Recall of Madhya Pradesh BJP general secretary (Organisation) Arvind Menon by the RSS is considered a setback to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the two had developed quite a cosy relationship over the years. In his place has come Prant Pracharak of Madhya Bharat Suhas Bhagat, a low-profile hard-core full-time RSS activist. Bhagat’s name had now and then figured among those RSS leaders who were reported to have conveyed to the RSS high command that all was not well with Chouhan’s way of governance, particularly on the corruption front. The Chouhan camp thus gets the two-pronged shock – transfer of Menon and appointment of Bhagat in his place.
General Secretary (Organisation) is a senior RSS activist lent by the parent organisation to BJP. He is mainly responsible for keeping a check on the workings of the party organisation and the government (if it is a BJP government) and act as a link between the State and the RSS high command. Arvind Menon was sent on this position around six years ago.
Those deputed by the RSS to the BJP had mostly been working behind the scene, rarely attracting the people’s attention to themselves. Things, however, changed with BJP becoming the ruling party. Having spent their whole life in the RSS in utter starvation (in every sense of the word), few of them could resist the temptations suddenly before them and theirs just for asking. From humble Swayamsevaks, they found themselves in the role of dictating to the party organisation and the chief minister. They become arrogant. Besides, allegations of making money and indulging in carnal pleasures have also been made against quite a few of them.
If Arvind Menon was subjected to more tales of unsavoury nature than his predecessors, it was because Chouhan, his protégé and protector, had become more audacious in his second term as chief minister, the police had become more tractable and the judiciary more submissive. A woman made a complaint of sexual harassment against Menon on a stamped paper to the State Human Rights Commission which forwarded it to the police for investigation. The police in such complaints from undesirable elements takes its own time in making the inquiries. By the time it decided to question the stamp vendor if she had really purchased the stamped paper from him, the stamp vendor had died. How could the police proceed without recording the statement of the stamp vendor? The file had to be closed.
Menon had acquired such a clout in the past few years that many in the party and the government had started fearing him. He, though, had become like a shield for Chouhan facing numerous allegations of corruption. The decision to pull Menon out of Madhya Pradesh was said to have been taken by the RSS leadership about a month ago. Chouhan had of late been making frequent trips to Nagpur and the grapevine has it that he was trying to persuade the RSS chief to allow Menon to continue in Madhya Pradesh. He, though, did not succeed.
Menon’s removal from Madhya Pradesh against Chouhan’s wishes shows that the RSS had found Chouhan wanting in something vital and Menon had failed to make Chouhan mend his ways.
Prakash Javadekar has never displayed any spark of brilliance — neither as Union Minister of Environment and Forests nor, before that, as BJP spokesperson. But his IQ showed a new low when he allowed himself to be taken for a ride by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and agreed to inaugurate what Chouhan touts as the ‘world’s first white tiger safari’ though it is not even India’s first white tiger safari.
India’s first white tiger safari was started on October 1,1991 at Nandankanan Zoological Park in Odisha. The Statesman has quoted Nandankanan Park director Dr Sudarsan Panda as saying; ‘our white tiger safari was the first white tiger safari in the world and it is still continuing’. Nandankanan Park has at present eight white tigers. It was surprising that Javadekar did not know this, even though it is the subject-matter of the ministry he has been put in charge of.
In contrast to eight white tigers in Nandankanan Park, there are only three – one male Raghu and two females Radha and Vindhya — in Mukundpur in Satna district where Javadekar inaugurated Chouhan’s Rs 50-crore lie. That is the amount the Madhya Pradesh chief minister has allocated for the development of the 25-hectare sanctuary at Mukundpur, about 20 kms from Rewa. The chief minister promised more money if the need be. Besides, the State government has spent crores and crores of rupees on advertising the inauguration of the ‘world’s first white tiger safari’.
Rewa has old connection with white tiger. The first white tiger, considered a rare breed of the big cat, was spotted in the Vindhya (Rewa) region in 1915. It was said to have died in 1920. Three decades later the ruler of Rewa State, Maharaja Martand Singh, captured a cub of white tiger and named it Mohan. The Maharaja created conditions for its breeding and Mohan became progenitor of white tigers in the region. Rewa has later come to be so much identified with white tiger that any old patriarch with white hair is still referred to as the white tiger of Rewa.
