Cellphones with voice recording applications and social media having access to millions of people have cost several bureaucrats and politicians their jobs within a short span of time recently in Madhya Pradesh.
The recorded ‘proofs’ exposing babus seeking bribe or in other compromising situations, which forced the state’s top leadership to act against them promptly, have made bureaucrats and politicians wary of having sensitive conversations over phone, even with journalists. This is especially at a time when the power corridors are agog with rumours about more such exposé.
One of the earliest victims of a viral video was senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and then finance minister Raghavji, who was seen in a compromising position with a boy. “The CM took precisely two minutes to sack Raghavji, even though he was a respected party leader and accomplished finance minister,” said an aide of the CM and a witness to the event. Dismissal contains the damage to some extent, he said.
On November 27, IAS officer JN Malpani got marching orders within hours after an audio clip, where Malpani is allegedly heard seeking bribe from his subordinate in the tribal welfare department in Barwani, went viral. Chief conservator of forests (CCF), Jabalpur, Ajit Shrivastava was the next to be transferred over a cellphone recording, where the officer was allegedly heard demanding bribe.
Despite prompt action in such cases, many feel that bureaucrats and politicians were being let off lightly even when there were serious proofs against them.
“While the state government has transferred the bureaucrats featuring in such clips, it should also refer the matter to the vigilance agencies for further action. Vigilance agencies can suo moto register cases in such matters,” said Alankar Soni, a Bhopal-based lawyer.
There have been others who were not dislodged even when “caught” red handed. Public Health Engineering (PHE) minister Kusum Mehdele was seen allegedly kicking a boy at a function in Panna on November 1. The video went viral, but Mehdele survived the storm. Similarly, during the Garoth bye-elections, an audio clip allegedly of the CM telling a BJP leader in Garoth that he would take care of him in case he supported the party candidate went viral. The audio, however, did not affect the BJP’s prospects in the polls and the party went on to win it.
“Governments these days are in perpetual crisis management mode. The moment an audio or video goes viral, there is a crisis which is managed through a transfer. Governments want to minimise damage and hence act immediately,” said senior journalist Deepak Tiwari.