Delhi summons for Shankar
Ranchi, Sept. 16: Internal bickerings in the Congress and compulsions of coalition politics seem to have left Mani Shankar, the Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board’s chairman and a seasoned party member, gasping for breath.
Moreover, the state Congress’s move to ask him to vacate the board chief’s post and Shankar’s reluctance to “toe the line” have triggered a fresh storm, the effects of which could be felt in the party high command in Delhi.
Late on last Saturday evening, state party chief Sukhdeo Bhagat asked Shankar to quit as the chief of the pollution board, apparently with the tacit approval of Congress’s general secretary in charge of Jharkhand B.K. Hariprasad and Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh.
“Obviously, leaders like Shankar cannot be asked to depart without having Hariprasad and Ramesh’s consent,” a party functionary said.
But, Shankar, considered close to Oscar Fernandez, has objected to him being targeted, prompting Hariprasad to summon him to New Delhi.
Speaking to The Telegraph over phone from Deoghar today, the pollution board chief confirmed the developments. “I have been summoned by Hariprasad to Delhi for explaining my position. I am a loyal party worker, loyal to Soniaji and Rahulji,” Shankar said.
But, former state Congress chief and Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu did not miss the opportunity to train his guns on Bhagat, while extending his support to Shankar, who was appointed in March during President’s Rule. “He has been excellent as JSPCB chief and you are seeking his head. There must be some logic behind this,” Balmuchu told the mediapersons.
Shankar has been fairly proactive in his job. Under him, the pollution board showcaused two PSUs — Bokaro Steel Limited and DVC-owned Chandrapura Thermal Power Station — in April for violating environmental norms. DVC’s Koderma Thermal Power Plant was temporarily shut down over green issues in the same month. In May, BCCL and Maithon Power Limited, were also pulled up.
However, some Congress insiders claimed the party had received specific complaints against Shankar and his close aides for allegedly indulging in corrupt practices.
“The Federation of Jharkhand Chamber of Commerce and Industries has complained against the pollution control board for delaying clearances on different pretexts,” said a Congress leader.
The other and perhaps more plausible reason for the Congress to target Shankar could be its willingness to look for “respectable posts” to reward Independents, who have sworn their allegiance to the new government. Anos Ekka is said to be eyeing the JSPCB.
A close aide of Shankar hinted as much. “There is a big game behind this. The state party chief wants the post for his MLA friend, who doesn’t even have the minimum qualification to hold the post,” he said.