'Activist' Bhan embarrasses UP CM Gupta

Asianage, 31st August 2000
By Amita Verma
Lucknow, Aug. 30

A politically active governor who chooses to embarrass the state government from time to time on issues concerning dalits, is the last thing that the beleaguered Ram Prakash Gupta government needs in Uttar Pradesh at the moment. But Mr Suraj Bhan, governor of Uttar Pradesh, has probably decided that enough is enough.

The governor is now making no efforts to conceal his displeasure over the manner in which the BJP-led coalition in UP is ignoring dalit interests. At a seminar organised by SC/ST Federations and Samajik Parivartan Manch, on Tuesday, Mr Suraj Bhan made it a point to express his concern over rampant corruption in implementation of schemes meant for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes and other downtrodden sections of society.

He said that he was disturbed over the fact that provisions of the Special Component Plan for SC/ST were being neglected and the state had not yet earmarked funds for this plan. Mr Suraj Bhan asked dalits not to depend for help on bureaucrats but to work for their own upliftment. He said he was aware that scholarships and benefits meant for dalit students were being usurped by students of other castes simply by submitting fake caste certificates.

The governor, who is one of the seven members of a committee constituted by President K.R. Narayanan to suggest ways for better implementation of SC/ST schemes, said that he would make definite recommendations during the next meeting of the committee. Mr Bhan's well-planned outburst against the Gupta government has come as a major embarrassment for the BJP which is already grappling with backward resentment, following the removal of Mr Om Prakash Singh from the state president's post.

"This is certainly not the way a governor is supposed to behave. Mr Bhan should realise that he is not a political activist and hence, has no business to project himself as a Dalit leader in Raj Bhavan," said an angry BJP minister.

This, is not the first time that Mr Suraj Bhan has chosen to cross swords with the UP government. Soon after assuming office in April 1998, Mr Bhan had announced that he would hold divisional meetings across the length and breadth of the state to assess the progress of development and law and order situation.

The then chief minister, Mr Kalyan Singh, had strongly objected to the "running of a parallel government from Raj Bhavan" and after a few meetings, the governor sensed the hostile attitude of the chief minister's office and finally abandoned the idea.

Earlier this year, he created another embarrassing situation for the BJP-led coalition when he referred the controversial Religious Places and Buildings (Regulation) Act to the President.

Some time later, he stirred up a hornet's nest when he remarked that Ramayana needed to be revised since the original version did not do justice to dalit characters in the epic! More recently, Raj Bhavan sent a letter to the principal secretary (home), expressing displeasure over the fact that daily reports about the law and order situation were now being sent to the governor on time.

While Mr Bhan's dalit love is rather well-known in the political circles but his insistence to champion the cause of dalits from Raj Bhavan has never found favour with BJP leaders in UP.

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