Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has returned Union Minister Arun Jaitley's jibe on his dissent on the appointment of the new Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chief, saying the value of the prime minister's office was brought down by the way the crucial appointment was dealt with. In a two-page letter to Mr Jaitley, Mr Kharge also clarified that his objection to the appointment was not to question the officer's integrity.
Former Madhya Pradesh police chief Rishi Kumar Shukla was selected for the top job in CBI by a three-member committee, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr Kharge, who was also in the panel, objected to his selection, saying he lacked experience in anti-corruption case.
A day after the appointment, Mr Jaitley penned a Facebook blog, titled "Has Mr. Kharge Brought Down the Value of Dissent?", in which he mocked the Congress leader. "The leader of the largest party in Opposition in the Lok Sabha Shri Mallikarjun Kharge dissented once again in the appointment of the new CBI Director. Shri Kharge dissents regularly. He dissented when Shri Alok Verma was appointed, dissented when Shri Alok Verma was transferred and has now dissented when Shri R. K. Shukla has been appointed," he wrote.
In the letter, accessed by news agency PTI, Mr Kharge dared the government to release the minutes of the meeting of the high-powered panel.
Mr Kharge further said that Mr Jaitley had himself penned "the strongest dissent note" against the CBI and its functioning after which the agency transferred its officers and stopped investigations.
Mr Shukla's appointment comes after months of unrest within the investigative agency following a bitter spat between CBI director Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana. Mr Verma, who was sent on a forced leave last year, was reinstated by the Supreme Court as Director CBI. Within days, the PM-led committee shunted him out. The agency was being looked after by interim chief M Nageswara Rao.
The 58-year-old officer from Gwalior is at present the chairman of the Madhya Pradesh Police Housing Corporation. Although Mr Shukla has never been part of the CBI, he had served in the Intelligence Bureau where he handled several sensitive cases.
With inputs from PTI