Election Commission ignores complaint about PR excesses

Even as media reports say the head of the BJP IT Cell in the state is wanted by the FBI, the Election Commission appears to be giving a long rope to the BJP in the state

Election Commission ignores complaint about PR excesses

Chandrakant Naidu

The Chief Election Commissioner of India is a former director of the Public Relations Department of Madhya Pradesh Government. A petition has now been filed to the CEC with the prayer that Election Commission should supervise or take over the work of ‘Madhyam’, a body that prepares all the artwork and publicity material for the state government. The petition alleges that the department is being misused for publicising the ruling party.

An IPS officer of the 2010 batch and a close relative of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Ashutosh Pratap Singh, was moved to the Public Relations Department in May this year and posted as the director of ‘Madhyam’. AICC member KK Mishra in his complaint to the ECI says that PRD has been converted into BJP’s war room and public funds were being misused.

The Managing Director of ‘Madhyam’, he points out, is also the former Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, SK Mishra, re-employed after his retirement a year ago. The state government also went out of its way to bend rules and ensure that financial, administrative and punitive powers, normally not available to re-employed officers, are made available to Mishra.

Describing the PRD as a parallel BJP within the government, the complaint alleges that the department first used public funds to refurbish the brand image of the Chief Minister and is now engaged in doing similar work for the BJP.

Govt funds are being used to pay for posters and pamphlets for the RSS and the BJP

Funds siphoned off from the budget are being utilised to pay for posters, pamphlets and artwork for the RSS and the party, the complaint maintains.

Both ‘Madhyam’ and the PRD of the state government are facing inquiries ordered by the court for financial irregularities. But the two officers are accused of stonewalling the inquiry and denying information.

While the Election Commission appears to have ignored the complaint and the plea to take over the department’s work till the elections are over, the Commission is also guilty of sitting over the case of PRD Minister Narottam Mishra for the past five months.

Although Delhi High Court ruled in favour of the minister in May this year and overturned a single judge bench’s order unseating the minister from the Assembly and upholding the Election Commission’s order disqualifying him, following proven case of paid news in Datia constituency, the Commission is still undecided about filing an appeal against the order.

Officials of the Election Commission of India privately concede that a strong case exists for filing an appeal against the perverse order of the Delhi High Court. The order has undermined the Election Commission’s efforts to contain paid news. But Narottam Mishra continues to be the PRD minister as the ECI has been weighing its options for the last five months.

BJP’s IT Cell chief in Bhopal Shivraj Dabi was declared a fugitive by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) of the US three years ago. Apparently he is still wanted by FBI for tampering with servers in the US. The Americans had put Dabi (42) on its most wanted list with posters in English, Hindi and Punjabi seeking information about him, says local media reports.

The reports which came out a fortnight ago have neither been denied by the party nor the police so far. Police officials contacted for details on the issue sought more time to inquire into the matter.

The reports held that in July 2008, a federal arrest warrant was issued by the US District Court, Eastern District of California, against Dabi. In its notice, FBI said people having any information related to Dabi can contact its local office or the nearest American Embassy.

The FBI notice accused Dabi of “Unlawful Flight to Avoid Confinement - Computer Crimes.” The notice says Dabi goes by names of “Shivra Dabi, Shivrha Dabi, Shivrha S Dabi, Shivrha Singh Dabi.” As per FBI, Dabi is 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 140 to 160 pounds and has black hair and brown eyes.

It is not clear if Dabi is still wanted by the FBI.

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