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The Politicos Are Fuming

Barring the Left, political parties lambast Joginder Singh for his selective Bofors 'leak'

The Politicos Are Fuming
THE CBI has crossed swords with politicians in the past, but under Joginder Singh's tutelage, relations have plummeted. The investigating agency is accused of behaving like a political party; its chief of bypassing Parliament and using the media to achieve his ends. From the fodder seam to the "leaking" of the Bofors status report, a growing breed of fuming politicians allege the eel jumped the gun and triggered off a trial--in the media--of political leaders against whom cases are yet to be filed. The CBI, they claim, has broken every convention and pressure is mounting on the government to sack Joginder.

The Congress--Priya Ranjan Das Munshi has moved a privilege motion against Joginder for keeping Parliament in the dark about the Bofors report-and the BJP are critical of the CBI chief, and in the UF, only the CPI(M) has spoken out in his defence. A final decision on Joginder--his term ends in October--has been left to prime minister I.K. Gujral who, it is learnt, is awaiting the counsel of the attorney general.

There are reasons enough for politicians to be upset. The Congress does not want Rajiv Gandhi's name to be dragged into the Bofors imbroglio. The Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC), which foresees a possible tieup with the Congress, does not wish the party's name to be muddled. Also, its leaders are apprehensive that Joginder might crack the whip on them in the Indian Bank scant The Janata Dal would want to protect Laloo Yadav in the fodder seam. And the BJP isn't too pleased with the hawala cases filed against its leaders. A section of senior bureaucrats is also cut up with Joginder for showing scant regard to rules.

If the CBI director has a saviour in the political fraternity, it is the Left. CPI(M) general secretary H.K.S. Surjeet has issued a pro-Joginder statement. Those pressing for the CBI chief's ouster see the Left as a hurdle.

According to sources in the ministry of personnel, under which the eel functions, there is a distinct difference between the information leaked to the press and Joginder's reports to the ministry. For instance, after a newspaper disclosed that the CBI had submitted a status report to the government on Bofors, the CBI director met minister of state for personnel S.R. Balasubramaniam. When asked whether he had a strong case, Joginder admitted that none of the cases against the accused are "tenable" and that "even after 50 years of investigations the case may not stand in court."

What has irked the government is the haste shown by the CBi in political cases it has been probing. After the hawala cases were quashed by the courts, there is a view gaining ground that the evidence collected by the car needs to be scrutinised before chargesheets are filed. In the Bofors probe, Joginder could have waited till June when rest of the Swiss papers are to be released.

In the fodder scam too Joginder worked on his own steam. He took everyone by surprise when he announced on April 27 that he would seek permission from the Bihar governor to prosecute Laloo. This revelation came 13 days before the sanction was sought on May 10. One theory is that Joginder leaked the information to preempt his ouster While the merit of the fodder and Bofors cases will be assessed by the courts, the CBI chief may well be hampering the probes by flouting norms. The politicians, threatened with prosecution, have diverted the focus away from the probe.

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