Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and his team would want to close the issue of IAS officer Ashok Khemka’s ‘premature’ transfer at the earliest, but health and sports minister Anil Vij appears to have different ideas.
Vij kept the controversy surrounding the whistleblower IAS officer’s transfer, for which the state government has drawn flak, alive through his tweets, expressing a desire to have Khemka in his team. “It is the chief minister’s prerogative however if he is transferred to any of my deptt. He is WELCOME (sic),” tweeted the minister who shares a fickle relationship with the chief minister.
The minister also posted a Hindustan Times story and picture dated October 17, 2012, on his dharna outside Haryana Raj Bhawan to protest against Ashok Khemka’s transfer for questioning the land deals of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra. When the IAS officer was transferred by the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government, the saffron party had lodged its protest.
The picture tweeted by the BJP minister, whose craftily-worded posts have raised questions about the working of the state government in recent months, brings out the irony that it is his government which has shunted the officer from the transport department within four months. Khemka was transferred when he was cracking down on overloading by commercial vehicles, especially those being operated by the powerful mining mafia, and illegal stage carriage permits, according to sources.
The IAS officer had issued instructions to all the regional transport authorities in December 2014 to curb the menace of overloaded vehicles. “Tried hard to address corruption and bring reforms in Transport despite severe limitations and entrenched interests. Moment is truly painful,” he tweeted after his transfer on Wednesday night.
While Vij has repeatedly expressed his support for Khemka, the other BJP ministers, while trying to downplay the transfer, are at pains to justify the transfer done in violation of rules related to fixed tenure of IAS officers in the state. Transport minister Ram Bilas Sharma said he was an honest officer and had been posted in a department where his services were needed. “There was not much work happening in the department where he has been posted now,” he told reporters.
Union minister of state for social justice and empowerment Krishan Pal Gurjar also said that Khemka was a good man, but chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar was even better. “It is the CM’s prerogative to decide who is to be posted where. There is nothing wrong with it,” he said. However, the opposition parties want answers from the Khattar government. Dushyant Chautala, INLD MP from Hisar, questioned the timing of the officer’s transfer. “Why Khemka has been transferred before finalisation of the new transport policy?” he asked. AAP leader Dr Anand Kumar tweeted: “Ashok Khemka may be a thorn for the BJP government in Haryana. But he is a beacon of hope for the nation.”
Besides Khemka, the government had also shifted the entire top brass dealing with transport in a reshuffle that is now being dubbed as “routine”. Principal secretary Avtar Singh was shifted from transport and civil aviation to women and child development department. Sumita Misra, additional principal secretary-I to chief minister, was also moved out of the chief minister’s office. She was handling transport in the CMO.