By Sushil Kutty
Calling it “The Curious Case of ED Under Modi” will give the Bharatiya Janata Party a hole to duck into. There is nothing “curious” about the Modi government using the Enforcement Directorate to target non-BJP state governments and circle the wagons to protect the interests of the Bharatiya Janata Party. It is part of the Modi Government’s by-hook-or-crook expansionist agenda.
That being said, the times were when the Centre used the ED sparingly. The CBI was the preferred strong-arm. People had heard of the ED, but the voice was as if from a far-off place. And then, Viola! Like for so many of us, 2014 became the cutoff year, the ‘before’ and ‘after’ sentinel. And the Enforcement Directorate came to be used more and more.
It was like the toddler had been given a fluorescent red ‘Ferrari’ to vroom-vroom around the room, to proceed, process and prosecute. To the ordinary citizen the number of times the ED has been used since 2014 will not be at the tip of his fingers but a rough count will be the number of times non-BJP ruled state governments have been toppled, or newly elected state governments replaced with a BJP-dispensation formed with the defection of non-BJP legislators to the BJP legislative party.
Individual politicians have been routinely targeted. Those with financial irregularities were the most vulnerable. Threats of ‘jail time’ logged the best results. Nobody likes life behind bars. Ask Delhi’s Jail Minister Satyander Jain who is the perfect example of “languishing in jail”.
The story going around is that the Modi government specializes in weaponizing central investigating agencies and using them to topple governments. ED-targeted opposition legislators sing like a canary when they are saddled with corruption cases. There are many alleged corrupt MLAs joining the BJP for safety.
Last year, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel drew attention to Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) Rajya MP Sanjay Raut who was picked up by the Enforcement Directorate and jailed. Raut returned to a life of freedom in November 2022 roaring defiance.
Raut was arrested and jailed in a PMLA case. Baghel, however, insisted that Raut faced action because he had spoken against the Modi government. Only opposition legislators become victims. BJP legislators are spared the ignominy of arrest and jail.
Mid-2022, the Ministry of Finance told Parliament that the number of ED cases had seen a “sharp increase” after 2014. And, as if to reassert the fact, the rise went steep after Modi consolidated power in the years after 2019.
There has been a five-fold increase in the last 10 years with the provisions of FEMA and PMLA used predominantly during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s otherwise benign reign. Modi is left with one more year with the ED to go completely berserk with.
In the latest, the AAP has alleged that the Modi government, in alignment with the CBI and the ED, is working to stop Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal from becoming Prime Minister in 2024. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said this after he was raided again by the CBI.
Sisodia said the Modi government and the BJP are scared of Kejriwal after “Ek mauka Kejriwal ko” became the talk of the country. He admitted Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal harboured “prime ministerial ambitions”. With that, chances brightened for the ED and the CBI to go full-steam against Sisodia in the days to come.
The AAP claimed Prime Minister Narendra Modi is mortally afraid of good education, healthcare, employment, and free electricity. The BJP wants to stop Kejriwal at all costs because there is no antidote for freebies.
The BJP will use the CBI and the ED against all those who think and behave like challengers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. That is the message coming out of the AAP as the party gets ready for 2024. The setback suffered by the Modi government because of Gautam Adani’s Hindenberg woes will likely increase the role of the central investigative agencies.
Among the politicians who were targeted by the Enforcement Directorate was the NCP’s Nawab Malik. The ED has special powers and laws that make it dangerous for political adversaries of Modi, especially the PMLA, which has been christened the “hatchet law” of the Modi government.
India’s democracy has had several head-on confrontations with the ED and other central investigative agencies. In the hands of an expansionist government, the ED and the CBI become tools to prosecute and punish anybody, even the innocent as the conviction rate shows.
The PMLA has been used not only against politicians but also against sundry others including journalists. But politicians have been its favourites since 2014. No political party worth its election symbol was spared by the marauding Modi government as it went about annexing states like the Mughal-impatient!
Opposition leaders who switched sides to the safe haven of the BJP, say they have been sleeping soundly after the party-swap. The ED forgets their names as it suddenly remembers new names to go after. Among the ED’s biggest catch in the service of the Modi Government has been the “Maharashtra Government” of Uddhav Thackeray, toppling which kept the nation engrossed for days on end. With the ED in its corner, no party requires an ally, or an alliance! (IPA Service)