What will rock the House?

Besides the usual suspects like Vyapam scam, the issues of financial bungling in Simhastha and the government’s flip-flop on the reservation in promotions may dominate the proceedings of the monsoon session of the Vidhan Sabha.

BHOPAL : The House will wear a slightly different look in the ten-day Monsoon session of the Vidhan Sabha that begins from July 18. Since the last session, nine new ministers have joined the Shivraj Singh Chouhan team while two have been superannuated. Moreover, the portfolios of many have been changed. The political stature of some has grown and of others diminished.

The much-awaited expansion of the council of ministers came almost midway in the third term of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan and left, among others, the RSS fuming.

Rustam Singh (71), Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya (60), Archana Chitnis (52) and Omprakash Dhurve (52) were inducted as cabinet ministers and Sanjay Pathak (45), Harsh Singh (62), Lalita Yadav (54), Vishwas Sarang (44) and Surya Prakash Meena (52) as ministers of state. They all will now move to the front rows of the treasury benches.

Babulal Gaur and Sartaj Singh will bid goodbye to their seats in the front row and move back to the rows where the ruling party MLAs sit.

Both Gaur and Sartaj Singh were dropped on the ground that they had crossed 75 years of age – the upper age limit fixed by the BJP central leadership for occupants of ministerial posts. It is another matter that the central leadership itself did not stick to the norm and spared Union minister Kalraj Mishra, 76, perhaps with an eye on the upcoming UP Vidhan Sabha elections.

At 86, Babulal Gaur is one of the senior-most legislators of not only Madhya Pradesh but the country. He has been an MLA since 1973 without a break. Beginning his life as a textile worker, he rose to the top by the dint of his hard work and dedication. He served as leader of the opposition and member of the cabinet headed by Sunderlal Patwa before being sworn in as chief minister after the removal of Uma Bharati. Later he was inducted as a minister in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet. Gaur claims that he is fitter than a young person.

Sartaj Singh was a close aide of HV Kamath, the legendary socialist leader, who represented Hoshangabad Constituency in the Lok Sabha. Later he joined the BJP. He was five-time Lok Sabha member and a two-time MLA. He was also a member of the ministry headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. With his removal there is no representative of the minorities in the MP ministry. As ministers the performance of Gaur and Sartaj Singh was beyond reproach. It is widely believed that that the chief minister himself was against the dropping of Gaur and Sartaj Singh. But he could not have his way.

‘Happiness’ for MLAs

The last session of the House had brought ‘acche din’ for the MLAs. On April 1, the Vidhan Sabha had given its nod to the bill enhancing their salaries

This was the fourth hike in the salaries of the MLAs in the last six years. Earlier, the MLAs had voted a hike for themselves in October 2012 and before that in June 2011 and March 2010.

The MLAs, who took home Rs. 74,000 per month till then under various heads, now get Rs 1.10 lakh every month. And that excludes the Rs 900 per day allowance when they attend the sittings of the House.

 Simhastha corruption

Among the issues that are likely to dominate the proceedings are financial irregularities in the organisation of the month-long Simhastha held at Ujjain in April-May this year.

Upwards of Rs 3500 crore was spent on the arrangements. The city of Ujjain was given a massive facelift. The Chief Minister personally monitored the preparations. Cabinet minister Bhupendra Singh was made the overall in-charge and was asked to stay put in Ujjain for the entire duration of the event. Dozens of IAS officers were pressed into service and tens of thousands of employees, including policemen, were deployed. There were allegations of massive irregularities and corruption in the preparations.

What added to the controversy was the fact that the government also decided to hold a high-profile ‘Vaicharik [intellectual] Mahakumbh’ on the sidelines of the religious one. The event was inaugurated by the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and concluded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and witnessed (saffron) intellectuals from India and abroad dwell on pet themes of the sangh parivar. A ‘Samrasta Snan’ led by the BJP chief Amit Shah had to be put off at the last moment as the saints objected to it.

On May 5, rains, accompanied by high-velocity winds lashed Ujjain and all hell broke loose. Pandals collapsed, leading to death of seven pilgrims. Obviously, the tragedy was the outcome of poor management. Though the chief minister rushed to Ujjain immediately, announced ex gratia and even joined the relief operations; for reasons best known to it, it did not order a probe into the tragedy.

The opposition can be expected to take on the government on the issue.

Reservation in promotions

Another issue that is likely to rock the House is reservations in promotions. The issue of reservation in promotion in the state government services has caused great divide not only among the government services but also in the society in general including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Demonstration, rallies, dharna, protest meeting were held all over the state by the rival groups.

This issue was also discussed in the meeting of the Executive of the Bharatiya Janata Party held at Rewa on June 16 and 17.

The political resolution adopted at the meeting reiterated the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s assurance given in AJAKS convention that the reservations would continue. The resolution said that the government may go to the extent of enacting a new law for that purpose. The resolution said that the Chief Minister should move forward in that direction and he would get full support from BJP workers.

However, during discussions on the resolution, Chouhan’s stance also drew protests.

RSS State in-charge Vinay Sahasrabuddhe was not in agreement with government’s stance on the issue. He said there was unanimity among the central and state governments on the issue that the judgment of the Supreme Court would be acceptable.

During his address at pro-reservation rally Chief Minister Chouhan declared that nobody on earth could force him to undo the reservation in promotion (Koi Mai Ka Lal Promotion Khatm Nahi Kar Sakta). This language in which Chief Minister gave this assurance was not liked by many, including his own party men.

It may be mentioned here that the policy of reservation in promotions of government servants was declared null and void by the MP High Court. The court also declared that all such promotion done in the past should he undone.

While this decision of the High Court drew protests from the government servants of reserved categories opponents of this policy burst into anger when the Chief Minister gave categorical assurance that the reservation in promotion policy would continue.

Almost all the officers and employees belonging to non-reserved categories held a massive rally on June 19 and threatened that if the BJP government does not act according to the High Court directive they will mobilise the public opinion to defeat the ruling party in the next elections. Several organisations belonging to upper castes warned the BJP of the dangerous consequence of not honouring the court verdict. The rally sowed the seeds of sharp division among the government servants. Most of the speakers of this rally belonged to upper castes.

In between another group of government servants took the shape. This group’s stand is that they would honour the judgement of the Supreme Court. It may be mentioned here that the state government has decided to challenge the High Court judgement.

This group also held a public meeting on June 19. Addressing the meeting Ramesh Thete, IAS official of secretary’s rank expressed concern that some politicians and some organisations are promoting social conflicts in the society in the state. “Being a bureaucrat I know how to respect the CM, but I will not touch his feet on dais,” he said.

This meeting was held on June 19 to explore possibilities of a new organisation for employees and officers in the state.  Thete and suspended IAS officer Shashi Karnawat organised the meeting.

The Smart City imbroglio and the slow pace of CBI probe into Vyapam scam are also likely to figure in the House.

Upbeat Congress

The state Congress is upbeat after the victory of its candidate Vivek Tankha in the Rajya Sabha polls. The ruling party tried all tricks in its big to get Tankha defeated but with Behenji coming out in support of the Congress, it could do little. At the same time, the Congress lost the Ghoradongri Assembly bye-elections.

The biggest handicap of the Congress, however, is lack of leadership and dissensions among leaders. The leader of opposition Satyadev Katare is hospitalised for the last several months and deputy leader Bala Bachchan is leading the Congress contingent. However, many senior party MLAs including Ajay Singh and Mahendra Singh Kalukheda prefer to plough their lonely furrows.

This makes it difficult for the party to launch a concerted attack on the government.

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