Thursday, August 29, 2013

Will Akhilesh Take Back Durga or Not?

Pressure is mounting on Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to take back suspended IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal. Some news channels have already reported that Akhilesh has taken the decision to reinstate her. Anyway, the latest confirmed development is that Durga’s boss, K Ravikant Singh - whose report had given her a clean chit - has been abruptly transferred, that too without assigning any new post.

KR Singh, who has been transferred now, was District Magistrate (DM) of Gautambudh Nagar when Durga Shakti Nagpal as a Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) working under him, allegedly ordered the demolition of a mosque wall that was under construction.

However, DM KR Singh’s report on the issue had found out that Durga had just advised villagers about the illegality of the structure which was coming up in government land, and that the villagers themselves had demolished it on being convinced about the issue. Singh’s report also found that no earth-moving machinery was used in the demolition. As per this report, the issue of potential communal riots - which has been Akhilesh’s only real allegation against Durga - also didn’t arise, as the villagers themselves had agreed to remove the illegal structure.

The latest position from the Centre in the Durga Shakti Nagpal episode is that it won’t intervene further in the matter. That was better left unsaid, as, after all what could Centre do, as long as the young IAS officer herself hasn’t approached New Delhi for help.

Even the Supreme Court expressed a similar view while rejecting the first Public Interest Litigation asking to reinstate Durga. While observing that there is no public interest in the case, the SC Bench remarked that, "the moment she approaches the court, we will hear her plea and we may pass an interim order."

However, Durga hasn’t done that either until now.

But don’t think she is too na├»ve. She has been trying to play the game by the rules of the game. In fact, her reply to the charge-sheet served by UP Government, has a pivotal point.

Durga Shakti Nagpal is a computer science engineer by education who bagged All India Rank 20 in the Civil Services Examination in 2009.

According to media reports, while explaining that she has done no wrong in ordering the demolition of the mosque wall, she has stated that she was just following a Supreme Court order that no religious construction can happen on Government land.

That swiftly proved to be a master-stroke, as Supreme Court admitted a contempt plea against UP Government on the issue. But even that PIL has been dismissed recently as SC remarked that the petitioner should have waited for UP Government’s final decision on the matter, and that the issue of contempt would arise then only, if at all, if the UP Government’s final decision violates the former directive by Supreme Court.

Whether Akhilesh will take back Durga or not, has incidentally become a secondary issue. Now, even if Akhilesh Yadav finally prevails on this issue, such success will come at a heavy cost.

As things stand now, Durga has decisively won the battle already. The 28-year old lady has clearly won the public debate.

Because, she had come into public notice after acting against the sand mafia in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, by forming special investigation teams to stop the illegal sand-mining in the Yamuna and Hindon river banks. Under her leadership, the administration confiscated 24 dumpers and 300 trolleys used in illegal operations, and arrested 15 people who were fined Rs. 2 crore.

As of today, practically everyone in the media believes that Samajwadi Party took action against Durga for firing all guns against the sand mafia, and that the allegation of a role in the mosque-wall demolition is just a too-cunning political stroke to kill two birds with one stone.

But Durga’s indirect successes go much far than that.

She has won support from unlikely quarters, including from Sonia Gandhi, on whose behest Centre dashed three letters to UP.

The issue was also enough to widen the rift in SP between Ram Gopal Yadav who is known for his cleaner image and the Akhilesh-Mulayam combine.

The episode has also succeeded in creating an uncomfortable wedge in the relationship between Congress and SP, which has always been one of opportunism rather than ideology.

But her greatest direct success is that she has exposed Akhilesh Yadav government not just for corruption but for indulging in unfair dealings to settle scores as well as to take undue benefit from voters. 

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