Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 3:
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Ranjit Sinha, who has been camping in the city since Saturday, met Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today, raising a host of questions about the purpose and propriety of the meeting.
Coming out of the 10-minute meeting with the Chief Minister, Sinha declined to reveal what transpired at the meeting. “It was a courtesy call,” was all he was willing to tell the waiting media persons.
With no word from Sinha himself about what exactly transpired at the meeting, there is speculation that the meeting had to do with the multi-thousand crore mining scam, the massive chit fund scam or the coal scam in the state, the last of them already under the CBI scanner.
Patnaik’s role is under the scanner in at least two cases: his 2005 letter to the Coal Ministry recommending the allocation of the Talabira II coal block to the Aditya Birla group after the proposal was rejected by the screening committee and the recommendation in 2002 making a case for allocation of a coal block earlier given to another company.
Sinha’s meeting with the Chief Minister, it may be noted, comes at a time when the Supreme Court is hearing two PILs demanding a CBI probe into the mining and chit fund scams.
Both the Naveen Patnaik government in Odisha and the UPA government at the Centre have gone to great lengths to ensure that the probe is not handed over to the CBI.
In an affidavit filed in the apex court recently, the Central government cited the Odisha government’s argument to make a case for not handing over the investigation to CBI.
The Odisha government, in its compliance of the action taken report (ATR) on the Justice MB Shah Commission report – which has recommended a CBI probe – argued that since the state vigilance had already made ‘substantial’ progress in the investigation, lodged several cases and booked many people, there was ‘no need’ for a CBI probe.
This being the backdrop, it is hard to explain away today’s meeting between the CBI Director and the Chief Minister. Since the Supreme Court is yet to take a call on CBI probe, neither side can claim that it was in connection with the probe.
Once this reasoning is ruled out, there can be only one explanation of the hush hush meeting: that it was not an ‘official’ meeting. But Sinha, who is ostensibly here to attend a marriage, is staying in the Raj Bhavan, the surest possible indication that it is indeed an ‘official’ visit.
It cannot be a ‘courtesy call’ either because it is not usual for CBI Directors to meet state Chief Ministers. In fact, such a meeting will be highly improper considering that there is a real possibility of Naveen facing a CBI inquiry in the scam in the days to come.
They could not have discussed the weather in Bhubaneswar. In any case, Sinha is not known to be a friend or even an acquaintance of the Chief Minister.
In the circumstances, only one inference can be drawn and that is the meeting was part of some kind of a ‘deal’ between the UPA government at the Centre and the Naveen government here before the general elections set in.
Significantly, when asked about the meeting, Congress media cell chief Narasingh Mishra, who should have pounced on such an opportunity to raise a dozen questions, declined to comment on the issue altogether. “I cannot comment on the meeting since I don’t read anything from the meeting,” he told OST.
It is hardly surprising either that top police officers in the state are extremely tight-lipped about the presence of Sinha in the Odisha capital for four consecutive days (he is scheduled to leave tomorrow).
The claim, made by sources in the police that Sinha was here in connection with a marriage on Sunday needs to be taken with a bagful of salt because that explanation raises more questions than it answers.
Speculation about the meeting has gone berserk precisely because there is no word forthcoming from either side on what exactly the meeting was all about.