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Shaming Uttarakhand

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The street fight that Uttarakhand Finance Minister Prem Chand Aggarwal indulged in on Tuesday has brought much disrepute to Uttarakhand. The entire incident was captured on video and has become viral on social media. The people of the state, who like to think of themselves as comparatively civilised, come out looking like downright goons; and, why not, if the elected ministers behave like such.

This is not the first time that Aggarwal has been involved in ugly incidents but it never descended to blows, at least in public knowledge. The four-time MLA, former Speaker and Minister, has been given a long leash by his party as a representative of a particular section of society. This group will also be concerned at the turn of events. Aggarwal has already been in the news for the wrong reasons for the appointments made in the Assembly when he was Speaker. The government instituted inquiries and such like that basically kicked the can down the road, with few immediate repercussions on him.

It has been reported that Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami is miffed and is ‘looking into’ the incident. The CM should be aware that the burden of karma will have to be borne by him if Aggarwal gets away again.

Both parties to the quarrel have filed FIRs with the police. While the person who was beaten up by Aggarwal and his security personnel will likely face charges for having struck cops in uniform, albeit in self-defence, any fair investigation will also conclude that the actions of the minister are equally unjustifiable. If persons in high positions take matters into their own hands in such a manner, there is no point in providing them the cloak of protocol and official security. Since when did ‘obscene gestures and abuse’ justify such violence? Politicians would be involved in fist-fights every other day.

Whatever the result of the police investigations and the criminal culpability, it is also a political issue for the BJP to resolve. Backing Aggarwal, no matter what clout he commands within the party – locally or at the higher level – it would be self-defeating to give him a pass on this one. Considering that there are four ministerial vacancies in the Dhami Cabinet, it would be safe to assume that the post is considered quite sacred, with the portfolio-less MLAs not considered ‘good enough’. Is Aggarwal so important that he can remain untouched even after such behaviour? At the very least, he should be sent on sabbatical to undergo counseling for anger-management, which he seems to desperately need.