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Blot on Safed Sher home

Bhopal, Oct. 23: Rewa, once famous as the original home of India’s white tigers, is now attracting attention for all the wrong reasons.

Represented by ‘Safed Sher’ (white tiger) Sriniwas Tiwari, the ageing Speaker, Rewa has been put under the scanner by the Election Commission after the BJP alleged that two employees of the Speaker’s office, Satyanarayan and Jairam Shukla, were canvassing for him while the model code of conduct is in force.

The poll-related “irregularities” prompted election commissioners B.B. Tandon and T.S. Krishanmurthy to recommend action against some state officials.

A few months ago, the panel had recommended that the Rewa collector be suspended for glaring discrepancies in the electoral rolls. But the official had obtained a stay from the Central Administrative Tribunal.

In Madhi village, the poll panel found that 1,237 people — both Hindus and Muslims — had been enrolled as staying in the house of one Nand Kumar. Kumar later confessed that he lived with just his wife and three sons. This prompted the Election Commission to revise the rolls.

However, more and more complaints are pouring in. The “revised” electoral rolls have not satisfied many and still include “imaginary inhabitants”.

But the ‘Safed Sher’ is unfazed. He dismisses the complaints as “politically motivated”. But BJP leader Girish Gautam, who lost to Tiwari from Manegawa by 294 votes in 1999, says the Speaker has reasons to be worried. “Last time, I had, in fact, begun to celebrate my victory when Tiwari was declared elected,” he said.

In the Congress, too, Tiwari has a larger-than-life image. Chief minister Digvijay Singh concedes that his writ runs only in 44 districts. “In Rewa, Pandjitji is the chief minister,” Digvijay has often said in public meetings, giving Tiwari a left-handed compliment.

His relations with Digvijay are cordial. When the poll panel asked the chief minister to act against six administrative poll officials, including some Tiwari favourites, earlier this year, Digvijay preferred defying Nirvachan Sadan to “sacrificing” the officials.

But allegations of his strong-arm tactics have now reached the Congress’ ethics panel that has image-conscious leaders like Manmohan Singh, Ahmad Patel and Margaret Alva.

But the Speaker is not new to taking on Congress leaders. He has been at loggerheads with Arjun Singh, D.P. Mishra, P.C. Sethi and several other party stalwarts since the early 1950s, resulting in victory, defeat and denial of tickets.

Some of Tiwari’s actions have been controversial.

He gave a call for a Rewa bandh on June 14 when the state BJP executive met there. The BJP questioned how a “constitutional authority” could call for a bandh, but Tiwari refused to budge.

Unmindful of these complaints, the septuagenarian leader is confident of getting the ticket this time. He believes the leadership will not annoy a credible and senior Brahmin leader.

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