was told six months ago, that Asthana will go. I thought for six months we can bear him. But then this coup d’état took take place where he fostered a case against Mr Asthana and the CVC piously sitting there and pontificating instead of throwing the thing out in the waste paper basket. This is what created the crises. I have high regard for Modi as whenever I wrote a letter showing that this block is coming, he would call the officers and ask for explanations and if he was satisfied that I was right then would remove that block. I don’t think Modi has anything to do with this except that he is too interested in the big picture. His pet ideas on Make in India, where he has achieved success, traveling abroad frequently. So, therefore, what these people were doing, I don’t think came to his attention. Since the gang of four I’ve has identified, made sure that no information reached to him except my letters.

Are you expecting people to believe that Prime Minister Modi, who is known to have a great grip to his administration, doesn’t know what is happening? There is a dichotomy there.

There is no dichotomy. Gujarat was just limited to Gujarat. Here he has got multi-dimensional responsibilities. I think the number of banquets he attends for visiting heads of states is itself enough to take up 30-40 percent of his time. The question is, did he delegate his authority to those people who’re honest and had them probed from time to time to see whether they have become rogue or not? I think that he didn’t do it.

Whenever I have brought to his notice that somebody has turned rogue, he got rid of him despite the country on one side. For example, Raghuram Rajan. Even Mr Obama called him to say that his term should be extended but Modi didn’t care. He thought that he was inappropriate and sent him away. There were other appointments like Shaktikanta Das who was removed from the Ministry of Finance. Kumawat who was sent back to Bihar cadre. Whenever the matter was brought to the Prime Minister he acted after verifying the facts. But I was the only one bringing it up and I felt I can’t go on writing a letter every day. But this one was too much because it was a coup d’état. There was attempted coup d’état by a gang of four and it failed.

Alok Verma said in a statement that details of many of the cases which have led to present circumstances are extremely sensitive. In your view, what are these cases? The opposition says that one of the cases is Rafale deal which is sitting on his table.

First, let me dispose of this Rafale matter. This is just a complaint from the Congress and there is no substance in it. I don’t think he was planning to go any further on it. CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) was encouraging the Congress people that CBI is bound to investigate it. On that advice, they came. It was an unofficial advice, but he gave it. As far as sensitive files are concerned, it is all there including my complaint against Adhia, where I sought the sanction to prosecute him. This whole Nirav Modi and Choksi case. He has been complicit in every corruption scandal. The Vodafone scandal, he has been complicit. Those are sensitive files. Because that man was the advisor to Modi when he was in Gujarat and now he has become finance secretary. So, it’s lying on the table. What’s the CBI director suppose to do? Suppose I give a complaint and they don’t act on it, then I can go to court and ask the court to give him a direction. It’s what happened in 2G when I complained that (former prime minister) Manmohan Singh didn’t take it seriously. I went to court and then the court took up the whole matter. So, directors of CBI must be careful that when some members of parliament come and give them a complain they must at least look at it.

If Verma wins and he is reinstated at the CBI, wouldn’t it be huge embarrassment for your government?

The people who are going to lose, I know who they are. Modi doesn’t stand to lose. He had delegated responsibility to the National Security Adviser and Finance Minister. They are the ones who drew up the blueprint. In the party, none of us will take it as a miss. If a stay order is given to an order issued to ask Mr Verma to go on leave, I don’t think there will be finality tomorrow. They will probably have an extended hearing, including which are the files which he calls as sensitive. But tomorrow the court could decide to give a stay on the order and ask him to resume his duties which I hope they do because he is only one who is clued into all the other cases. The new guy who has come in is a complete novice as far as the CBI is concerned. It is all go beyond the elections and we will not be able to show our face in the election. I hope Mr Verma is reinstated tomorrow in terms of a stay order. I am sure that the Prime Minister should not and will not take it personally to him because he had delegated responsibility and they made a mess of it.

Would the person at the top not take responsibility of what is happening on his watch?

I never mentioned Nripendra Mishra. He is the Principal Secretary to the PM. I say very good things about him. He was telecom in-charge. He was in 2G time. I have seen his correspondence. There are many people. Bureaucrats like Rajeshwar, I have never seen a detective like him. The guy has got memory which I have not seen in many people. There is large number of officers I praise. There was one officer called Arjun Raghavendra who was the most brilliant officer and what Mr Hasmukh Adhia did to him is unbelievable. It’s horrible and this man is a sadist. There are magnificent officers, but they have to be given confidence that if they go in the interests of the country then they will be protected. They don’t have to go through “yes sir, no sir”.

Many say that because you haven’t been given a big role in government, is this the unhappiness expressed because of it?

In India, finding motives for enlightened actions and behavior is a very cheap way to function. You can’t think of any argument against me, so you have ascribed a motive. I haven’t been made FM, so the loser is the government and not me. I have been going around the country, campaigning for the party. I emerged as the second- most popular person in the party as I stayed out. Many people think that I am lucky that I wasn’t a minister as today you could have been holding the bag. On the contrary, you have done tremendous amount of work, you have created a huge following on Twitter and all this is because you have denied being Finance Minister. If I am not Finance Minister, I am not the loser, but the loser is Government Of India.

Would you believe that the BJP is looking at it weakest in last four years?

I don’t agree. People were thinking that Mr Vajpayee was so strong that he advanced the elections by six months and got a beating of his life and the party strength went to half. We are very heterogeneous in terms of opinion in a democratic society. The Hindutva appeal and if we are able to reconstruct this anti-corruption appeal, then that is enough for us to win. I agree the economy is in a mess but that is not going to be deciding factor.