Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's recommendation of a CBI investigation into the Sushant Singh Rajput case comes just a day before a petition challenging his government's jurisdiction is to be taken up by the Supreme Court.
Sushant Singh Rajput's friend Rhea Chakraborty has also requested the Supreme Court to transfer the FIR filed by the actor's family in Patna to Mumbai, where the police have been investigating the circumstances of the death for nearly two months.
The timing was critical and the demand for a CBI inquiry, which became a political expedient, had to be made today even if it turned out to be no more than a symbolic gesture.
"Since the family has given its consent we are recommending a CBI probe on the FIR which was lodged here (in Patna)," Nitish Kumar told NDTV.
Nitish Kumar, seen to be waffling over the past few weeks in the sensational case, had said he would recommend a CBI probe if the family wanted it. So far, demands had been voiced by ally Chirag Paswan -- with whom he has frosty ties -- and opposition parties, mainly RJD's Tejashwi Yadav - both Nitish Kumar baiters.
Yesterday, a BJP leader joined the chorus, intensifying pressure on Nitish Kumar. Neeraj Bablu, the BJP MLA who made the demand in the Bihar assembly, is Sushant Singh Rajput's cousin. His wife, a member of Chirag Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party, reportedly told the Chief Minister that he must call for a CBI probe today, before the Supreme Court hearing tomorrow.
This morning, Nitish Kumar returned Chirag Paswan's call - the LJP leader is on record to say that the Chief Minister has not returned his calls in three months - as he prepped to announce his CBI decision. But before that, a request had to come from Sushant Singh Rajput's family. KK Singh, his father, spoke to Bihar police chief Gupteswar Pandey, who conveyed to Nitish Kumar that the family wants a CBI inquiry. The Chief Minister did not waste any more time.
Yesterday, Mr Kumar did not react to demands made by parties through the daylong session. He set the ball rolling by publicly condemning the Bihar IPS officer Vinay Tiwari's "forced quarantine" in Mumbai. The officer had landed on Sunday for the Sushant Rajput probe.
Sources in Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United say his newfound alacrity in the case is the result of belated realisation that there is popular support on the ground on this case and if he continues to dither, he may have to pay the price in the assembly elections. So it was under his supervision that not only an FIR was lodged but he also gave a green signal to send the Patna police team to Mumbai.
JDU leaders say by recommending a CBI probe, Mr Kumar has insured against criticism somewhat. His critics don't agree.
"The statement from the Bihar Chief Minister shows it is merely politics for him and not the basis of constitutional legalities or getting justice for Sushant. Law and order is a state subject and a CBI decision can only be taken by the Maharashtra government," said Priyanka Chaturvedi, a leader of Maharashtra's ruling Shiv Sena.