Will Chauhan be able to prosecute Mohanty?
Posted February 16, 2011on:
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan was not particularly happy and his wife Sadhna Singh was reported to be positively sad when the Supreme Court struck down the State High Court order and directed the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the State police to resume investigation of corruption charges against S R Mohanty, a high profile IAS officer.
Mohanty was named, along with scores of others, in the FIR that EOW had registered for misappropriating the public money amounting to over Rs 700 crore. At Mohanty’s prayer the Madhya Pradesh High Court had quashed the FIR against him with an alacrity which had set a sort of record in the court history of India. The basis for the High Court scuttling the investigation against Mohanty was an affidavit submitted by the State government stating (Kapl Sibal style) that “Mohanty has not committed any irregularity or caused any loss to the State government by his actions”.
In October-November 2005, Babulal Gaur was the chief minister and Uma Bharati was agitating to regain the post which she had given up to respond to a Hubli court non-bailable warrant in connection with a criminal case. As the BJP high command was dilly-dallying, Uma’s supporters in the legislature party threatened to call upon the Governor to bring down the Gaur government. The situation was getting ugly. Chauhan, then the State BJP president, offered to mediate with the party high command for an amicable change, dropping broad hints to the Uma supporters that he was working on her behalf. Chauhan had been Uma’s foot soldier in the youth wing of the party for long and the Uma camp did believe him. Chauhan did persuade the BJP high command for a change, but in his own favour. Uma Bharati and Babulal Gaur were dumbstruck when they came to know of this. Uma walked out of the BJP legislature party meeting (later to be expelled from the party) on November 28 when Pramod Mahajan and Arun Jaitley announced that the high command had decided in favour of Shivraj Singh Chauhan.
Chauhan had not even settled on the chair of chief minister when he started feeling the heat from Uma Bharati (who had nicknamed him as ‘bacha-chor’) and her lieutenants. The most virulent attack on Chauhan was made by (then) top Uma Bharati aide and former Union Minister of State Prahlad Patel who had unearthed the government’s affidavit in favour of Mohanty. Patel announced at a press conference on January 27 (2006) that he would start hunger strike from January 31 if the chief secretary was not removed immediately for his role in ensuring a clean chit to Mohanty. Patel even alleged Chauhan’s complicity in the murky affair. Thus driven to the wall, Chauhan removed chief secretary Vijay Singh on January 28 and made appropriate noises about not sparing Mohanty.
Soft-spoken and suave Mohanty (always taking good care of friendly reporters) was a blue-eyed boy of Digvijay Singh who, as Congress chief minister, had used him, and a few others, at money-generating slots. The Madhya Pradesh Industries Development Corporation (MPSIDC) was one such slot. First M.P.Rajan and then S R Mohanty as its managing director had played havoc with the State’s finances through inter-corporate deposits (ICDs). Their position became vulnerable after the Congress lost to the BJP in the 2003 Assembly elections and Uma Bharati replaced Digvijay Singh as chief minister.
The matter was entrusted to the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) by the new government. Rajan had by then taken retirement. Pending the investigation, Mohanty was made Controller of the Government Press, considered a loop line in the IAS hierarchy. Vijay Singh, who was recalled from his deputation at the Centre by Babulal Gaur and made chief secretary, had slowly taken Mohanty out of the loop line and rehabilitated him in the Child and Woman Development Department, even as the EOW investigation was progressing.
Criminal breach of trust
According to the EOW, the State cabinet headed by Digvijay Singh had taken a decision in January 1994 that the MPSIDC would not undertake financial operations. The MPSIDC Board had, however, authorised its managing director, without the government approval, to raise money from the market and distribute it by way of ICDs. Since MPSIDC is a non-banking financial institution, borrowing from the market to give deposits to private companies without the government approval was illegal.
The State’s Advocate-General Ravinandan Singh, whose opinion was sought by the government before handing over the matter to the EOW, had expressed the view that the manner in which the ICDs were released appeared to be an “act of conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and cheating”.
If Mohanty could be useful to Digvijay Singh, he could be doubly useful to Shivraj Singh Chauhan whose sole purpose in life seems to be to make as much money as possible for himself and his party bosses. In the lucrative department of child and woman development, Mohanty got himself into the good books of Sadhna Singh Chauhan by frequently inviting her to the self-help group functions organised by the department. Sadhna Singh, who manages the finances in the Shivraj Singh Chauhan household, was duly impressed by Mohanty’s multifarious adroitness. Soon he was shifted as secretary to health and Bhopal gas relief and rehabilitation departments, another money spinner. Drawing his strength directly from the CM’s residence, he became one of the most powerful IAS officers, occasionally overruling even his own minister. If the child and woman development, health and Bhopal gas relief departments continue to stink with massive corruption, that is another story.