M A I N   N E W S

CS meets Kidwai as government plans showdown
with EC
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 12
The Haryana Chief Secretary, Mr Sunil Ahuja, today met the Governor, Dr A.R. Kidwai, as the Chautala Government seems to be preparing for a confrontation with the Election Commission over the issue of appointing persons selected by the Public Service Commission and the Staff Selection Commission for various posts.

The state Cabinet is meeting tomorrow to appoint about 800 police constables, about 2000 teachers, about 45 engineers in the power utilities, about 50 veterinary surgeons and about 60 members of the HCS and allied services, according to informed sources.

These appointments were held up after the model code of conduct came into force on December 17. The government had continued to appoint the persons selected by the two commissions even after that day. The process was stopped only after the Election Commission took a strong stand and wrote to the Chief Secretary to ensure that no appointment was made till the completion of the election process on March 5.

However, during the election campaign leaders of the ruling party made no secret of their intentions to make the appointments once the polling was held on February 3.

Immediately after his return from Pakistan, the Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, presided over a Cabinet meeting yesterday, in which he humiliated Mr Ahuja for “obeying” the instructions of the Election Commission. He wanted the bureaucracy to issue appointment letters. He also directed his Principal Secretary, Mr B.D. Dhalia, to take action against those officers who were not issuing appointment letters.

In this context about one-hour meeting of Mr Ahuja with the Governor assumes importance. Though it is not known what transpired at the meeting, it is presumed that Mr Ahuja briefed the Governor about what transpired at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting and how the political leadership wanted to defy the Election Commission.

Meanwhile, the Haryana Bureaucracy is in a state of shock over the way the Chief Secretary was treated at the Cabinet meeting yesterday. A senior officer said it was for the first time a Chief Minister had treated any Chief Secretary.

Tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting will be a test for Mr Ahuja, who is expected to provide leadership to the state bureaucracy in his capacity as the Chief Secretary as well President of the Haryana IAS Officers Association.

The bureaucracy is trying to read a message in the meeting between Mr Ahuja and the Governor, who, the officers hope, may exert his moral pressure on the government to save them from a difficult situation.

During his last visit to Chandigarh the Chief Election Commissioner, Mr T. S. Krishnamurthi, had said that the commission would not allow any violation of the code by the Haryana government even after the polling.

A young IAS officer said it seemed that by insisting to appoint their own men in violation of the code of conduct, the Chief Minister had conceded his party’s defeat in the elections. He said if Mr Chautala was true in making claims that his party would come back to power, he could easily wait for a fortnight and make the appointments after the new Assembly was elected.

He pointed out that it had been a style of the Chief Minister’s functioning that he first bullies the officer whom he wanted to do some out of the way work. He said what had happened with Mr Ahuja yesterday had happened with many officers earlier also.

Meanwhile, the Opposition has taken a serious view of the humiliation of the Chief Secretary by Mr Chautala. In a statement issued here today the former President of the Haryana Congress, Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, said if the bureaucracy remained steadfast in its duties, the Congress Government would protect them. He said everyone knew that Mr Chautala had no respect for democratic norms and decency. While the Congress would tackle Mr Chautala in its own way, it would certainly take strong action against Mr Dhalia if he became a party to the violation of the code.

The working President of the Haryana Congress, Mr Randeep Surjewala, is also scheduled to meet the Governor tomorrow in this connection. He has come specially from Bihar in view of the “open defiance” of the commission by Mr Chautala.

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