While parties ruling states that are hostile to the BJP are doing it across the country, the NDA-ruled Meghalaya has become the ninth state to withdraw the general consent to the CBI for investigation, top agency officials told a parliamentary panel yesterday, according to sources. Previously, Mizoram and seven states governed by non-NDA parties — Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Kerala — had withdrawn the general consent to the premier investigation agency.
The BJP is part of the ruling coalition, National Democratic Alliance (NDA), in Meghalaya led by chief minister and National People’s Party leader Conrad Sangma. “It is true that Meghalaya has withdrawn consent to the CBI. We do not know the reasons,” a government official said.
Top agency officials told the parliamentary panel that 150 requests for investigation into various cases in these eight states are pending. These cases include matters related to bank fraud, cheating, forgery and misappropriation of funds, the agency officials said. The withdrawal of consent means that the agency will not be able to investigate any case in the state without the state government’s permission.
When some members questioned about the withdrawal of the general consent to the CBI, the agency officials informed them that so far nine states had withdrawn the general consent, Meghalaya being the latest one, sources in the panel said.
Mizoram was the first state to withdraw this in 2015. The state was ruled by the INC at the time and the chief minister then was Lal Thanhawla. In 2018, the Mizo National Front (MNF) under Zoramthanga came to power, but despite his party being an NDA ally, the consent to the CBI was not restored.
All opposition states have withdrawn consent alleging that the CBI is not fair and impartial in its probe and has become a tool in the hands of the BJP-led union government to target opposition leaders.
The withdrawal of general consent to CBI in Meghalaya comes in the backdrop of allegations of corruption against James PK Sangma, the brother of Chief Minister Conrad Sangma. James is accused of involvement in big-ticket corruption in the implementation of the Soubhagya Scheme in the state, with the Congress demanding a CBI inquiry into the alleged scam. The scheme aims at providing electricity connections to all households, urban and rural, in the country.
The chief minister had divested James Sangma of the Home portfolio after allegations of him allowing syndicates to carry out illegal mining and transportation of coal surfaced.
In November 2018, the West Bengal government led by Mamata Banerjee withdrew the general consent that had been accorded to the CBI by the previous Left Front government back in 1989. West Bengal announced its decision within hours of Andhra Pradesh, then ruled by N Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP, taking a similar call.
“What Chandrababu Naidu has done is absolutely right. The BJP is using the CBI and other agencies to pursue its own political interests and vendetta,” Banerjee had said.
After Naidu’s government was replaced by that of YS Jagan Mohan Reddy in 2019, Andhra Pradesh restored the consent.
The INC government of Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel in Chhattisgarh withdrew consent in January 2019. Punjab, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Kerala, and Jharkhand followed in 2020.