Chauhan-Rohani nexus in MP Assembly
Posted March 16, 2010on:
By the long arm of coincidence, the reply to an important question bearing upon the performance of the Shivraj Singh Chauhan government reached the Assembly secretariat after the Question Hour on the day the question was listed for a reply was over. So the reply could not be included in the booklet of Questions and Answers (supplied to the members and the media), nor could the supplementaries be asked. All that the booklet contained on behalf of the chief minister (to whom the question was addressed) was that the information was being collected.
But the Assembly secretariat, after receiving the reply, “promptly” sent its copy to Umang Singhar, Congress member from Gandhvani in Dhar district, who had submitted the question. Only some of the reporters covering the Assembly came to know of this and procure a copy of the reply; even their newspapers could not give the “story” a display they would have done had the “story” been available well on time. An important multi-edition newspaper, which has been almost regularly covering the Lokayukta Sangathan, completely missed it.
Singhar wanted to know the corruption cases registered by the Lokayukta from January 2004 till date, with the names and designations of the persons against whom the cases have been registered. According to the belatedly sent reply, such persons include the chief minister, his half a dozen cabinet colleagues and an equal number of former cabinet members, around two dozen IAS officers including the former chief secretary and several principal secretaries and secretaries, four IPS officers and a number of other officials. A total of 296 complaints of corruption were pending with the Lokayukta as on January 31 this year while notices had been issued in 243 cases.
There were questions submitted by seven more MLAs on identical lines seeking information about corruption cases registered by the Lokayukta or the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) and the chief minister’s reply in each case as recorded in the booklet was that information was being collected.
The Assembly’s Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business requires “twenty-one clear days’ notice” for submitting a question. Then the question can be “placed on the list of questions for answer” only after “twelve days have expired from the time when notice of such question has been given to government by the secretary (of the Assembly)”. The last date for receipt of a reply to Singhar’s question was March 2 while the date for taking up the question in the House was fixed for March 10.
How come the chief minister’s top-heavy secretariat could not prepare a reply even in 12 days? Or was the mischief played by the Assembly secretariat with a view to ensuring the minimum possible publicity to Chauhan’s “corruption regime”? Speaker Ishwardas Rohani has been surpassing his own previous unethical behaviour to help the ruling party, particularly the chief minister, in each session — and the artificial delay in receiving belatedly the reply about corruption cases is not the only instance in the on-going budget session.
Preparing a list of corruption cases registered by the Lokayukta should have been an hour’s job because the list of the cases pending and disposed of during the year is appended to the annual report of the Lokayukta. This is another mischief of the chief minister that he has not tabled the Lokayukta’s annual reports in the Assembly for several years, though it is required of him under the Lokayukta Act.
Chauhan himself faces two cases of corruption registered with the Lokayukta; so does his favourite IAS officer Rakesh Sahni whom Chauhan had promoted to the post of chief secretary by ignoring the claims of over half a dozen IAS officers senior to Sahni. Besides, Sahni was allowed to hold simultaneously the post of chairman of the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board (MPSEB) which he held prior to being made the chief secretary. Sahni retired early this year but was reappointed chairman of MPSEB as well as made energy advisor to the government with a cabinet minister’s rank. Incidentally, the minister holding the energy portfolio is only a Minister of State (independent charge).
Chauhan’s cabinet colleague Jayant Malaiya (minister of water resources and housing and environment) has four corruption cases against him, all belonging to the housing and environment department. Laxmikant Sharma (education, technical education, culture and public relations) and Kailash Vijayvargiya (commerce, industry and science and technology) have against them two cases each. Anoop Mishra (health and family welfare), Ajay Vishnoi (animal husbandry and fishery), and Rajendra Shukla (energy and mineral resources) have one case each against them. Those who were part of Chauhan’s council of ministers in his first term include Kamal Patel, Himmat Kothari, Akhand Pratap Singh, Dhal Singh Bisen and Dilip Bhatere.
Pukhraj Maru, another favourite IAS officer of the chief minister, had displayed the audacity to quash the verdict of the Lokayukta, who had found 39 BJP members of Bhopal Municipal Corporation guilty of corruption and recommended their removal. Maru, as Bhopal Commissioner being the administrative officer, had turned down the Lokayukta’s verdict itself, instead of disqualifying the BJP corporators. Maru, too, finds mention in the Lokayukta’s list of those facing corruption charges.
Umang Singhar, whose question had put the chief minister in an awkward position, has now sought half an hour’s debate on corruption in the higher echelons of the government.