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Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan suffers from chronic verborrhea. He shoots off jumlas with greater rapidity than in even Narendra Modi. If the rape of a child is highlighted in the media, he takes no time in announcing that child rapists will be given death sentence and his government will bring in the next session of the Assembly the bill to amend the relevant section of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). If a rape is highlighted in the media, he promises death sentence for the rapist by amending the law. If a gang-rape is highlighted in the media, he shouts with full force the death sentence for all the rapists by amending the law in the next session of the Assembly. At present the IPC stipulates from seven years’ rigorous imprisonment to life term for rape, depending on the circumstances.

One thing, he has never moved to introduce a bill to amend the IPC. Secondly, his jumlas come out only when the crime is highlighted in the media. Scores of incidents of molestation and rape take place regularly in Madhya Pradesh outside the big cities and away from the media glare but Chouhan was never heard saying that he could not sleep because of that incident or that he will ensure that the rapist will be awarded the death sentence. Madhya Pradesh, incidentally records the highest molestation/rape incidents in the country. The State Assembly was told earlier this year that on an average, 11 women were raped every day and six women were gang-raped every week in the State during 2016, over half of the victims being minor. Between February 2016 and mid-February 2017, as many as 4279 women were raped and 248 were gang-raped in the State. Of the 4279 rape victims, 2260 were minors. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the State had 5076 such cases in 2014 and 4391 cases in 2015.

The short-lived BJP government of Uma Bharti had addressed itself to the problem of humiliation of women in public and moved a bill in the Assembly to provide harsher punishment to the offenders. She, though, could not see it through. Babulal Gaur had replaced her as the chief minister by the time the bill was passed. It became part of the statute book in December 2004.

The bill added Subsection-A to Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (use of criminal force to outrage the modesty of woman) and provided that the offender ‘shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.’ The main Section provides for a maximum punishment of up to two years. Besides, the Madhya Pradesh amendment also provides for the same punishment to whoever abets or conspires in the act, which is not there in the main Section.

Difficult to say how the amended Section would have been enforced had Uma Bharti remained at the helm of affairs. Her successors (Babulal Gaur and then Shivraj Singh Chouhan), however, did not show any interest in this. The amended law was consigned to the archives once the gazette notification was made. Today most of those concerned – the politicians, the police officers and, of course, those for whose benefit the Act was amended — are not even aware that such a law exists.

Crime, particularly the crimes against women, has been steadily going up in Madhya Pradesh for quite some time. It was during the BJP government of Sunderlal Patwa that Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of heinous crimes including murder, rape and dacoity. The trend continued almost unabated during the ten-year Congress regime of Digvijaya Singh. Bad law and order, with emphasis on crimes against women, formed part of Uma Bharti’s vigorous campaign for the November 2003 Assembly elections, along with what was then described as BSP (bijli, sadak, pani). Being a woman, she had shown particular sensitivity towards the plight of women. Under her leadership, the BJP captured power with an overwhelming majority.

It would be interesting to note that Chouhan, when he replaced Babulal Gaur as Chief Minister in November 2005, believed there was no rule of law in the State. This he put as his top priority. The Governor’s customary address to the Assembly at the beginning of Chouhan’s first budget session had specifically stated: ‘Meri Sarkar ki prathamikata kanoon ka raaj sthapit karana hai’ (the priority of my government is to establish the rule of law). The Governor’s address is always approved by the cabinet. Unfortunately, the law and order in the State has since been steadily deteriorating.

A major reason for this state of affairs is the total personalisation, not politicisation but personalisation, of the police force (once described by Madhya Pradesh High Court judge as ‘criminals in uniform’). Secondly, there are too many IPS officers and an acute shortage of the lower staff who do the field work. To top it all, there is the pathetic insensitivity of the police almost at every level. by the

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Election Commissioner O P Rawat surprised his admirers and detractors alike by his outburst at the blatant use of money and misuse of government machinery in the elections.  This was not the Rawat I had known from his days in Madhya Pradesh, where he served in various important positions in the government; he was never known to speak publicly, and that too, in a harsh language, about what he was thinking on an issue. His detractors had, in fact, dubbed him as a ‘ghunna’ (one who keeps his strong feelings about something or somebody within himself).

