Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
An all-out public spat between Roopa Moudgil IPS and Rohini Sindhuri IAS has become an embarrassment for the Basavaraj Bommai-led Karnataka government, triggering transfer of both the officers on Tuesday, 21 February. Neither of them has been given a new posting so far.
This came after state Home Minister Araga Jnanendra warned of action and said, "They are behaving in a bad way. Let them do whatever they want in their personal lives. But to act like this in full media view is an insult to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS). They must face punishment.”
So, what is the controversy all about? And what will its political ramifications be? We answer.
How Did the Controversy Begin?
The row started after a picture of IAS officer Rohini Sindhuri and Janata Dal (Secular) MLA Sa Ra Mahesh sitting at a table surfaced. Both of them have earlier publicly attacked each other, accusing each other of corruption.
After the photo did rounds on social media, Moudgil questioned if a compromise was being stuck with the politician. She then took to Facebook listing 20 more allegations against the IAS officer, ranging from corruption to sharing of inappropriate photos to three male IAS officers.
Moudgil further uploaded the private photographs of the IAS officer, alleging that she sent them to the male IAS officers in 2021 and 2022.
Responding to the allegations, Rohini Sindhuri released a media statement on Sunday stating that the IPS officer was driving a "false, personal vilification campaign" against her and threatened action.
Her statement read:
"Mental illness is a huge problem, it needs to be addressed by medication and counselling. When it affects people in responsible positions, it becomes all the more dangerous. Roopa IPS has been driving false, personal vilification campaigns against me which is her standard modus operandi.”
It added, “The photos are screenshots and picked from social media posts/whatsapp status which are falsely being used to scandalise me. She can share the names of people she is alleging I have sent these pics and the same can be verified.”
A day later, Roopa wrote to the Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka, urging a speedy inquiry into “already existing complaints” against IAS officer Rohini Sindhuri.
While Roopa served as the managing director at Karnataka State Handicrafts Development Corporation, Rohini was commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (muzrai).
What Are the Political Ramifications of the Quarrel?
With Karnataka Assembly elections due in a couple of months, two well known bureaucrats with a considerable public-following, engaging in a public wrangle is simply bad optics for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state.
Many see this as the result of inaction on the part of the chief minister.
Seeking to control the damage, on CM Bommai's directive, Chief Secretary Vandita Sharma on Monday sought a written explanation from the two. But with both officers refusing to back down, the Karnataka government transferred them on Tuesday.
Further, Roopa’s husband and Commissioner, Survey, Settlement and Land Records, Munish Moudgil too has been transferred from his posting.
The transfers however don’t seem to have eased the situation as the bureaucrats’ squabble only gained more heat.
On Wednesday, 22 February, a day after the transfers, a 25-minute-long audio clip between Roopa Moudgil and Right to Information (RTI) activist Gangaraju has surfaced, in which she can be heard claiming that Rohini Sindhuri has gotten houses destroyed in order to promote her husband’s business.
Calling the IAS officer, a “cancer,” Moudgil also questioned Sindhuri's sources of money for importing luxury items for her new home.
Rohini Sindhuri has now sent a legal notice to D Roopa urging her to immediately remove "defamatory posts" from social media. The legal notice further demands a public apology from the IPS officer and also seeks damage of Rs one crore as compensation.
While CM Bommai had maintained silence on the issue, claiming that it was only a "personal" spat, on Tuesday, he told reporters in Belur, Hassan district, that there has been no delay in resolving the issue.
While it remains to be seen if any action will be taken by the Chief Secretary against the officers in accordance with the Service Rules, the Bommai government is hoping that the squabble dies down soon before more dirty linen is washed in public.
The state government has also reportedly asked other IAS and IPS officers to refrain from any undisciplined actions.