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On the Durga Shakti Nagpal case,the Samajwadi Party’s challenge is to climb down without losing face

On the Durga Shakti Nagpal case,the Samajwadi Party’s challenge is to climb down without losing face

The Akhilesh Yadav government in Lucknow has never had it so bad. For the first time,it finds that the Centre,the opposition parties,the bureaucracy and the media are all ranged against it.

The UPA government has been sending persistent letters,asking for reports on the suspension of Noida Sub-Divisional Magistrate Durga Shakti Nagpal. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,requesting that he ensure that Nagpal is “not unfairly treated”. The UP IAS Association has complained that Nagpal was suspended without a hearing. The media is giving the government a daily battering for the shabby treatment of a young officer who has maintained a dignified silence and,from her actions,appears upright and honest.

Under attack from all sides,the Samajwadi Party government has dug in. Party spokesman Ram Gopal Yadav has gone so far as to say that if the Centre intervenes in Nagpal’s case,“it can remove all IAS officers from UP”. The chief minister and his ministerial colleagues have ruled out a revocation of Nagpal’s suspension,saying it was perfectly justified. Why has the government taken such a tough stand in spite of all-round criticism?

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From the way the events have been reported in a large section of the media,it would appear that Nagpal’s suspension is linked to a crackdown she had ordered on illegal sand mining on the riverbeds of the Yamuna and the Hindon,which was carried on by politically influential people. It has been argued that the government’s explanation,offered by none less than the chief minister,that Nagpal was suspended for demolition of a mosque wall in Kadalpur village was just an excuse.

The argument is far-fetched. For,if the government was really upset over Nagpal’s crackdown on the mining mafia — which she started months ago — it could have simply transferred her out and posted a pliant officer in her place. Where was the need to single her out for punitive action and create a controversy? Therefore,the official explanation,that Nagpal was suspended for her lack of foresight in the demolition of the mosque wall,is plausible. That,in the process,the government action took the pressure off the mining mafia is a different matter.

It is also politically understandable,if one remembers that the cornerstone of SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav’s politics has been forging and sustaining a Muslim-Yadav combine. The only exception in Mulayam’s political career was the short digression when he joined hands with former BJP chief minister Kalyan Singh,and paid the price in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections,with Muslims ditching him to support the Congress. In recent months,with another Lok Sabha election drawing closer,Mulayam and his party have shown an anxiousness to cosy up to Muslim clerics of all shades,from the shahi imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid to Barelvi cleric Tauqeer Raza Khan.


So,when local SP men blamed the SDM for the demolition of the wall of a mosque,that too in the month of Ramadan,the SP government reacted the only way it could: by suspending the SDM. The wall may have been built on gram sabha land. It may have been built without government permission. For Mulayam and the SP government,however,these were secondary issues. UP’s Muslim ministers like Ahmed Hasan were quick to equate the action against Nagpal with Mulayam standing by Muslims during the Babri Masjid demolition. After posing as the saviour of Muslims,can the government now make a climb-down without suffering a loss of face? SP leaders are hitting out at the critics. The media has been accused of glorifying an irresponsible officer. Nagpal herself has been called names. UP’s bureaucracy has virtually been accused of ungratefulness.

In fact,the government seems to have been particularly hurt by the IAS Association’s action in sending a delegation to the chief secretary that complained that Nagpal’s suspension was unfair. The association alleged that there was no official report from the district administration of any communal tension in the area after the demolition of the mosque wall.

Akhilesh pointed out that during the five years that Mayawati was chief minister,the same IAS Association had dared not hold its annual meetings,that the non-IAS official Shashank Shekhar Singh presided over the administration as cabinet secretary,and that officers had to remove their shoes when they went to meet the chief minister. But the association had now spoken out against the very government that undid some of Mayawati’s capricious policies and gave back the bureaucracy’s dignity and respect.


Nevertheless,there are elements within the government who would like to de-escalate. They realise that the tasteless personal remarks against Nagpal,and the attacks on the media and the bureaucracy,are counterproductive. There is a view that the matter should be closed by revoking Nagpal’s suspension after she submits her reply to the chargesheet.

First published on: 08-08-2013 at 04:03:21 am
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