That even Rawat should have lost his calm can only mean that the electoral process has reached such a low as to require immediate drastic measures to keep the people’s faith intact in the elections. Democracy thrives, Rawat observed, ‘when elections are free, fair and transparent’. Rawat shared his distress in his keynote address at the consultation on electoral and political reforms organised by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in New Delhi in August.

He said, ‘it has come to the notice of the (Election) Commission that paid operators run by PR firms are being actively deployed to shape public opinion online. It appears to a cynical common man that we have been scripting a narrative that places maximum premium on winning at all costs to the total exclusion of ethical considerations. In this narrative, poaching of legislators is extolled as small political management; strategic introduction of money for allurement, tough-minded use of State machinery for intimidation, etc, are all commended as resourcefulness’.

He said, ‘the winner can commit no sin; a defector crossing over to the ruling camp stands cleansed of all the guilt as also possible criminality. It is this creeping new normal of political morality that should be the target for exemplary action by all political parties, politicians, media, civil society organisations, constitutional authorities and all those having faith in democratic polity for better election, a better tomorrow’.

Rawat pointed out that ‘although money was necessary for political parties and candidates, experience has shown that there is a real and present risk that some parties and candidates, once in office, will be more responsive to the interests of a particular group of donors rather than to wider public interest. Policy capture occurs when the interests of a narrow group dominate those of other stakeholders to the benefit of that narrow group’.

Referring to the Election Commission’s objection to the Electoral Bonds introduced by the government, he observed that it might lead to the use of black money in electoral politics. Rawat said, ‘the recent amendments in the election and income tax laws make it clear that any donation received by a political party through an Electoral Bond has been taken out of ambit of reporting in the Contribution Report which political parties have to submit to the EC. Implications of this step can be retrograde as far as transparency is concerned. Furthermore, where contributions received through Electoral Bonds are not reported, a perusal of contribution reports will not make it clear whether the party in question has taken any donations in violation of Section 29B of the Representation of the People Act, which prohibits political parties from taking donations from government companies and foreign sources’.

Amit Shah reacts

The Election Commission had, he said, expressed apprehension that the abolition of relevant provisions of the Companies Act of removing a cap of 7.5 per cent of profit for political donations can lead to money laundering ‘by setting up of shell companies for diverting funds for donations to political parties.

Rawat’s plain speaking came apparently in the light of the developments during the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections in which blatant use of money, government machinery and intimidation was witnessed. BJP president Amit Shah was hailed as the ‘manager’ of the election strategy.

Shah did not take note of Rawat’s speech at ADR event directly. But he reacted to Rawat’s observations in his own way. During his three-day visit to Bhopal a few days later, he opted to have his lunch at the house of Narottam Mishra to the exclusion of all other party leaders. Narottam Mishra, Minister of Public Relations, Legislative Affairs and Water Resources in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, is on a stay after he was found guilty of ‘paid news’ by the Election Commission in June and disqualified as well as barred from contesting elections for three years. The stay against the Election Commission’s order did not come to him easily. His prayer for a stay was rejected by the Gwalior bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court, by a single bench of Delhi High Court (where the matter was transferred by the Supreme Court), by a division bench of Delhi High Court where he had appealed against the single bench order. He then went to the Supreme Court which returned his appeal to the Delhi High Court. Eventually a division bench of Delhi High Court granted him stay.

Shah was later reported to have told party men that the BJP had to win all the 29 Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh anyhow in 2019. He was said to have particularly named Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia who, he said, had to be defeated ‘at any cost’. His reported advice to the members of the cabinet: Never do any work of Congressmen, make them uncomfortable and lure them to the BJP.


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“Behind every great fortune there is a crime”, originally attributed to 19th-century French writer Honoré de Balzac.

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