PM Modi makes a surprise entry

The other day the participants of a webinar hosted by Defence Ministry and FICCI were in for a big surprise. The webinar was addressed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and senior ministry officials.

There was an hour-long interactive session with industry representatives. As it was about to end, there was a commotion as Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to join it unexpectedly. Rajnath Singh apprised PM Modi about the details of the event. Modi then delivered the concluding address. Thanking the PM, the Defence Minister said that “nobody here expected the Prime Minister would conclude this seminar.”

Gun Loving MLA back in BJP

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Uttarakhand MLA, Pranav Singh “Champion” loves guns and believes in showing off. A year after “Champion”, who represents Khanpur in Haridwar district, was expelled from the saffron party’s primary membership following a viral video of the lawmaker dancing with guns, he was welcomed back into the fold at a re-induction function at state BJP president Bansidhar Bhagat’s residence on Monday. He came with his wife and family members. And, after the re-induction, he took out a big motorcade in his constituency, with a hooter mounted on the top of a vehicle.

Champion was re-inducted after Bhagat summoned him and three other BJP MLAs mired in controversy, to present their side before the party leadership. The other three MLAs include Dwarahat MLA Mahesh Negi, who was recently accused of rape by a woman, Jhabreda MLA Deshraj Karnwal and Lohaghat MLA Pooran Singh Fartyal, who were both served show cause notices for indiscipline earlier.

In July 2019, Champion was expelled from the party for six years after a video featuring him dancing with guns and alcohol in an indecent manner surfaced. He was also heard using abusive words for Uttarakhand state and its residents in the video.

Bhagat said, “There were talks in the party since last one year to take him back. On that line, we spoke to him during the party’s core committee meeting on Sunday and told him that he would be taken back if he promises to work as per the party constitution and not indulge in any controversy. He agreed to both and apologised.”

Bhagat also spoke about forgiving Deshraj Karnwal, who was served a show-cause notice for misbehaving with party workers in his constituency. An audio clip had gone viral in which he was purportedly heard using inappropriate words against a party worker while speaking to him.

“Karnwal has also apologised and the leadership has decided to forgive him,” said Bhagat. Negi and Fartyal did not show up for the meeting.

On the rape allegations against Negi, Bhagat said, “The allegations are serious as they have pointed towards his character. However, the police are probing the matter including his wife’s complaint against the woman for trying to blackmail and extort Rs 5 crore from him. If after the investigation, Negi is found guilty, the party will take strict action against him as discipline is everything in our organisation.”

Pritam Singh, state Congress president termed the development as “the end of ethical values in BJP.” Singh told The Sunday Guardian that “the rape allegations against another BJP MLA Negi are serious. The woman has been demanding a DNA test to prove her claims but no action has been taken by the government so far.”

CIC Goes Headless

The Central Information Commission became headless on 27 August with the retirement of Bimal Julka. Julka was earlier a senior IAS officer from the Madhya Pradesh cadre. The process of selecting a new incumbent started recently with the post advertised in newspapers. There are six vacancies of Information Commissioners also lying vacant.

In the past, the CIC remained headless for long. A selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and a Union Minister choose the one. But this committee never meets for months for various reasons, including the availability of the PM. “A system must be formulated whereby normally the senior-most Information Commissioner may be appointed as Chief Information Commissioner. Such a system will not only ensure the important post being always occupied, but will also automatically take care for the peculiar situation developed due to amendment in the Right To Information Act whereby service rules for Information Commissioners have been downgraded,” noted RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal told The Sunday Guardian. “At present, the Information Commissioners applying for the post of Chief Information Commissioner under new rules will be deprived of better service rules they held in the capacity of Information Commissioners,” said Agrawal. In his opinion, any new person, if appointed from outside, then will lead Information Commissions with service-conditions inferior to those of present Information Commissioners thus leading to an uncomfortable position. It is better to appoint a person as Chief Information Commissioner who has already gained experience as Information Commissioner.