IAS officer who acted against BJP in Ladakh

The action involved charges of bribery and exercising unfair influence against the saffron party’s key leaders in the state during Lok Sabha elections, writes Riyaz Wani

On May 10, the J&K president of Bharatiya Janata Party Ravinder Raina and its sitting legislative council member Vikram Randhawa were charged with offences of bribery and exercising unfair influence in the ongoing parliamentary elections.

The FIR was lodged after a local court asked the police to file a case on complaint by the Leh journalist body, accusing  senior BJP leaders including Raina and   Randhawa of bribing media persons at a press conference on May 2 to file pro-BJP stories.

But the action against the BJP followed after the District Election Officer Avny Lavasa followed up the complaint from journalists with an enquiry which  prima facie found merit in the allegations. Her office later approached the district court through police, seeking directions for registration of an FIR in the matter.

The FIR against the BJP was followed up with Lavasa acting on another poll complaint, this time against the Army. She wrote to the Army authorities to maintain sanctity of electoral process after two contesting candidates alleged that officers were voting on behalf of soldiers posted away from their unit headquarters.

“It is alleged that the commanding officers are telephonically asking Jawans for their voting preference rather than supplying to them the ballot papers for casting his vote (sic). This is a gross violation of secrecy and a malpractice that has the potential to invite strict legal action,” read the letter written by Lavasa to the General Officer Commanding 14 Corps.

Both the Army and the BJP have denied the charges, but Lavasa’s actions have made her a popular figure in the state. Incidentally, she is the daughter of the Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, who recently   differed with the majority view in the Election Commission in five different complaints of violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, four of them against the PM.

In response to FIR, the BJP has said it had not bribed the media persons but had given them invitation cards for the press conference,” Rains told the media. “There was no money in the cards”.

He added that if “the court, police, election authorities wanted to do lie-detector, narco test or brain mapping test”, he was ready. Similarly the defence PRO Col Rajesh Kalia said that the Army’s preliminary investigations indicated that the complaints were unfounded and appeared to have been made to tarnish the image of the Army.

But Lavasa’s prompt actions against the alleged violations of the model code of conduct have been received well among the people and the media. Her actions have also inspired confidence among the people in a state where the elections have always faced credibility issues. So, her action is already winning her hearts.

“Such a cool story. Upright father becomes hero by not agreeing with highly compromised two ECs on decision against Modi. Daughter, Avny Lavasa, also an IAS Officer, now orders filing of FIR against BJP leaders in Leh Bribery scandal,” Rifat Jawaid posts on Twitter. “Like father like daughter. Same day headliners,” Rahul Singh writes on the microblogging site.

Lavasa had cracked the IAS in 2012. She was posted as Deputy Commissioner to Leh in September 2017 and ever since she has taken significant steps towards decongestion of the traffic in the district and the segregation of the waste. Similarly, the concept of Ladakh School Olympics was also introduced by her.

“We the people of Ladakh are very lucky to have Avny Lavasa as our DC. We appeal to higher authorities not to transfer her from the district for another 15 years,” writes Skorma Tokdan in a Facebook post. “She works very hard for the betterment of Ladakh. Now it is our duty to respect her hard work”.