Centre-state showdown

THE acrimonious face-off between the Centre and the Mamata Banerjee government in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections has laid bare the enormity of political interference in the process of law. Politicking and histrionics have always gone hand in hand, but the sit-in by the West Bengal Chief Minister was a new low, especially when the Supreme Court is already monitoring the CBI probe into the Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund scams.

The apex court has done its job by putting the inquiry back on track, but allegations and counter-allegations continue to fly thick and fast. Mamata has accused the BJP of blackmailing people by using central agencies such as the CBI against them and then inducting them into the party fold with the promise of immunity from prosecution. Throwing down the gauntlet, she has asked the premier investigating agency to conduct its probe into the theft of Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel medal with the same urgency with which it executes the orders of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. The saffron party, in turn, claims that Mamata is shielding Kolkata police chief Rajeev Kumar as he probably possesses evidence that could prove damning for the ruling Trinamool Congress.

Amid the politically electrified scenario, it is perhaps too much to expect a free and fair investigation into the high-profile cases. The new CBI Director, Rishi Kumar Shukla, has taken charge at a time when the agency’s reputation is in tatters. He faces the Herculean task of restoring its credibility in the public eye and ensuring that it functions without any pressure, even as the power tussle on the national stage is set to intensify in the next couple of months. Rival camps are likely to throw caution to the winds in order to wrest the initiative. It won’t be a surprise if they lower the bar even further rather than adopting the constitutional course of exercising restraint and letting the law reign supreme. The onus will be on the voters to see through the theatrics and make an informed choice.