Chandigarh: Controversial Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka may have just become a pawn in the game of one-upmanship among the BJP politicians now ruling the state. Differences have surfaced in the Haryana BJP over yet another transfer - now a record 45 times in 23 years of service - of the whistleblower officer to the inconsequential department of Archaeology and Museums from the important Transport department that he held for a mere 128 days.
The treatment meted out to Khemka has given a chance to Health Minister Anil Vij, who does not see eye to eye with the Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, to take a pot-shot at the latter. Vij who has cultivated an image of a strict and honest politicians (he makes frequent surprise visits to health department offices to check discrepancies) who spares no one, is trying to capture moral high ground on the issue.
While coming out in support of the controversial bureaucrat openly, Vij has said that he stands firmly by Khemka. "I am totally with Khemka. I am with him since he fought the battle against corruption. I will stand by him and comment about this after talking to the CM."
“It is the prerogative of the chief minister (transfer). But if Khemka is transferred to any of my department, he is welcome,” he tweeted.
Earlier answering a media question on the sudden transfer of Khemka, who has remained in limelight ever since he cancelled Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, Robert Vadra’s land mutation deal with the DLF when the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress party was in power in Haryana, Khattar had said that he (Khemka) was a honest officer and his transfer was just routine “The transfer of any officer forms part of the administrative process. An officer is deputed wherever his services are required,” he had said while justifying the transfer that made media headlines.
Vij’s support for Khemka is not new though. On October 17, 2012, Vij had sat on a dharna outside the Haryana Raj Bhawan to protest against his transfer by the then previous government after he had questioned the land deals of Robert Vadra. Vij posted the file picture of that dharna in the social media. At that time the Haryana BJP was united in its support of Khemka. But now the partymen seem divided over support to the same officer.
It is not as if Vij has questioned the decision of the state government just over the transfer of an IAS officer. In the past also Vij has raised some very uncomfortable
queries that put the Khattar government to embarrassment. Though the Haryana government did not give any reason for the transfer of Khemka, it is widely believed that the influential transports’ lobby was behind it.
This lobby was reportedly furious with Khemka’s checking of trucks plying the inter-state route, especially between Rajasthan and Haryana as he had put a ban on all illegal activities. As Transport Commissioner, Khemka had refused to issue fitness certificates to over-sized trucks and trailers for carrying automobiles. This had led to a strike by the transporters of Haryana in January this year.
Khemka’s tweet in this regard had clearly hinted at this. It said: “tried hard to address corruption and bring reforms in transport despite severe limitations and entrenched interests. Moment is truly painful."
But Transport Minister Ram Bilas Sharma was quick to deny any role of the tranaporters’ lobby behind the transfer of Khemka. "It's a routine matter. I have still kept him in my department. The archaeology (department) is under me," said Sharma.
Emboldened by the support in the media and a section of the BJP, Ashok Khemka on Friday met Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki to reportedly explain his position on the stand taken against corruption and the consequences faced by him now as well as in the past.
A Haryana government officer who does not want to be named, told Firstpost that Khemka’s rebellious nature and his temperament cause his downfall every time. “Khemka cannot get along well with anyone, certainly not his colleagues. He wants to change the system, but does not know how to carry along people. Vij is therefore backing a wrong horse. His own partymen will not support him on this issue,” he said.
But if his own partymen are not supporting Vij, it is the opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) party MP from Hisar, Dushyant Chautala who has questioned the timing of the transfer of Khemka. “Why has he been transferred before the finalisation of the new transport policy?” Dushyant Chautala asked. Chautala is not wrong in posing that question. People are wondering why the entire top brass dealing with transport department in the latest reshuffle of the IAS officers in the state.
Updated Date: Apr 05, 2015 10:03:45 IST