Patna, Nov. 26: Chief minister Nitish Kumar has come out in support of the appointment of Ranjit Sinha as the CBI director, sowing the seeds for a fresh confrontation with the BJP which has reservations over the decision.
"I have nothing to say on the appointment except that the Centre has earlier been appointing persons to the post. Coincidentally, the person appointed is a senior Bihar cadre IPS officer. If a Bihar cadre IPS officer reaches some level, why should we object?" Nitish told reporters today.
The BJP, Nitish's ally in Bihar, has pitted itself against the Centre over the appointment of Ranjit Sinha, a 1974 batch officer who is at present the head of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. The BJP has objected to the decision on the ground that the Rajya Sabha Select Committee has recommended that a collegium should make such appointments.
Nitish's public backing of the central decision follows support extended by BJP leaders Ram Jethmalani and Shatrughan Sinha to Ranjit Sinha. The BJP, which yesterday suspended Jethmalani, today issued a show-cause notice to the outspoken legal eagle while ignoring party president Nitin Gadkari's wish that Shatrughan, the MP from Patna Sahib, be warned. ( )
The Bihar NDA allies have over the months shared a tenuous relationship with either party accusing the other of encroaching on its domain. At the backdrop of the uneasy alliance is the unstated competition between Nitish and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for the top political prize after the next general election though neither would admit to prime ministerial ambitions.
The open support of Nitish to Ranjit Sinha's appointment is being seen as yet another instance of the chief minister making it clear that he would not toe the line of the BJP in all matters and that the Janata Dal (United) has its own independent thinking on national and state issues.
"The chief minister supported the Congress when it came to the presidential polls. But he claimed himself to be an NDA loyalist during the election of the Vice-President," said a senior BJP leader, pointing out that Nitish appeared to be fond of using the carrot-and-stick policy for his ally.
"He is also keen to show the BJP its place in Bihar," remarked a JD(U) leader. "And he does that when an opportune moment comes."
The state BJP leadership appears to have buckled under the rebellious mood of leaders such as Shatrughan Sinha and Yashwant Sinha, who was leader of Opposition in undivided Bihar. Deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, who had initially ridiculed Jethmalani for demanding the removal of Gadkari as BJP president, appeared to be on the backfoot over Shatrughan's defence of Ranjit Sinha's appointment. "We are not opposing (Ranjit) Sinha due to personal reasons. We are opposing the procedure adopted by the Centre," Sushil Modi said.
Ranjit Sinha evokes strong emotions for those who were engaged in the fodder scam investigations. His critics point to the controversial stint he had as DIG, CBI, in Patna. He was accused of favouring RJD chief Lalu Prasad and had an uneasy relationship with his then boss and CBI joint director U.N. Biswas (at present a minister the Mamata Banerjee government in Bengal).
"Ranjit Sinha initially refused to be associated with the fodder scam when he was first named investigating officer by the monitoring bench of Patna High Court. Sinha then claimed that he was a Bihar cadre officer and it would be difficult for him to investigate the matter in which many high profile politicians and officials of the state were under scrutiny. However, he later made a U-turn and agreed to be involved in the investigation. Ultimately, the monitoring bench of the high court removed Sinha from the investigations," recalled a retired CBI official.