Sanjiv Bhatt has given his testimony. But is everything par for the course when the centre uses the bureaucracy to undermine Modi?
Ajay Singh | May 16, 2011
At the peak of campaigning in recent assembly polls in West Bengal, the Times Now aired an interview of Purulia arms drop accused Kim Davy. Davy, who had escaped arrest, pointed out that the large cache of arms was meant for the Anand Margis to subvert the democratically elected Left Front government in West Bengal. Though the issue was raised by the Left parties in a rather feeble manner, others tended to dismiss it as a mindless ranting of a criminal who is still eluding law. Davy also claimed that he was escorted out of India under the guidance of intelligence agencies after his plane was force-landed in Mumbai airport.
It is nobody’s case that these allegations should be taken without a pinch of salt. But what is significant is the fact that a hardened criminal like Davy is aware of the growing strains within the Indian federal structure and trying to exploit the situation to cover up his crimes. And there are reasons to believe that whatever Davy is saying is not completely untrue. In the Purlia arms drop case, a senior CBI sleuth once confessed that the investigations met cul-de-sac as it would expose many skeletons in the government’s cupboard. More often than not, another accused Peter Bleach told his CBI interrogators, “If I reveal everything, your government will be embarrassed.” Bleach was subsequently pardoned ostensibly on account of British diplomatic pressure and on grounds of mercy. This is why the CBI inquiry in this serious criminal case proved to be nothing more than hogwash.
It is no coincidence that the UPA government has been employing another tactic to subvert a democratically elected government in Gujarat just as Davy was making these stunning allegations. In this innovative method of subverting a state government, the union government is using the bureaucracy as a tool to run down the state government. It is relying on a set of officers who had run afoul of the state government and were ready to be used as cat’s paw.
One such officer is Gujarat cadre IPS Kuldeep Sharma who has been facing criminal charges in Gujarat but has caught the fancy of the union home ministry on account of his anti-Narendra Modi utterances. Sharma was unilaterally appointed additional DG of BPR&D (bureau of police research and development) by the home ministry disregarding the fact that he was neither relieved nor did he get the mandatory vigilance clearance from the state government.
This issue appears to be snowballing into a serious controversy as the chief secretary of the Gujarat government has written a letter to the union home secretary explaining the flouting of established principles in the appointment. Since the Gujarat government’s missive is stonewalled, the state government has taken this case to court.
Sharma’s case is not an isolated instance. In yet another case, IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt who filed an affidavit in the supreme court against chief minister Narendra Modi, union home minister P Chidambaram gave a pat on his back by describing him as “courageous”. The fact that Bhatt’s assertion in the affidavit has been rejected by the supreme court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) is being conveniently ignored by the home minister.
Take a look at the “courageous” record of Bhatt. On October 17, 1996, (when Modi was nowhere on the Gujarat scene), an FIR was lodged against him in Rajasthan’s Pali district. Bhatt, who was then SP of Banaskantha, Gujarat’s district bordering Rajasthan, was accused of implicating Sumer Singh Rajpurohit in a fake narcotics case to force him to vacate a commercial property. After an inquiry, a charge sheet was filed against Bhatt in the NDPS court, Jodhpur. Though Bhatt obtained a stay order from the supreme court, the NHRC fined him Rs one lakh for his acts of indiscretion. The fine was paid by the state government. Do you want to know who held Bhatt’s brief in the supreme court? None other than P Chidambaram!
The list of Bhatt’s “courageous” acts does not end there. In Jamjodhpur in 1995, Bhatt was just a trainee officer when he was charged with torture and custodial death of Prabhudas Vaishnani. He was again fined by the high court. In yet another case in Porbandar, Bhatt was accused of torturing and giving electric shocks to one detainee, Naran Jadav. Is it not surprising that Bhatt chose to file an affidavit in the supreme court after nine years testifying that he was present in the meeting where the chief minister gave orders to let Hindus vent their anger after the Godhra train incident?
Highly placed sources in Gujarat said that Bhatt had been desperately trying to close all cases against him and seeking intervention from the top. Since he was not entertained and denied promotion, he had many axes to grind against the government, they point out. Against such a background, the union home minister’s eulogising of Bhatt is nothing less than inciting a disgruntled officer to revolt against a chief minister.
That the union government has been discreetly promoting revolt within the state bureaucracy is a complex situation for the Gujarat government to grapple with. More recently, Pradip Sharma, a promoted IAS officer of Gujarat cadre who is languishing in jail on corruption charges, came out against Modi and promised to tell all about Modi’s complicity in communal riots in 2002. Once again, the home minister, who is the cadre-controlling authority of all IAS and IPS officers in the country, appreciated Sharma for coming out against the chief minister. Incidentally, Pradip Sharma and Kuldeep Sharma are brothers.
Having failed to dislodge Modi in elections, the UPA’s new method of subverting the Gujarat government is proving to be quite effective. Given the number of supreme court-mandated investigations going on in the state, a set of disgruntled and often discredited officers have found an easy recourse to challenge a beleaguered chief minister who can do nothing but wait for the court’s decisions. However, in the process of settling a political score with Modi, this innovative method of subverting the state government through the state bureaucracy is grossly undermining our federal structure.
Davy’s allegations against the PV Narasimha Rao government assume significance in view of these facts. If the allegations are to be taken at face value, the Congress party can be credited with innovating new methods, including armed uprising, against democratically-elected state governments.
The Congress’ procilivity to depose state governments run by political adversaries has a long history. The notion of the pre-eminence of the centre over the states got firmly ingrained into the party’s psyche in 1959 when Indira Gandhi as AICC president persuaded prime minister Nehru much against his own democratic impulses to sack the communist government in Kerala. Referring to this, Justice Krishna Iyer had once said that the Congress organised communal violence on a large scale to topple the the Left government, the first non-Congress government of the country. “Nehru fell for the bait,” Justice Krishna Iyer had averred. This tendency to ride roughshod over the states was further reinforced during the Indira regime and subsequent Rajiv Gandhi era when chief ministers were sacked at the whim and fancy of the prime minister.
However, it became difficult to depose an elected government after the SR Bommai judgment which made exercise of article 356 as “justiciable” and imposed stringent conditions to sack an elected state government. In such a scenario, the Congress which has the longest stint at the centre seems to be devising innovative methods of subverting state governments run by political adversaries by undermining established institutios. Even if one chooses to ignore Davy’s revelations, the UPA government’s subversive tactics in Gujarat are a clear indication that the Congress party’s tendency to disregard federalism is incorrigible and seems part of the party’s DNA.
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