A maverick returns to Congress in Madhya Pradesh
Posted April 6, 2010on:
Akhand Pratap Singh is back in the Congress. How long the party will tolerate this maverick politician is difficult to say. He must be the only politician in Madhya Pradesh who has been speaking against corruption in the government at the cost of his own position. A Yadav from Tikamgarh district, he has his areas of influence, particularly among the OBCs, in the Bundelkhand region. That must the reason that the parties in opposition take the risk of inviting him to join.
He was part of Digvijay Singh’s council of ministers, with the portfolio of animal husbandry. Soon he found rampant corruption among senior officers of the department and wrote to the chief minister seeking action against them. As the chief minister continued to ignore his missives, Akhand Pratap Singh held a press conference where he divulged his findings about corruption in his department and also released the copies of his letters to the chief minister. Digvijay Singh chucked him out of his council of ministers.
Soon an anonymous pamphlet appeared calling Akhand Pratap Singh corrupt, unstable, debauch and homosexual. Soon he was out of the Congress. He joined the Janata Dal but did not stay there long. Before the 2003 Assembly elections, Uma Bharati took him into the BJP and he won on the party’s ticket from Tikamgarh. Later he was inducted into the cabinet and allotted food and civil supplies portfolio.
There he tried to streamline the public distribution system (PDS) and ordered action against the PDS shops against which there were complaints of malpractices. This was not to the liking of the ruling party leaders as most of these shops were run by the Sangh Parivar members or supporters. At the same time, Akhand Pratap Singh opened a front against K.P.Singh, secretary to his own food and civil supplies department, who, according to the minister, was spearheading the corruption in the department. Akhand even went to the office of the Lokayukta Organisation to consult the officials there as to how to check corruption in his department. As the situation was getting a bit too messy even for the thick-skinned Shivraj Singh Chauhan, he shifted K.P.Singh to another department.
Then a BJP leader from Akhand Pratap Singh’s own district of Tikamgarh came forward to accuse him of corruption. Vrindavan Yadav, of Vairvar village in Jatara tehsil, made a complaint to the chief minister on affidavit that Food Minister Akhand Pratap Singh had taken Rs 80,000 in bribe from him for providing a job to his son. Yadav requested the chief minister to get that amount with interest back to him from the minister. The chief minister is not known to have done that.
Akhand Pratap Singh further infuriated the already enraged Sangh Parivar leaders by attending an ïftar party at Chhatarpur in defiance of the call of the Parivar-related organisations to stay away from the party. The Parivar rag-tags were not mollified by Singh’s explanation that he was also in charge of the minorities’ welfare department and thus could not turn down the invitation. The minister’s effigies were burnt. The local leaders of the VHP, Bajrang Dal, Dharma Jagaran Samiti, Bharat Mata Seva Samiti, Shriram Seva Samiti and some other Parivar-related organisations announced that they would not allow Akhand Pratap Singh to enter Chhatarpur; and if he came, his face would be blackened. This, though, never happened. As a minister, he had the security cover; by the time he ceased to be a minister, all was probably forgotten.
Just as Akhand Pratap Singh was fighting against corruption among the ruling party leaders and senior bureaucrats in his own department, Congress spokesman K.K.Mishra accused him of indulging in corrupt practices in a complaint made to the Lokayukta. Mishra’s complaint cited four cases of corruption against Akhand Pratap Singh, one being that of Vrindavan Yadav who had sought the chief minister’s intervention to get back his Rs 80,000 (with interest) from the food minister. Another case related to a bribe of Rs 20 lakh which Singh was said to have received from the proprietor of a petrol pump in Bhopal.
Akhand Pratap Singh’s outstanding contribution to public life was his successful attempt to prevent poor farmers’ land being usurped through sheer fraud by Shivraj Singh Chauhan and his close associate. Akhand opposed at a cabinet meeting the proposal to allot 13.766 hectares of land in the chief minister’s Budhni Assembly constituency, by overruling the objections of the revenue and finance departments, to Narmada Samagra Trust floated by Anil Madhav Dave, now a member of Rajya Sabha. The land near Uma Bharati’s favourite Bandrabhan Ashram was the pastureland belonging to the poor people of Ramnagar village on the bank of river Narmada. Under the rules, this land could not be converted into the land for construction of houses. Dave’s Trust was to be allotted the land at throwaway prices.
The chief minister’s criminal intent became clear in giving the khasra number of some other land in the newspaper advertisements for inviting objections. Originally from the RSS, Dave has been enjoying more powers and State-sponsored facilities than any cabinet minister without holding any position of responsibility in the government. His clout can be gauged from the fact that he was declared defaulter by a nationalised bank for not repaying the loan but he continued to guide the government as nothing had happened.
At Akhand’s opposition to the proposal for allotting land to Dave, Chauhan lost nerve, which he usually does when somebody challenges him face to face. The 2008 Assembly elections were due shortly. The chief minister dropped the proposal for the time being. Two days later, Dave wrote to the chief minister asking him not to consider his application for allotment of the land. He was quick to send the copies of his letter to the media for proper publicity. He did not remember the media when he had formed his dubious Narmada Samagra Trust or when he had applied for allotment of land to the Trust, nor had he publicised what exactly the Trust was supposed to achieve.
The poor farmers’ land was saved but Akhand Pratap Singh’s position in the BJP became precarious. There was a talk about his expulsion from the party. Then a better alternative was found and Akhand Pratap Singh was fielded against Uma Bharati in Tikamgarh Assembly constituency as it was not a secret that the two had immense liking for each other. Eventually both lost and the seat was won by the Congress.
Akhand Pratap Singh has since been sulking in the BJP.