According to Martand Singh’s son Pushpraj Singh, Mohan had become almost a family member. He says that Mohan’s cubs were distributed to the zoos in India and abroad so that the number of white tigers could grow. Ironically, white tiger disappeared from Rewa completely by 1976. The forest area at present has, besides the three white tigers, two Bengal tigers of normal colour and some bears.
The inauguration of Chouhan’s fraudulent ‘world’s first tiger safari’ was a pompous affair with two Union ministers and several State ministers present. Steel Minister Narendra Singh Tomar was the other Union ministers present to grace the occasion. The chief minister said the white tiger safari would ‘restore the glory’ of the Vindhya region, generate employment avenues and boost tourism.
Javadekar congratulated the chief minister for fulfilling the ‘dream of the people of Madhya Pradesh’. He announced that the leaders from more than a dozen countries where white tigers are available in zoos would be invited for a conference which would be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Meanwhile, allegations of misappropriation of money allocated for the ‘world’s first white tiger safari’ were heard in the recently concluded budget session of Madhya Pradesh Assembly. Looking at the record of his decade-old tenure as chief minister, it will be a surprise if he starts a project and there is no scam.
The Congress government of Harish Rawat in Uttarakhand is facing a crisis following large scale defections from the ruling party. Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal has tried to save the government, for the time being, by allowing the Appropriation Bill to be passed by a voice vote. But Kunjwal has only followed what Madhya Pradesh Assembly Speaker Sita Sharan Sharma had done last year. Kunjwal did it to save government. Sharma had done it to save corruption.
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya has described Kunjwal as an agent of chief minister Harish Rawat and has accused him of violating the provisions of the Constitution by allowing the Appropriation Bill to be passed by voice vote. BJP spokesman Munna Singh Chauhan said that ‘he (Kunjwal) has no moral right to preside over the proceedings of the State Assembly as he has brought his office into disrepute. He should resign immediately if he has even an iota of self-respect left in him’. BJP leaders perhaps think that only Congressmen should have self-respect, those belonging to BJP do not require it.
Appropriation Bill is a Constitutional provision. After the budget estimates have been passed by the Assembly, the Appropriation Bill is presented to the House in a prescribed manner, debated and voted, if the members so desire, and passed. The BJP leaders’ allegation is that Uttarakhand Assembly Speaker Kunjwal has not put the Appropriation Bill to vote as the members had desired and thus violated the provision of the Constitution. Madhya Pradesh Assembly Speaker Sita Sharan Sharma had done worse in his eagerness to save chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan from Vyapam scam-related embarrassment.
Last year the budget session of the Madhya Pradesh Assembly was due to start on February 18. Two days before that, Digvijaya Singh threw a virtual bombshell. He submitted a sworn affidavit to the High Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) claiming that the excel sheets in the computers of the Vyapam had been tampered with to save chief minister Chouhan. Later he released a copy of his affidavit with the “tampered” excel sheets at a press conference.
On February 24, STF told the media that an FIR had been registered against the Governor on the basis of the statements made by some Vyapam officials who had been arrested by Special Task Force (STF) over a year earlier and were in judicial custody. The STF did not explain why it waited for over a year to act on the allegations made by the Vyapam officials in custody.
The FIR against the Governor created a sensation but it did not dampen the clamour against the chief minister. As Chouhan found it too embarrassing to face the incessant Opposition demand in the House for his resignation, Speaker Sita Sharan Sharma abruptly adjourned the budget session sine die on a motion of Legal Affairs Minister Narottam Mishra as the House assembled on February 26 (though it was scheduled to last till March 27). Before adjourning the House, the Speaker declared the budget passed – as well as the Appropriation Bill introduced, admitted and passed, in flagrant violation of the rules.
The Appropriation Bill cannot be passed at 11 AM. Rule 158(2) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha says that after introduction of the Appropriation Bill in the Vidhan Sabha, the Speaker will allot day or days for discussion of its various stages and “shall at 5.0 clock on the allotted day or as the case may be, the last of the allotted days, forthwith put every question necessary to dispose of all the outstanding matters in connection with the stage or stages for which the day or days have been allotted”. Apparently, for Speaker Sharma, saving the chief minister from continued embarrassment was more important than observance of the rules and propriety.