Rahul Gandhi, others court arrest during protest at CBI headquarters

Congress president Rahul Gandhi courted arrest on Friday after staging a protest outside the CBI headquarters against the move to divest CBI Director Alok Verma of his powers, saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi "stole" money from the country and can run but not hide from the truth.

Reiterating his allegations against the prime minister on the Rafale fighter jet deal, Gandhi again called him "chowkidar" and said he had "deposited Rs 30,000 crore in Anil Ambani's pocket". 

Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders were at the Lodhi Colony police station for almost an hour after they courted arrest on Friday afternoon while protesting at the CBI headquarters in Delhi against the Narendra Modi government’s move to divest the investigation agency’s director Alok Verma of his powers.

“PM Modi can run, flee, but cannot hide from the truth. The truth will come out. Removing the CBI chief will not make a difference...the Prime Minister acted against the CBI director as a result of panic, as a result of fear,” Gandhi told reporters as he left the police station, linking this week’s action against Alok Verma with the Rafale deal.

The Congress president on Thursday alleged that Verma was “removed in panic” because he was going to begin a probe into the Rafale deal. The government hit back, accusing him of “spreading falsehood” over the issue of CBI Director Alok Verma and said that he was living in “hallucination”.

This morning, Rahul Gandhi marched along with hundreds of party leaders and workers for about a kilometre from Dyal Singh College on Lodhi Road to the CBI headquarters at the CGO complex, holding up placards with slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Scores of police personnel were deployed along the way.

The march ended in a demonstration near the CBI office and Rahul Gandhi got on to a truck in front of the police barricades put up to prevent the protesters from reaching the building. The Congress leaders then courted arrest.

Among the other senior Congress leaders who joined the march were Ashok Gehlot, Ahmed Patel, Motilal Vora, Veerappa Moily and Anand Sharma. Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav, CPI leader D Raja and Nadimul Haque of the Trinamul Congress also joined the protest.

Ashok Gehlot said the decision to remove CBI director Alok Verma was “illegal”.

“Our demand is to reinstate the CBI director. As per the law, he can be transferred only with the consent of the appointing authority (comprising Chief Justice of India, the prime minister and the leader of opposition). The prime minister should tender an apology to the nation for destroying the image of the premier investigating agency,” Congress’ Gehlot said.

The government, however, has strongly defended its decision, saying it was “absolutely essential” to maintain the CBI’s institutional integrity and the move was based on recommendations by the Central Vigilance Commissioner.

The Congress’ protests in the national capital were replicated in several other states.

CBI chief Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana were stripped off charges late on Tuesday night after both were accused of corruption. Soon after, the Centre appointed interim CBI director M Nageswar Rao.

The Supreme Court today directed Central Vigilance Commission to complete their probe against CBI director Alok Verma in two weeks under the supervision of a retired top court judge. The court also prohibited interim CBI director Rao from taking any major decisions and stick to routine tasks. A list of all decisions taken by Rao will have to be produced before the court in a sealed cover on November 12, the next date of hearing.