Time to raid BJD leaders was two years back, not now

By Sandeep Sahu

After sleeping for months, the CBI suddenly woke up on Thursday and decided to raid 25 premises, including the houses of BJD MP from Balasore Rabindra Kumar Jena, Cuttack-Chodwar BJD MLA Prabhat Biswal and Saroj Sahu, the political aide of BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik, in connection with the Seashore case. But does anyone really care?

Each of these three persons has been questioned by the agency in the last two years. Biswal was interrogated in November, 2014 in connection with a land deal with Seashore. In the little over two years since then, his wife has Laxmibilasini has been summoned to the CBI office twice. Jena has been questioned twice, the last time round for a marathon six hours on December 10, 2016. Sahu, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s go-to man, who used to control all access to his boss at his residence, was quizzed way back in November, 2014 and then forgotten till today. What exactly did the CBI expect to seize or recover after giving them such a long rope? One has to be a real fool or possessed by a death wish to keep ‘incriminating documents’, if any, at their residence and office for two years!

When Sahu was quizzed for two hours on November 22, 2014, it certainly looked like the CBI inquiry was nearing its business end. After all, Sahu was a key aide of the Chief Minister and BJD supremo, controlling all operations at Naveen Nivas, which has all along doubled up as the de facto party headquarters, and regulating all appointments with the boss. Soon after this, the names of nearly a dozen BJD MLAs, including some ministers, started doing the rounds as the next targets of the CBI. [Curiously, the same set of names is being bandied about after Thursday’s raids!] At one time, even the possibility of the Big Boss being quizzed looked real.

But for reasons that can only be speculated on, the Supreme Court CBI inquiry into the mega chit fund, which had looked well on course till then, suddenly veered off the path and meandered along without a destination. The hyper-active MK Sinha was shunted out as CBI SP and former Odisha DGP Prakash Mishra prevented from becoming the CBI chief after the disgraced Ranjit Sinha through a series of crude machinations that earned the present DGP KB Singh, who was the head of the State Vigilance at the time, a telling rap on the knuckle first by the Orissa High Court and then the Supreme Court. The premier investigating agency in the country proved, if any proof was needed at all, that it remained the ‘caged parrot’ – as the apex court had described it – even after the change of regime in May 2014.

Ironically, it’s the BJD, which should actually be sending a ‘Thank You’ card to the CBI for getting off its back after initially threatening to go after its top leaders, which is crying foul. But for once, one is inclined to agree with its charge that Thursday’s raids were a politically motivated move ahead of the crucial panchayat elections in the state next month.

May be those who control the CBI decided on conducting Thursday’s raids because they were a little rattled by criticism that it was going after Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Tapas Paul without any fresh evidence even as it did nothing about the BJD leaders, who were involved as much – if not more – in the chit fund as their counterparts in the TMC. May be the state BJP managed to convince its central leadership that a raid on the ‘usual suspects’ of the BJD at this juncture could puncture the electoral prospects of the ruling party in the panchayat polls.

There is no way other way the raids can be explained. If Messrs Jena, Biswal and Sahu had to be raided in the genuine hope of seizing some ‘incriminating documents’ and getting some worthwhile leads into their alleged involvement in the case, the time for it was two years back and not now.