The Andhra Pradesh government's decision to withdraw the "general consent" accorded to the Central Bureua of Investigation to conduct raids and carry out probe in the state drew support from opposition parties with West Bengal government following suit even as the Bharatiya Janata Party alleged that it was an attempt by a "grand alliance of most corrupt parties" to ensure that its "corruption" was not exposed.
Escalating its confrontation with the Union government, the Chandrababu Naidu dispensation in Andhra Pradesh withdrew its consent to the CBI.
The West Bengal government did the same on Friday.
BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimhra Rao described the Telugu Desam Party government's order as a "clear mala fide exercise of power" to ensure that its "corruption" was not exposed, alleging that a "grand alliance of most corrupt parties" had taken shape to protect their interests.
Leaders of the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal and the Gandhi family of the Congress were facing probe in "corruption" cases, he said, adding that it had led to a "convergence of their interests" with Naidu.
However, the Congress cited the Andhra Pradesh government's decision to claims that states do not have faith in the CBI and other central agencies due to their "misuse" by the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.
"Unfortunately in the last four-five years they (central agencies) have been treated like private armies of Amit Shah (BJP chief) and the prime minister... That is why people doubt the ability of CBI to act independently or to act without pressure," Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said.
He described it as a "very dangerous trend".
After the Andhra Pradesh government's announcement, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee extended her support to her counterpart Naidu over the issue.
"What Chandrababu Naidu has done is absolutely right. Earlier, we didn't need to use such provisions but we need to do it now as the BJP is using the CBI and other agencies to pursue its own political interests and vendetta," she said in Kolkata.
In the emerging situation, the officials believe that the ongoing investigations in the Saradha, Narada and Rose Valley ponzi scam cases would not be affected since those probes were being conducted according to court orders.
However, in other cases, where there were no court orders, the central agency would require consent of the state government to carry out its investigations.
Incidentally, the Andhra Pradesh chief minister is likely to visit Kolkata to meet Banerjee on Monday.
Both the leaders are expected to hold talks at the state secretariat here ahead of the opposition conclave in New Delhi next week.
Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal too backed Naidu.
"Chandrababu did the right thing. Modi ji is misusing CBI and Income Tax department. Why did not CBI catch scamsters of demonetisation," he tweeted in Hindi.
Hitting back at opposition parties, Rao said, "We are seeing a grand alliance of the most corrupt parties. Their interests have converged to ensure that their corruption is not exposed."
The Andhra government's decision showed that it had many skeletons in its cupboards, he alleged.
"A nervous and completely rattled Naidu is trying to save his government," Rao told reporters.
Andhra Pradesh deputy chief minister N China Rajappa cited the recent allegations against the top CBI officials to justify the decision.
"We have trust in the CBI but the recent allegations against its top officials have made us withdraw the general consent. Henceforth, the CBI has to obtain the state governments permission for investigating every case," Rajappa said.
The general consent was withdrawn on the advice of lawyers and intellectuals, the deputy chief minister claimed.
Even the government in neighbouring Karnataka withdrew the general consent for the CBI, he pointed out.
Rajappa, however, clarified that the CBI could take up investigation against central government officials without the state's permission.
"We will grant necessary permission whenever the CBI makes a request," he added.
"In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, the government hereby withdraws the general consent accorded (in GO Ms 109) to all the members of the Delhi Special Police Establishment to exercise the powers and jurisdiction under the said act in the state of Andhra Pradesh," the latest government order said.
On August 3, the Andhra Pradesh government issued the GO Ms No. 109 according "general consent" to all members of the Delhi Special Police Establishment to exercise the powers and jurisdiction in Andhra Pradesh against officials of the central government, central government undertakings and private persons for investigating offences under various laws, including the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The CBI functions under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.
Under Section 6 of the act, a state government "routinely" grants consent to the CBI for exercising its authority in the state and the AP government, too, had issued relevant orders periodically in the last few years.
Ever since Naidu snapped ties with the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government in March this year, Naidu had been alleging that the Centre was misusing agencies like the CBI to target political opponents.
The recent raids by income tax authorities on some business establishments, run by those close to the ruling Telugu Desam Party in the state, have left Naidu red-faced.
Subsequently, he announced that his government would not provide police cover to the IT officials for conducting the raids.
Former MP Undavalli Arun Kumar, a trained lawyer, likened the state government order, barring the CBI, to a "tissue paper" and said it would damage AP's image.
"The state government order is not valid. The CBI can take up probe on the directions of the court. Only in matters related to the state does the agency require the government"s permission," he said.
Communist Party of India state secretary K Ramakrishna also questioned the state governments authority in prohibiting the functioning of the CBI.
The principal opposition in Andhra Pradesh, YSR Congress alleged the controversial decision was taken only because the chief minister was scared of the CBI.
"Chandrababu Naidu should explain why he is blocking the CBI from the state," YSRC political affairs Committee member Ambati Rambabu said.
The ban order was issued at a time when the YSRC requested President Ram Nath Kovind and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh for a "third party investigation" into the attack on Leader of Opposition Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, he said.