By Chandna C Arora
Bhopal: The lull after each storm in the political theatre of Madhya Pradesh comes loaded with conspiracy theories. Is there more to the Raghavji episode than meets the eye? Yes, if you follow the hints and speak to a cross-section of leaders.
When the sodomy scandal broke out, Raghavji was immediately removed from the state cabinet. And later, from the BJP. The speed and precision in the political surgery is perplexing.
Was it the shock of incriminating evidence surfacing against a senior minister, that too on the eve of the Vidhan Sabha session? Or was it because the BJP was caught unawares, and left with no other defence for his continuing in office? Was ‘immorality’ the sole reason why first the chief minister and then the party quickly washed their hands of the veteran leader? There are many questions around why the BJP acted in haste to crucify him.
The Raghavji matter could have been quashed by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan - it does not take great political or legal knowledge to figure out why. Why didn’t the BJP shield him or at least, allow him to defend himself in the sodomy case?
The answers lie in Vidisha. And a little beyond – Kurwai.
Rumours and gossip about Raghavji’s sexual activities and preferences have been wide-spread in his hometown and constituency Vidisha, as well in the political circles of the state. Chouhan, who started his political career right from the household of, and as protégé of Raghavji, could not have ‘not known’ about it. That makes any ‘moral stand’ from his side a bit too late and quite fake.
Shailendra Kataria, member of the district Congress, Vidisha, says, "While Raghavji’s sexual tendencies were well known in Vidisha for many years, and in spite of the fact that such tendencies are now considered personal inclinations not to be judged by others, nonetheless socially this has erupted into the greatest disgrace for Raghavji, and for Vidisha. I strongly condemn the act, and more so when committed by a senior minister in the Madhya Pradesh cabinet."
The term floating around in this case is 'sodomy', not 'rape'. Evidently the complainant provided service to the ex-minister against the promise of a job. And jobs were what he was provided with—at the behest of the minister—at a couple of local companies. If the complainant received financial favours from Raghavji, the sexual interactions would then fall under the category of male prostitution.
In such circumstances a moral and just stance for the chief minister would have been – 'the issue of whether it was sodomy, consensual sex, or sexual exploitation of the complainant by the minister, is yet to be proved in court. And law shall surely take its own course. Yet, if a cabinet minister has misused his position in the government to extract sexual favours from his staff, or threatened any of them unethically, for sexual gratification - then on moral grounds, BJP and myself as the chief minister, would ensure his expulsion from the cabinet as well as the party'.
Apart from being just, this stance could have set a precedence for politicians and leaders to follow – of that to gauge it as immoral if they secure jobs using their high offices, or threaten their staff, for sexual gratification.
A BJP functionary from Vidisha, on condition of anonymity says, "Shivraj Singh ne ek teer se kai nishane sadhe hain (Shivraj has won multiple victories by his one act of not shielding Raghavji).
"For more than 15 years Raghavji and Shivraj Singh have been at loggerheads. They have openly sabotaged each other’s political and social activities. In the assembly elections of 1999, BJP candidate and Raghavji’s protégé Chironji Lal Sonkar lost fighting from Kurwai. The Dangis, considered loyal supporters of the BJP, voted against him. Dangi’s are Shivraj loyalists even today," he said.
"The complainant in this case is a Dangi and comes from Kurwai. Shiv Kumar Pateria, the principal witness and the whistle-blower, comes from near Kurwai," he added. The allegations against Raghavji create no scope for doubt but there’s a definite conspiracy angle to the matter.
While the allegations are true, yet the fact that a conspiracy brewed and that too from around Kurwai, cannot be refuted.
"Vidisha, known for Kalidas and Meghdoot, undergoes intense and two-pronged suffering. We bear the shame of Raghavji and the betrayal of Shivraj Singh Chouhan", and the heartache of this BJP functionary is written all over his face.
Pratap Bhanu Sharma, vice president of Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee and two-time former MP from Vidhisha says, “It is wrong to say Raghavji was not given any time for defence. A year-and-a-half ago, incriminating CDs of him with a local woman had reached the CM, the government and the BJP office. No action was taken. Raghavji was not only defended, he was also given a chance to set right his activities. Which obviously he did not.
"The only difference this time is the coming elections, the party’s image, and above all the Vidhan Sabha seat. Sadhna Singh, Shivraj’s wife, nurtures the ambition to contest assembly elections from Vidisha. If not Sadhna then Mukesh Tandon, CM’s protégé, confidante and financial manager, could be contesting from Vidisha. But much as Shivraj wished thus, he knew very well, being CM too would not help him wrest the seat away from the octogenarian. And Raghavji was grooming his own daughter, Jyoti Shah, now chairman Vidisha Municipal Council, to replace him, not for the coming elections, but surely for later. So, quite eagerly, this time around when the scandal happened, the CM took a moral stand against Raghavji and ousted him not only from the cabinet but also from the party."
Does it then mean that the circus actually boils down to assembly seat vacated at great cost to a mentor, and at the cost of mangling the very lap that nurtured the lives and ambitions of the two politicians to their great heights?
The other angle of the circus is yet to begin. In the courts, we might soon see the complainant not ‘complaining’ as much, the witnesses turning hostile, and maybe some ‘out of the court’ compromises reached? When contacted by Firstpost, Shiv kumar Pateria who till two days ago was hungrily hogging all and wanting more of the media limelight, was unreachable. This could give credence to the rumours that he might not be as definite about his version, once in court. For any respite, hereafter for the accused, can only come if the complainant and the conspirator are 'managed'.
When and if, Raghavji is pronounced ‘Not guilty’ by the court, wouldn’t he be right back where he left - inside the party and into the haloed creamy layer of BJP? We have seen other ministers of Shivraj cabinet ‘made to leave’, for offences big and small, only to cool their heels for an appropriate span of time, while the party ‘managed’ affairs and they could make a re-entry. Powerful ministers such as Narottam Mishra, Anup Mishra, and Ajay Singh Bishnoi, not very far in the past were ‘ousted’ from their ministerial offices. A couple of them had offended and antagonised the CM, yet when their disgracing acts were written off the party re-instated them to their former offices.