Congress deliberately skipped CIC selection meeting: PM Modi

“The (Congress) party also did not attend the swearing-in of the country’s first Dalit chief information commissioner (CIC) despite getting an invitation in advance,” Mr. Modi said

November 07, 2023 03:46 pm | Updated November 08, 2023 03:30 am IST - Sidhi (Madhya Pradesh)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses during a public meeting in Sidhi November 7, 2023 ahead of Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses during a public meeting in Sidhi November 7, 2023 ahead of Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections. | Photo Credit: PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday attacked Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury for “deliberately skipping” the meeting of the selection committee that appointed the new Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), claiming that the largest Opposition party “hate Dalits”.

Mr. Chowdhury hit back calling Mr. Modi’s assertion an “outrageous lie”, and accused the BJP of “remembering Dalits” only in the election season and “hoodwinking” them for votes.  

Mr. Chowdhury had complained to President Droupadi Murmu that he was “totally kept in the dark” about the appointment of the new CIC. Heeralal Samariya, a former IAS officer who was serving as Information Commissioner, was on Monday appointed the head of the Central Information Commission, which was headless for the past over a month. He is the first Dalit to occupy the position.

Speaking at a public rally in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Modi said: “You must have read in the newspaper today that for the first time in the country, we decided to make a Dalit the Chief Information Commissioner. I cancelled an election tour and went to Delhi for the meeting. And these Congress leaders were also supposed to come to the meeting, they were invited well in advance and a telephonic conversation also took place with them.”

“But when they found out that a Dalit was going to be the CIC, they boycotted the meeting. They hate Dalits so much,” the Prime Minister alleged, adding that the Congress had also opposed the election of President Droupadi Murmu, who is the first tribal woman to become the President. “And then they spread lies to gain sympathy,” he said. 

Letter to President

The Prime Minister’s comments come in the backdrop of a letter written by Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and senior Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury to Ms. Murmu, saying that he was “totally kept in the dark”.

The selection committee meeting to pick the new CIC was held on November 3 evening.

Mr. Chowdhury, in his letter dated November 6, said his plea for “rescheduling” the meeting to be held in the morning on the same day was “totally disregarded” and that in spite of his “sincere effort”, he failed to attend the meeting. He alleged that the appointment was made when the “bona fide” Opposition voice was missing.

Questions selection process

Mr. Chowdhury also questioned the “alacrity” with which the selection was completed. “The fact that within hours of the meeting in which only the Prime Minister and the Home Minister were present, and the face of the Opposition, that is me, as a bona fide member of the selection committee. was not present, the names of selected candidates were announced, notified and also sworn into office, only indicates that the entire selection process was predetermined,” he wrote. Mr. Chowdhury said that the “more blatant” fact was that he was not even informed of the outcome of the meeting. 

In a series of posts on X, Mr. Chowdhury countered Mr. Modi’s remark calling it an “unmitigated falsehood and outrageous lie”. “The meeting of the selection committee on CIC/IC was delayed because both Hon Prime Minister and Home Minister were busy in electioneering as stated by Minister of State Jitendra Singhji,” Mr. Chowdhury said. He added that he waited till noon on November 3 before taking a flight to Kolkata to attend to a prior commitment. He reiterated that he was not informed about the “arbitrary decision” that the Prime Minister and Home Minister took on their own.  

Two information Commissioners – former Chairman and Managing Director of Bharat Electronics Ltd Anandi Ramalingam and former Indian Forest Services officer Vinod Kumar Tiwari – were also inducted into the CIC along with Mr. Samariya. 

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