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For UPA, Durga smacks of déjà vu

The suspension and subsequent chargesheeting of the 2010-batch IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal has created a maelstrom of opinions and counter-opinions amongst the rank and file Indian society. While Nagpal is certainly not the first ‘honest’ IAS officer to come in the way of the nefarious nexus between the various illegal mafias, business lobbies, conniving bureaucracy and the political classes, her case has acquired enough momentum to stir up dust that could easily derail the passage of the UPA’s flagship food bill in the current (monsoon) session of Parliament.

In the wake of Samajwadi Party-led Uttar Pradesh government’s charging Nagpal of not following laid down procedure in demolishing the wall of a mosque in Gautam Budh Nagar, to which the officer must respond in 15 days, the very fate of the momentous Food Security bill hangs in balance. The SP, incensed by a letter written by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressing concern over the officer’s apparently unceremonious suspension, has come out openly against the move that the UPA has been banking on for months and is in a tremendous hurry to see passed.

The belligerent party has also sounded pious and horrified alarm, questioning the UPA’s deafening silence in the case of Ashok Khemka, the IAS officer who was suspended by the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government in Haryana, when he tried to unearth murky connections between Robert Vadra and the construction behemoth DLF over land dealings in the state. It seems the Mulayam Singh-led SP is trying to tell the Congress leaders that those who reside in glasshouses themselves, should desist from throwing stones at others.

However, what is getting lost in the transmitted cacophony of the brouhaha of Akhilesh Yadav apparently trying to mend the massive communal crack that was created by Nagpal’s lack of ‘administrative acumen’ – she ordered to demolish a boundary wall that fenced a religious structure, within or without regulations – is that the real battle is not between Durga and Akhilesh Yadav, or Ashok Khemka and Robert Vadra. The battle – and it is a fierce one, even a losing one as some cynics would say – is actually between the reformists and the status quoists, and either brand of people can come from any section of our society. For every Ashok Khemka or Durga Nagpal, there are hundreds of other bureaucrats who prefer to lead a quiet and sycophantic life, carrying out the orders from their political masters, seeing the deplorable whims and fancies being carried out at the expense of greater good of people, rather than stand up and oppose such pervasive corruption. It is beyond a straw of doubt that the extent of corrosion in India’s legislative and executive classes wouldn’t have been possible without the rampant participation of representatives from across the board.

Moreover, much like the stalled progress of the bureaucratic pilgrims such as Nagpal and Khemka, many of the younger politicians, and Akhilesh Yadav is perhaps one among them, have been hemmed in by the intricate levels of complicity in sleaze that exist in today’s political and  business circuits, as each person works to safeguard particular interests. It would, therefore, serve our chattering classes better if this chest-thumping umbrage at the suspension of Durga is translated into some real action with implications larger than granting justice to the young bureaucrat in the eye of the muck storm.

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