Varanasi, one of the holiest of the cities, shot into limelight in the beginning of this year for reasons other than religious or spiritual. BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had announced his decision to contest for Lok Sabha from Varanasi constituency. That catapulted Varanasi into the most watched city, by politicians, by the media, by professionals, by common people and, most importantly, by Election Commission of India (ECI).
As was expected, Varanasi witnessed a high-pitched electoral battle. Modi was declared elected by a margin of 3,71,784 votes over his nearest rival Arvind Kejriwal of AAP. The Congress candidate came third followed by that of BSP. Modi’s party, with as well as without its electoral allies, won a majority of the seats in Lok Sabha. Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister on May 26.
As a routine revision of the voters’ lists was held this month, it came out that 3,11,057 fake voters had cast their votes in the May Lok Sabha polling in Varanasi. This figure had come out at the initial stage itself. The district administration expected the number of fake voters to go up to 6,47,085 by the time the revision of the entire constituency was completed. This is quite a mind boggling figure. Even three lakh fake voters in a single high-profile constituency is exceptionable.
Election Commission had of late been trying hard to gain greater credibility. But the Sampath-Brahma-Zaidi trio has reversed the process. A question mark now hangs over its credibility after the discovery of lakhs of fake voters in Prime Minister Modi’s constituency. Forgery of such a gigantic magnitude could not have been possible without the complicity of the Election Commission machinery. One should be excused for presuming that only the touts and pimps were assigned the duty as observers and micro-observers in Varanasi.
The people’s faith in the integrity of the Election Commission of India has been badly shaken, though it is difficult to say at this stage in which form it will manifest.
Warren M Anderson died on September 29 at a nursing home in Vero Beach, Fla. He was 92. His death, however, became a public knowledge only a month later when The New York Times reported it on October 30.
His death passed almost unnoticed until an article appeared in Vero Beach 32963, the weekly newspaper of the Vero Beach barrier island, says NYT.
A Brooklyn carpenter’s son, Anderson ascended to the top of the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) which is remembered in India more for the world’s worst industrial disaster as the leak of poisonous gas from its plant in Bhopal in December 1984 killed thousands and afflicted with multiple ailments lakhs of others. A large number of the victims are still not able to cope up with life.
Anderson was never brought to book for his role in the tragedy, in spite of summonses and warrants issued by Indian courts several times. The only time he visited Bhopal after the tragedy, he was treated by then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Arjun Singh as the most honoured guest (rather than an accused) and allowed by then Rajiv Gandhi government to fly out of the country.
In fact, such was the clout of Anderson that he virtually owned the government, as well as the judiciary, of India. The Prime Ministers and judges including Chief Justices of the Supreme Court behaved like his paid servants. The whole UCC episode in India marks a period of shame in this country. Perfidy of the Indian politicians, bureaucrats and judges may not be as much evident in any other case as in the case of Union Carbide disaster.
The BJP government of Madhya Pradesh has done what the BJP-appointed Governor had adroitly prevented the Congress government of Digvijaya Singh from doing — taking away the autonomy of the State’s universities. Now the universities in the State are, for all practical purposes, an extension of the Higher Education Department of the State Government.
An Amendment to the Madhya Pradesh Universities Act, 1973, approved by the Assembly in July, adds three Sub-Sections to Section 49-A, thereby empowering the State government to appoint members of the teaching staff, Class 3 and 4 employees and transfer the members of the teaching staff or non-teaching employees from one university to another university. Besides, this will be binding on all universities, the amended Sub-Section say.
Digvijaya Singh had also tried to bring the State’s universities under Government control, though, in a different and subtle way. The Amendment he had got the Assembly to pass aimed at transferring the powers of the Governor (in his capacity as Chancellor) to the State Government simply by substituting the word “Chancellor” with the “State Government”. The Sections of the Act sought to be amended were 6,10,12,13,14,15,20,24,34,48 and 52.
The effect of the amendment would that the power of the universities to create new posts of teaching were subjected to the prior approval of the State Government. Similarly, the universities would no more be able to appoint, for a specified period, to the teaching posts those who were working in other universities or institutions except with the prior approval of the State government. The State Government would, under the amended law, have the power to order an inquiry on its own into the buildings, laboratories, museums, workshops, or into the matters relating to teaching, examinations or finances of the universities — this power vested in the Chancellor.
The Governor then was Dr Bhai Mahavir, a founder-member of the Jana Sangh and one of the few upright Governors the State has had. He knew that the Governor could not refuse his assent to the Bill nor could he withhold it indefinitely but he can definitely seek certain clarifications. He devised his own method to stop this encroachment on the autonomy of the universities.
After he received the Bill for his assent, he sent it back to the Government with some queries. At the same time, he sent copies of the Bill to some eminent persons to convey to them what the Madhya Pradesh government was doing. It was apparently the protest letters received by Digvijaya Singh that dampened his zeal. His government did not pursue it.
Perhaps the harshest comment came from Justice R S Sarkaria, former judge of the Supreme Court and also chairman of the former Commission on Centre-State Relations. Calling the bill “a retrograde step”, Justice Sarkaria wrote to the Chief Minister that the universities in the states are “autonomous, statutory bodies which, as a rule, should be kept free from political influence”.
Justice Sarkaria’s communication further said: “it is well settled that the Governor’s functions while acting as Chancellor of a University do not fall within the purview of Article 163(1) of the Constitution. In other words, while discharging his functions as Chancellor of the University, he is not bound to act on the ‘aid and advice’ of his Council of Ministers”.
Governor as Chancellor
Justice Sarkaria said that the role of the Governor as Chancellor of a university was considered by the Commission on Centre-State Relations. He then quoted the relevant para from the Commission’ Report (rendered in 1987): “In relation to the exercise of executive power of a State, the word ‘Governor’ can normally be equated with the State Government. However, the office of Chancellor, even though held by the Governor under a statute in an ex-officio capacity, cannot be so equated. The former, being an officer of the University, is not obliged to seek the advice of the State Government in the matter of exercise of his functions as the appointment of Vice-Chancellor”.
The others who sent protest letters to Digvijaya Singh on this issue included Justices V R Krishna Iyer, former Judge of the Supreme Court, Soubhagyamal Jain, former Judge of Rajasthan High Court, D V Sehgal and Jeetendra Veer Gupta, former Judges of Punjab and Haryana High Court, and N C Kocchhar, former Judge of Delhi High Court.
Now all that has been nullified by Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s government with one stroke. Wonder if Digvijaya Singh thanked him for achieving what he wanted but could not because of a Governor appointed by the BJP-led NDA government.