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Tribunal stops MP suspension

Bhopal, March 17: Politics in Madhya Pradesh has taken a curious turn following VHP leader Acharya Dharmendra’s arrest and the Central Administrative Tribunal’s stay order on former Rewa district collector Vinod Kumar’s suspension, recommended by the Election Commission.

In an interim order in Jabalpur, the tribunal today stayed implementation of the poll panel’s recommendation to suspend Kumar, accused of alleged irregularities in revision of voters’ lists.

The tribunal issued notices to the commission, the Madhya Pradesh government and the state election office and asked them to file replies by March 31, the next date of hearing.

Kumar, among the three collectors whose suspension had been recommended by the commission, had filed a petition before the tribunal, claiming that the poll panel’s order was “illegal and without any merit”. Twenty other officials facing the commission’s wrath are likely to follow suit.

Chief minister Digvijay Singh, who has reluctantly accepted the commission’s order to suspend the district officials accused of irregularities in the revision of electoral rolls, is insisting that the commission issue a formal chargesheet. Now, with the tribunal intervening in the matter, the controversy is set to linger.

But what caught everyone, including the Opposition BJP off guard, was the Digvijay regime’s decision to book Dharmendra for making an allegedly inflammatory speech at Dewas yesterday. However, the VHP’s bandh call in Dewas, Bhopal and Ujjain to protest against the arrest evoked a poor response, as the BJP stayed away.

Dharmendra is known for making fiery and often uncharitable references to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy L.K. Advani. His arrest comes two days after Advani’s visit to Bhopal, where the state BJP under Uma Bharti’s leadership decided to focus on the “basics” — power, water, roads and bad governance — instead of experimenting with a “Gujarat-like” scenario.

Several state BJP leaders, including Bharti, is credited with the view that the presence of VHP hardliners in Madhya Pradesh is proving counter-productive. The BJP, in consultation with the RSS, had decided to discourage VHP leaders like Praveen Togadia and Dharmendra from visiting the election-bound state.

But Dharmendra, who was in Dewas in connection with the VHP’s trishul (trident) distribution ceremony, was off the block before he could be stopped. Addressing a modest gathering, the VHP leader, while asking Muslims to join the national mainstream, made a few references that local Muslims claimed were offensive.

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