Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju’s reactions following allegations of his cousin’s supposed wrongdoing show he is nervous about something in which there is no presumed case of guilt on his part. His own role in the case of disbursing payment to his cousin by a public sector hydro power company is that he had written to the power ministry, asking it to expedite the matter. Per se there is nothing wrong in this. But, probably out of jitters, the minister has used language and threatened violence, for which he deserves to be roundly criticised. If he is guilty of anything so far, it is this. Earlier too Mr Rijiju said things that were inappropriate. For example, he had once commented on North Indians’ propensity to break traffic rules. Recently, while referring to the jail break incident in Bhopal, he advised the people to believe the police on everything they do, which is a very strange position to take.
Conventionally in such situations it is common practice for a person occupying a high position, particularly elected offices, to resign. There have been many instances of this even in the previous UPA government, during whose tenure A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran were asked to quit their ministerial posts. So if the Congress asked for Mr Rijiju’s resignation, the demand is based on precedent and some traditions of democracy. But predictably, the BJP is defending its minister and insinuating that the chief vigilance officer of the public sector company, Satish Verma, the IPS officer who had concluded that Ishrat Jahan and three others had been killed in a fake encounter in 2004, is a Congress “friend”.
Such innuendoes do no justice to the ruling party or to governance. As the BJP itself has been stressing, such charges should not be brought against people who, by their service conditions, cannot answer them. What the government should do now is to order a probe, judicial or departmental, into the matter. This is something that the people in power would have asked for when they were in the Opposition.
If someone, regardless of whether she or he is related to him, misuses Mr Rijiju’s name, as has been reported in the media, the person should be blacklisted and the minister should pull him up. But that does not constitute any act of misconduct on Mr Rijiju’s part. But if he does not act now, and allows things to fester, there might be worse in store for him because potential wrongdoers may feel encouraged to tread the same path. The ball is clearly in his court.