Bhopal: A political controversy has erupted in assembly poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, over the participation of two government officials in a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) program in Satna district.
The controversy erupted after a picture of Satna district collector Anurag Verma and Satna municipal commissioner Rajesh Shahi participating in a traditional RSS prayer alongside RSS and BJP leaders on the concluding day of Sangh’s training camp on June 11 went viral recently.
While the opposition Congress leaders, including Rajya Sabha member Vivek Tankha have demanded that such officials be kept away from the preparations for the year-end MP Assembly polls, the BJP has defended the presence of the two government officials at the RSS event, saying neither is it unconstitutional nor does it violate any code of conduct.
Tweeting the picture of the two government officials participating in the RSS program and saluting the ruling BJP’s parent outfit’s flag, the state Congress’s media wing head KK Mishra said on Tuesday, "It can't be expected that such officials will perform their duty without any bias in the assembly polls. Their behaviour is against the conduct meant for civil servants. We’ll make a complaint to the Centre's Department of Personnel and Training."
The opposition party’s Rajya Sabha member and senior advocate Vivek Tankha demanded that the Election Commission of India keep such leaders away from preparations of the Assembly polls.
However, responding to Congress’s barbs, the state BJP secretary Rajneesh Agrawal said there was no violation of the code of conduct by the officials. “Taking part in an RSS event is not illegal or unconstitutional and doesn't violate the code of conduct. The RSS, which works under constitutional arrangements, is a democratic, social and cultural organisation,” Agrawal said.
Importantly, in April 2003, the then Digvijaya Singh-led Congress government banned state government employees from taking part in RSS activities/programmes, treating it as a violation of the state civil services (conduct) rules 1965.
However, three years later, in August 2006, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government, ended the restrictions imposed on state government employees from participating in RSS activities.
Twelve years later, the Congress in its 2018 assembly polls manifesto, had mentioned that “RSS shakhas will not be allowed in the government premises and the government order allowing government officials and employees to attend the shakhas too will be scrapped.”
But even after coming to power in December 2018, the Kamal Nath-led Congress government fell in March 2020, paving the passage for another Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government in the state.