BJP defends CBI director being asked to go on leave

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New Delhi : The ruling BJP on Wednesday defended its move to ask CBI Director Alok Verma to go on leave, saying it was to protect the "institutional integrity" of the agency even as the opposition went on the offensive against the Narendra Modi government's move.

In a post midnight drama, the government asked Verma to go on leave as his rift with Special Director Rakesh Asthana escalated over bribery allegations.

"The government has taken an even handed action against all the warring officers.

"This government has actually maintained an arm's length so far from the agency. But when things started going beyond control, it was incumbent upon the government to ensure that order is restored and institutional integrity is protected," said BJP MP and spokesperson G.V.L. Narasimha Rao.

The BJP leader also accused the Congress and other opposition parties of playing "petty politics" over the issue.

The Centre directed Joint Director M. Nageshwar Rao to "look after the duties and functions of the CBI Director".

The opposition has termed the move "the last nail in the independence" of the organisation.

The decision came after Asthana was divested of all supervisory charges on Tuesday. The government appeared to be peeved over the war at the top in the country's premiere probe agency and took the action as he could not be sacked straight away.

Verma was appointed as CBI Director for two years and his tenure ends in December.

Verma moved the Supreme Court over his "removal", which will be heard on Friday.