AAP MLAs beating up Chief Secretary has unpleasant precedence

Rasheed Kidwai | 21 Feb 2018 10:49 PM

Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash

The incident involving Delhi's AAP MLAs who physically assaulted the Chief Secretary is highly deplorable. But it is not a first-of-its kind incident of 'Hands-on-Governance.'

From legendary Biju Patnaik to Congress’s spoilt brat Sanjay Gandhi to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, they have all done a 'Imran Hussain-Ashish Khetan.'

In 1991, then Odisha Chief Minister Biju Patnaik had called upon the people to thrash any official they found uncooperative. To Biju’s horror, an unemployed youth slapped the 'Kalinga Sandh' (The Bull of Kalinga) when the Chief Minister was on his way to the secretariat, reminding him of his own call to take the law in one's own hands.

Biju Babu hit back, grabbing the youth by his hair and giving him three big slaps in turn. The Chief Minister later gave him a cash reward of Rs 300 for 'obeying' his call. Following the slapping incidents that became frequent all over Odisha then, Biju Babu revised his earlier call and asked the public to first send him a telegram seeking his permission before beating up errant officials. Even as sarkari babus protested and went on strike, Biju Babu upped the ante and wondered if the corrupt officials should be guillotined.

Throughout 1974-76, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s son Sanjay, without holding any official position, was an uncrowned king. In the heady days of Emergency, Sanjay had asked his Youth Congress workers to publicly beat up errant bureaucrats. There were many instances of overenthusiastic and arrogant Youth Congress leaders hitting Government servants with shoes.

In January this year, Shivraj Singh Chouhan slapped a man, his security guard, during a roadshow at Sardarpur in Dhar district. This uncharacteristic show of belligerence by someone who is considered 'Mr Cool' in state politics was not enough as Chouhan went on to justify his aggression by saying that the guard, Kuldeep Gujar, was constantly obstructing him from mingling with the masses.

The current BJP rule in Madhya Pradesh (since December 2003) has witnessed dozens of instances of ruling party politicians beating up Government officials. Some of these incidents are recorded in the state State Home Ministry. State Minister Uma Shankar Gupta is notorious for taking matters in his own hands. When a Public Works Department official stood up to him, Gupta slapped the officer. As a member of the Babulal Gaur Ministry, Gupta had beaten up a doctor at the state-run Hamidiya Hospital. Interestingly, even the day of his swearing-in didn't pass without Gupta flexing his muscles. Arriving late at Raj Bhavan gates, the Bhopal Dakshin-Paschmin MLA had thrown a police officer to the ground after being stopped.

In BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, the exchanges between politicians and babus are mostly one-sided. The past action stars include former Water Resource Minister Jugal Kishore Bagri, who had grabbed a Secondary Education Board clerk by the scruff. He was upset at some discrepancy in the mark-sheet of someone he knew. Jagdish Mohel, too, was a Minister when he locked up a group of officials so that loyal party workers could give them a proper hiding.

As if taking a cue from their political masters, BJP-Sangh Parivar activists have been beating up policemen and Government officials almost at will and getting away unscathed. The incidents include 'freeing' Bajrang Dal leaders from police lockups and beating up policemen in Gwalior.

Few years ago, policemen had found themselves at the receiving end at Sagar district when they failed to prevent Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s effigy being burnt. On July 6, 2005 BJP and VHP activists had stormed Indore airport premises and reached the tarmac where they stopped a Delhi-bound Jet Airways flight from proceeding on its onward journey.  The BJP-VHP activists had given a nation-wide  bandh call to protest against the terrorist attack at the disputed site at Ayodhya.

Some would argue that the honour and prestige of an IAS officer, ranked as Chief Secretary of a state, is several notches ahead of a security guard, a doctor or any other non-gazetted officer. But it is to be remembered that they were all in line of duty and deserved dignity.

Rasheed Kidwai is the Associate Editor with The Telegraph. His Twitter handle is @rasheedkidwai
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