The Chauhan-Sahni venture in Madhya Pradesh
Posted February 15, 2010on:
Why is Shivraj Singh Chauhan so much enamoured of Rakesh Sahni, an IAS officer of the 1972 batch (now retired)? The chief minister has been trampling the established norms and traditions to keep Sahni in a position of power. Sahni, for instance, is now chairman of the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board (MPSEB) and also energy advisor to the chief minister with the rank of cabinet minister. What makes it odd is that the energy portfolio is being held by only a Minister of State (independent charge), Rajendra Shukla. Thus the minister of energy is supposed to report to a retired bureaucrat with no accountability to the Assembly.
Within a few weeks of his taking oath as the chief minister, Chauhan had removed then chief secretary Vijay Singh and appointed Sahni in his place, superseding over half a dozen IAS officers. He had allowed Sahni to continue as the chairman of MPSEB also, the post that he was already holding. Naturally, Chauhan had found something fascinating is Sahni’s chairmanship of MPSEB because a combination of chief secretary and chairman of MPSEB is not considered a healthy tradition. Sahni retired last month as chief secretary but Chauhan reappointed him as the chairman of MPSEB and energy advisor to the chief minister with the cabinet rank.
When Chauhan contested the by-election from Budhni to enter the Assembly (he was not MLA when he became the chief minister), Sahni ensured round the clock power supply in the Budhni Assembly constituency villages during the campaign even as the entire State was reeling under acute power crisis and the rural areas were getting electricity hardly for an hour two. The Election Commission took due notice of this and censured Sahni for violation of model code of conduct.
The documentary evidence of Sahni’s wilful violation of the model code of conduct was among the many instances of misuse of official machinery appended to the petition moved by defeated Congress candidate Rajkumar Patel against Chauhan’s election. But the High Court had no occasion to give its verdict on the charges against Sahni (and others) because Rajkumar Patel, a Digvijay Singh protégé, had allowed himself to be “persuaded” by Chauhan not to pursue the petition. Patel thus ignored the High Court’s repeated notices to appear before the bench to give his statement. The petition was dismissed in default. Chauhan thus saved not only himself but Sahni (and a number of other government functionaries) also.
Helping Chauhan in an election campaign by misusing his position as chairman of MPSEB was apparently a small thing for Sahni. Perhaps the real purpose behind the “Chauhan-Sahni joint venture” was to siphon off the public money. The State’s Electricity Regulatory Authority had taken note of the purchase of electricity worth Rs 750 crore from other States and agencies at exorbitant prices and without inviting tenders. The Authority had expressed its displeasure over the deal, as it was not transparent and foreclosed competitive prices.
PCC spokesman K.K.Mishra has discovered that MPSEB under the chairmanship of Sahni had purchased, between October 2004 and April 2008, electricity worth around Rs 22,000 crore through Adani Enterprises and some other intermediaries and had paid them Rs 2972.27 crore as commission during this period. Mishra has dared Chauhan, who has of late been loudly talking against corruption, to entrust the matter for an inquiry to a competent agency like the CBI to dispel the impression in the public mind that he and Sahni have pocketed part of this money.
Mishra also claimed that the power generation in the State had been steadily going down during the period that Sahni had been the chairman of MPSEB. Was it deliberate so that the grounds for purchase of electricity from other States and agencies could be prepared?
Sahni had appointed D.N.Prasad as chairman-cum-managing director of the State’s Power Generation Company. There were serious complaints of corruption against Prasad. The matter was discussed in the Assembly. Eventually, a nine-member committee of MLAs was constituted to investigate the complaints. The committee was said to have found substance in the allegations of corruption against Prasad. Sahni, apparently in consultation with the chief minister, quietly took the resignation of Prasad. That was the end of “Prasad’s corruption”!