The politics of sleaze, slime and vendetta, that was hitherto confined to a few states has come to Uttarakhand also. It is tragic that this small mountain state which has the pseudonym of ‘abode of the Gods’ has reached the level of its politics stooping down to the lowest levels just to remain or get to power.
The happenings of the adjoining hill state – Himachal Pradesh – where first CDs of chief minister Virbhadra Singh were circulated after being released by none other than a former cabinet minister in his own cabinet, Vijay Singh Mankotia and then of late of health and family minister Kaul Singh Thakur are unfortunately being witnessed in Uttarakhand also.
Not that they have any visual impact, but they are enough to malign the name of the persons against whom the CDs have been made through sting operations done on the sly by people who probably may or may not have been close to the names that figure in them. While the contents of the CDs are refuted, as it should be, but it leaves a question mark in the mind of the people, as also the invgolved party high command.
In the sting operation, Mohd Shahid, a former personal secretary of chief minister Harish Rawat was shown to be allegedly asking for Rs 20 crores from a liquor magnate to get the state’s liquor policy tweaked in the liquor lobby’s favour. It is quite obvious that the CD containing the conversation was recorded before the state government announced its liquor policy.
There has been a lot of hulabaloo, in this state capital, after the CD was released by the BJP high command in Delhi. While the chief minister and the Congress came out in defence of the personal secretary, the state unit of the BJP demanded the resignation of the chief minister and a CBI probe into the CD. The state BJP leaders also submitted a memo to the state governor in support of their demands.
The chief minister on his part not only refuted the allegations in the CD, terming it as a cut and paste job, but hastened to add that he would get a CBI probe done in the matter only if the original CD that was made was handed over to him. Obviously it was tantamount ton saying that he would never get it done, for no one knows where the original CD is and what is the difference between an original CD and a one that is made from it.
However, two interesting things happened shortly later. Mohd Shahid who is an IAS officer of the Gujerat cadre was asked by the Centre to rejoin his duties at the union drinking water ministry in Delhi where he was working before he came to Uttarakhand on deputation with chief minister, but Harish Rawat retained him back and wrote to the centre, that the former personal secretary was wanted in Uttarakhand as the state government had ordered an official probe in the matter.
The second thing was that the portion’s of an under-construction house of a local journalist, Ashok Pandey, who allegedly was behind the sting operation was demolished by the Mussoorie Dehra Development Authroty (MDDA) a few days after the release of the CD. The top brass of the MDDA claimed that the portions of the house that were demolished were illegally made.
But they could not answer why so many illegal constructions that have come up have been compounded and legalized and why was Pandey’s house only targeted. In fact a resident told Hill Post that when an illegal construction was being made, he filed a complaint with the MDDA, but the construction was not stopped, it was allowed to go and further illegalities have been done on the illegal construction even as the MDDA staff and other authorities have conveniently looked the other way.
Obviously the demolition was a vindictive action against the journalist who was held responsible for the sting operation and he too has now involved the national press body and the union home minister in the entire episode, further alleging that there is threat to his life and that of his family members. He also went to allege that Rs two crores had already exchanged hands after which the sting operation was conducted.
Meanwhile the centre has also not been a mute spectator. Mohd Shahid who was on deputation to Uttarakhand till July 13 2016, was asked to report back to the centre by 5 p m on the very next day the orders were issued and the plea that the IAS officer was required in the state for the probe was rejected by the union ministry of personnel and training.
What will be the impact of the sting operation or the CD, only time will tell, but this hitting below the belt is reaching alarming proportions and does not augur well for politics and democracy in the country.
A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt was Editor, Hill Post (Uttarakhand).
Jagdish had worked with India’s leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, he was a recipient of many awards
Jagdish Bhatt, aged 72, breathed his last on 28th August 2021 at his Dehradun residence.