Chauhan’s panic reaction to corruption
Posted March 2, 2010on:
Snubbed by new BJP president Nitin Gadkari, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan is showing symptoms of panic on corruption, which he has patronised all these years. On February 24 he suspended member of the Madhya Pradesh Revenue Board Rajesh Rajora and director of health services Ashok Sharma for a two-year-old multi-crore-rupee drug scam. A 1990-batch IAS officer, Rajora was then health commissioner.
The government had a few days ago placed, once again, under suspension Dr Yogiraj Sharma from whose residence the Income Tax authorities had seized in 2007 several crores of rupees in Indian and foreign currencies in addition to documents showing landed property and company shares worth several crores of rupees in the names of Sharma and his family members. Sharma was then director of health services and family welfare. The government had suspended him and then retired him compulsorily. The High Court quashed the government order suspending and retiring Sharma compulsorily, but had asked the government to initiate fresh action against Sharma including his suspension, if the government so desired. That was in July last year.
Dr Yogiraj Sharma is like a member of the Digvijay Singh household and had no compunction in doing any dirty work for the former Congress chief minister. Digvijay Singh had made him director of health services by ignoring the claims of others senior to him, even though he did not possess the experience required for the post. The State Administrative Tribunal quashed his appointment to the post with strictures against the government. Digvijay Singh got his cabinet to amend the rules to enable Yogiraj Sharma to be promoted as the director without the requisite experience.
Corruption and impropriety had become an integral part of Dr Yogiraj Sharma’s working. One of the first decisions Uma Bharati had taken as the chief minister was to remove him from the post of director. He was restored to that post by Babulal Gaur (when he became the chief minister) at the request of Leader of Opposition Jamuna Devi. He suited Shivraj Singh Chauhan eminently, at least till the raiding party of the Income Tax Department had discovered high denomination currency notes stacked in quilts, washing machines and kitchen utensils at Sharma’s palatial residence. Incidentally, the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the State police was already investigating half a dozen complaints of financial bungling against him.
Dr Sharma was said to be in the habit of keeping a meticulous record of all the (illicit) payments and receipts. That was believed to have led the Income Tax authorities to raid, some time later, the establishments of Rajesh Rajora, Ashok Sharma and the close relatives of then minister of health Ajay Vishnoi. This happened on the eve of the 2008 Assembly elections. The skeletons that tumbled during the raids probably frightened the top BJP leadership, then in session in Delhi to excogitate the strategy to win the Assembly elections and then Lok Sabha elections a few months later. Vishnoi was asked to go. Chauhan, however, re-inducted him into the cabinet once the dust was settled. Ajay Vishnoi is now in the cabinet while his former alleged comrades-in-corruption, Rajesh Rajora, Ashok Sharma and Yogiraj Sharma, have been placed under suspension.
Perhaps more interesting, and also intriguing, is the chief minister’s decision to order a departmental inquiry against S.R.Mohanty, at present secretary to the departments of Health, Family Welfare and Bhopal Gas Disaster Relief. As the managing director of the Madhya Pradesh State Industries Development Corporation (MPSIDC) during the Congress regime, Mohanty was said to have misappropriated crores of rupees. Uma Bharati had entrusted the matter to EOW on the advice of the then Advocate-General. Mohanty and his predecessor M.P.Rajan (who had by then sought retirement) had borrowed money from the banks, financial institutions and public and lent it to industrial houses, in some cases even without applications from them, and then seemed to have forgotten all about it. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by EOW to investigate the scam had found that beneficiary companies were chosen arbitrarily without project reports in most cases and no credit-worthiness or solvency of parties was taken into consideration. Post-dated cheques were withheld from being encashed to favour the select industrialists. The amount involved was over Rs 700 crore.
The EOW FIR against Mohanty was quashed by the High Court on the production of a good conduct certificate issued by then chief secretary Vijay Singh. Chauhan used this for summary removal of Vijay Singh and bring, in his place, a pliable and much junior IAS officer Rakesh Sahni as the chief secretary. Chauhan vowed that Mohanty would not be spared. However, soon Mohanty, as secretary to the Women and Children Department, became a confidant of Chauhan’s wife Sadhna Singh Chauhan who is said to be the real power behind the chief minister, along with a high-profile builder.
Chauhan’s bad period started with the recovery of currency notes worth over Rs 3 crore from the residence of an IAS couple on the eve of the BJP’s Indore conclave. Arvind Joshi, who was on deputation to the Centre and an aide of George Fernandes when the coffin scam had broken out, was kept by Chauhan as secretary (then principal secretary) to the water resources department (handling thousands of crores of rupees received from the Central and foreign agencies) for over six years and moved to another department only a few weeks before the Income Tax raid on his residence. Arvind Joshi’s wife, Tinoo, was the principal secretary to the women and children department which, too, has astronomical amounts at its disposal.
Meanwhile, Chauhan has tabled in the Assembly his property details showing him heavily in debt, prompting his “well-wishers” to suggest a public campaign to collect donations to help the poor chief minister and his family.