Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be at a distinctive disadvantage in the State Assembly elections, which is due later this year. His favourite officers will not be able to ‘help’ him as they will be on Election Commission’s radar.
During Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) O P Rawat’s interaction with leaders of political parties, the CPI had specifically requested that the RSS-affiliated bureaucrats should be kept away from election duties. Rawat later told media persons, ‘a political party has raised this issue and EC will take cognisance of the matter. All officials of the State are on Election Commission’s radar. What we mean is that their activities will be monitored through media and complaints and we will ensure that they are neutral.’ Rawat, along with the two Election Commissioners, Sunil Arora and Ashok Lavasa, was on a two-day visit to Madhya Pradesh to assess preparations for a ‘free and fair’ election.
Government employees in Madhya Pradesh are permitted to join RSS. Soon after becoming Chief Minister in November 2005, Chouhan had lifted the ban by amending the Madhya Pradesh Civil Service (Conduct) Rules 1965. Rule 5 specifically prohibited government employees from joining any political party or an organisation having close links with a political party. The Chouhan government had communicated to all the departments that this section was not applicable to RSS. Earlier the Digvijaya Singh government of the Congress had issued a specific order to the effect that the government employees having links with the RSS were liable to action including termination of service.
The RSS loyalist officials and employees have since been reportedly helping Chouhan in elections in different ways. The most obvious help they rendered was by enrolling large numbers of bogus voters in various constituencies. Congress was alarmed during the campaign for two Assembly by-elections in February this year when photocopies showing the same voter registered in more than one locality had started appearing in social media. As the complaints at local level did not have the desired effect, the party led by Lok Sabha member from Shivpuri Jyotiraditya Scindia approached the Election Commission. A summary re-check of voters’ lists was ordered. A week before the day of polling, the Ashoknagar district Collector’s office sent its report to the Chief Electoral Officer in Bhopal saying that 1800 fake voters had been detected in Mungaoli Assembly constituency (which falls in Ashoknagar district). Of these 1800, as many as 834 were dead, 312 were listed at more than one place, 245 voters were not traceable and 435 had been transferred to different places but had not got their names in Mungaoli constituency deleted. Similar was the case for Kolaras Assembly constituency (in Shivpuri district). The BJP candidates were defeated in both the constituencies though Chief Minister Chouhan had made it appear like a life and death question for himself by deputing all the party leaders including his cabinet colleagues to campaign there.
Later the Congress did some homework and complained to the EC that around 60 lakh fake voters had been enrolled in the State. The office of the Chief Electoral Officer refuted the Congress allegation and the BJP leaders ridiculed the Congress claim. However, on a direction from the Election Commission of India, a summary revision of voters’ lists was held in several districts and as many as 24 lakh fake voters were detected and deleted. In early July, the Election Commission removed Chief Electoral Officer Salina Singh and appointed in her place V L Kantha Rao as the CEO.
The matter did not end there, as far as the Congress was concerned. The party continued to probe further. In mid-August, the party submitted another memorandum to the Chief Electoral Officer claiming that over 17 lakh fake voters were found during a scrutiny of electoral rolls across 53 Assembly constituencies in the State. Madhya Pradesh Congress Media Cell chairperson Shobha Oza told reporters that scrutiny done by a private agency hired by the party had found 17.15 lakh ‘duplicate and fake voters’ across 53 Assembly constituencies. She said, ‘in the memorandum submitted to the CEO, the State Congress urged him to remove the names of these duplicate and fake voters. We have also submitted a CD comprising the names of these duplicate and fake voters’, she added.
If Congress and other opposition parties maintain their vigil, it may not be possible for these officials and employees to indulge in electoral mischief, particularly in view of the Chief Election Commissioner’s declaration that they will be on EC’s radar.