Issue :   
Happy Dussehra and Diwali to all Readers.          October 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:June' 2019


Diggy protege ‘shielding’ culprits

N D Sharma

11 people drowned when two boats carrying them capsized during Ganesh
idol immersion in Lower Lake of Bhopal.

Eleven persons, including four kids, were drowned while trying to lower the Ganesha idol in the Lower Lake in Bhopal a little after midnight on September 13-14. As the idol was huge, about 15 feet high, and it could not be accommodated in one boat, the organisers had hired and joined two boats to carry the idol to the middle of the lake. Besides, more people had got onto the boats than the capacity. As they tried to lower the idol into the Lake, the idol tilted to one side and the boat overturned. Those on the boat jumped onto the other boat making that also overturn. Some people could be saved but not eleven of them.

The tragedy occurred because of the negligence of the law enforcement personnel on duty. At the beginning of the Ganesha Utsav period, the District Magistrate had invoked Section 144 of Cr.P.C and issued certain guidelines for the immersion of the idols. These included that boats would not be used for immersion of idols after 7 PM; there would be life jackets for every person on the boat; the capacity of each boat would be certified by the Tourism Corporation; each boat must have adequate number of safety tubes; the boats can be plied only at the places permitted by the administration.

The procession with the idol had started from Piplani locality for Hathaikheda dam but mid-way the organisers changed the route and went to Khatlapura Mandir ghat at the Lower Lake. Each and every instruction issued by the District Magistrate under Section 144 Cr.P.C was violated.

Still, only boatmen were booked and charged with causing death by negligence. No action was taken against any of the officers who were on duty that day. Officers posted in Bhopal, especially the police personnel, are patronised by Minister of Law and Public Relations P C Sharma, who belongs to Bhopal and is a prominent lieutenant of former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh. Kamal Nath is a helpless Chief Minister. The Congress is slightly short of absolute majority in the Assembly. Support of two BSP, one SP and four independent MLAs is crucial for running the government. Even otherwise, Kamal Nath’s support base among party MLAs is very meagre. So, he has no guts to annoy Digvijaya Singh or his minion.

Digvijaya Singh Digvijaya Singh is undoubtedly the tallest among the Congress leaders of Madhya Pradesh. He was PCC chief for several years and then Chief Minister for ten years. He had, therefore, a grip not only on party organisation but on the bureaucracy also. As CM he had frequently used officers for his own politics. (BJP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had, though, surpassed him in this respect). Kamal Nath, who had been representing Chhindwara constituency in Lok Sabha since 1980 (with a brief break) had confined his political activity mainly to Chhindwara and the few surrounding districts. When nominated PCC chief before the last year’s Assembly elections, he had to depend heavily on Digvijaya Singh who also helped Kamal Nath getting the Chief Minister’s post against the formidable claim of then Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Kamal Nath Kamal Nath did not have to wait for long to find out the price he would be required to pay for Digvijaya Singh’s support. He could neither pick up the members for his Council of Ministers nor could distribute the portfolios. Digvijaya Singh’s insistence on Cabinet rank for his son Jaivardhan Singh, who is a second time MLA, prompted Jyotiraditya Scindia to demand Cabinet rank for some of his own supporters, not so senior in the party hierarchy. After a week-long exercise, Kamal Nath gave up and accepted all the names suggested by the two rivals and made all of then --- 28 in all – Cabinet Ministers. As many as 22 of them had been inducted into the Council of Ministers for the first time.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan It was no more a secret in Bhopal that Digvijaya Singh was running the government and Kamal Nath was more or less a titular head. However, the former Chief Minister wanted all to know also that he is the de facto Chief Minister even now. So he wrote letters to all the 28 Ministers seeking their responses to what they had done regarding the matters he had referred to them --- and he made it public. It created an uproar in the party, particularly in the Scindia camp.
He tried to defend it by claiming that as an MP (he is a Rajya Sabha member) he had the right to seek replies from the ministers. This controversy had hardly died down when Forest Minister Umang Singhar told media persons that Digvijaya Singh was interfering too much in the government affairs. He also a wrote a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi saying that Digvijaya Singh was trying to destabilise the Kamal Nath government and establish himself as the real power behind the government. “He is writing letters to Chief Minister Kamal Nath and Ministers, and making them go viral on the social media. This becomes an issue for the Opposition,” Singhar wrote.

Singhar is not exactly in the Scindia camp but he is said to be close to Scindia. There was a rumour that Sonia Gandhi had, after consulting Kamal Nath and Scindia, decided to name Singhar as the PCC chief in place of Kamal Nath (who had resigned after Rahul Gandhi’s resignation as Congress president) and Digvijaya singh had not liked it as he wanted his own follower at the post – hence Singhar’s outburst a g a i n s t D i g v i j a y a Singh. It was a l s o r u m o u r e d that Singhar w a s encouraged to write to Sonia Gandhi by Kamal Nath himself who was said to have become wary of Digvijaya Singh’s interference in the government.

It was no more a secret in Bhopal that Digvijaya Singh was running the government and Kamal Nath was more or less a titular head. However, the former Chief Minister wanted all to know also that he is the de facto Chief Minister even now.

Umang Singhar Singhar’s outburst opened floodgates of allegations and counter-allegations within the party, more notably among ministers belonging to the rival camps of Scindia and Digvijaya Singh. Cooperatives Minister Govind Singh (Digvijaya Singh camp) was accused of being involved in illegal sand mining in Bhind district. Digvijaya Singh himself was accused of patronising liquor mafia.
L a b o u r M i n i s t e r Mahendra Singh Sisodia (Scindia camp) said that the Assembly election was won jointly by Kamal Nath (PCC president) and J y o t i r a d i t y a Scindia (chairman of Campaign Committee) and any other person had no right to interfere in the working of the government. SP MLA Rajesh Shukla said nearly a dozen Ministers (belonging to Kamal Nath, Digvijaya Singh and Scindia camps) did not do anything without a ‘lifafa’ (money offered in a cover).

Kamal Nath watched quietly for several days the allegations being levelled against members of his own Cabinet and then the matter was referred to the party’s disciplinary committee headed by A K Antony. What action Antony committee can recommend in view of the shaky situation of the Kamal Nath government is anybody’s guess. Meanwhile, Kamal Nath has been asked to continue as PCC president for the time being.