Governor-CM standoff over APSC
With controversy raging around the selection of candidates for the 2013 Assam Civil Services (ACS), Assam Police services (APS) and associated public service examitions, Governor PB Acharya’s latest tough stand against the APSC and Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s counter-attack is adding fuel to the fire. Quite in keeping with his determition not to be a rubber-stamp Governor in a scam-ridden State under Gogoi’s 14-year long watch, Governor Acharya has now threatened to ‘act unilaterally’ to address this issue. Mincing no words, the Governor has castigated the Tarun Gogoi government for not paying the slightest heed to widespread complaints about irregularities in the examition conducted by the Assam Public Service Commission (APSC), reported extensively in the media. Mentioning the ongoing agitations against the APSC, the Governor has warned that if the State government does not act, he will do so. The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and its associate organisations are now staging statewide protests against alleged corruption in the APSC, with Akhil Gogoi and other leaders hauled to jail for sitting on a hunger strike demanding APSC chairman Rakesh Paul’s removal. Earlier, the Assam Public Works (APW) levelled serious allegations against the APSC of taking huge bribes to select candidates.
The APSC has long been synonymous with corruption in the public perception. It is a hangover from the days of the Hiteswar Saikia regime, after the shenigans of the then APSC chairman Tara Prasad Das came to light. The images of sleuths from the Chief Minister’s Vigilance Cell seizing an enormous cash hoard from Tara Prasad’s residence, simply blew away the credibility of public service exams in the State for years to come. The present APSC chairman has been dogged by allegations of carrying on that shameful legacy. After all, a cursory reading of the latest list of selected candidates shows up sons of a former minister and a serving minister, the nephew of a Rajya Sabha member, the son of a top police official as well as candidates with police records and a female candidate whose caste certificate was exposed to be fake in an IAS official’s report. The All Assam Lawyer’s Association has now joined the fray against the APSC scam, demanding a thorough CBI probe into the entire candidate selection process. It has labelled as ‘crimils’ those who take bribes to select candidates for appointment to high offices in the Executive, ostensibly the most powerful arm of the government.
With the image of his government taking a severe beating in an election year, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has now ordered a probe into five specific complaints about corruption and favouritism by the APSC. He has however refused to divulge the ture and details of the complaints sought to be investigated. It all smacks of a deeply reluctant government forced to take a stand on a sensitive public issue, and determined to obfuscate, stonewall, cover up and brush away under the carpet all embarrassing findings. The Chief Minister’s refusal to even field queries about the Governor’s stand against the APSC’s workings, reveals his perverse mindset of seeing ‘politics’ even in issues of grave public import. Instead, he has gone on the offensive by questioning the Governor’s choices to fill up vacant positions in university boards. In the past, Gogoi had publicly warned the Governor of not exceeding his constitutiol limits when the latter took up cudgels for rhinos wantonly poached in Kaziranga. The office of the Governor may not have the mandate to clean up the APSC mess or to ensure justice to meritorious but now deprived and disillusioned candidates. But Governor PB Acharya’s stand has struck a chord with all right-thinking citizens who fervently wish for a clean polity and administrative apparatus in the State.