Hardoi: As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine left thousands of Indian MBBS students there in the lurch, several appealed to the Modi government for evacuation. One of them was Vaishali Yadav, a student at the Ivano Frankivsk National Medical University.
But as it turns out, Yadav isn’t just a medical student at a Ukrainian institute. She is also the gram pradhan of an Uttar Pradesh village — and this ‘double life’ has put her at the centre of a political row that could result in government action against her.
The turn of events come less than a year after the 23-year-old was celebrated for her win as gram pradhan of the Tera Pursauli village in UP’s Hardoi district.
The Ukraine crisis has become an issue in the ongoing UP assembly elections. So, the revelation that Yadav is an elected gram pradhan, after her video went viral, has given the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a chance to hit out at the Samajwadi Party (SP), with which Yadav’s father is associated.
According to the BJP, Yadav made the video to defame the Modi government on the directions of her father Mahendra Singh Yadav.
सपाई नेता महेंद्र यादव की पुत्री वैशाली यादव ने अपने पिता के कहने पर मोदी सरकार को बदनाम करने के लिए अपने घर से ही वीडियो बना दिया।
लाल टोपी मतलब रेड अलर्ट pic.twitter.com/bX0JIKuve2
— Naveen Kumar Jindal 🇮🇳 (@naveenjindalbjp) March 2, 2022
But both Yadav and Mahendra denied this allegation, saying that the BJP is targeting them for political reasons.
The state government has ordered a probe against her for being “absent from the gram panchayat”. The inquiry will investigate all panchayat transactions made during her absence.
Gram pradhan-MBBS student Vaishali was allegedly doing what several female pradhans are commonly perceived to do — depend on a male relative, though in her case, she was sitting in Ukraine. As her father had been preparing to stand for the block pramukh elections, Yadav’s family fielded her.
“Three persons in our family have served as the panchayat head. Starting from my uncle in 1962, my second uncle and then my mother, who served as the pradhan twice till 2016. After this, the seat got reserved for an SC candidate. In 2021, it got reserved for an OBC, when we fielded our daughter,” Mahendra Yadav told ThePrint.
The twist in Yadav’s case is that she has been based in Ukraine since 2019 to study medicine.
While villagers confirmed that Vaishali was in the village at the time of elections in April 2021 as there was a lockdown, some claimed they did not know she subsequently flew to Ukraine. “We thought she was in Lucknow or Allahabad for studies,” said a villager who didn’t wish to be named.
Mahendra claimed that the villagers knew that she was in Ukraine and the issue was being politicised by his opponents only now.
With the row growing over the alleged transgression, Yadav claims she hasn’t done anything wrong.
“I am an educated person. My father is an experienced person. So what if I take suggestions from him? So far, I have not received any notice from any government body but if it comes, I am ready to inform and will explain,” she told ThePrint after her return from Ukraine on 2 March.
“Where is it written that one person cannot work on two fronts? I am not doing a government job,” she said. “I want to become a doctor and serve my people because my area does not have a hospital and people have to visit the district hospital which is 55 km away.”
“In my video, have I mentioned anything political? I am being targeted because of my surname,” she added.
Probe to check panchayat transactions
Vaishali Yadav was elected as Tera Pursauli pradhan in the 2021 UP panchayat elections.
Elected in May, Vaishali left the village in September after the lockdown was over, leaving work and the official “dongle” — introduced in 2019 for pradhans to operate gram panchayat accounts with transparency — to her father.
During her absence, Mahendra, along with gram panchayat member Biresh Yadav, would get the dongle operated by a private operator. With the deepening controversy around Yadav’s evacuation plea, there are now allegations that her gram panchayat work was happening in her absence.
Mahendra admitted that while Yadav was away, money was paid for the construction of the panchayat bhawan from the gram nidhi account.
“About Rs 12 lakh was used and that was the only amount used for the panchayat bhawan. The secretary of the gram panchayat, Gaurav Mishra, and the gram panchayat member, Biresh Yadav, would handle the transactions,” he said.
Biresh said Rs 4.5 lakh was paid for maintenance work from the gram nidhi account using Vaishali’s official dongle while she was in Ukraine, but with her consent.
“About Rs 8 lakh more was used for MNREGA payments but that was done by the sanction of the secretary and assistant development officer (ADO) for which the pradhan’s signatures may or may not be there,” he added.
Mahendra told ThePrint that they would operate the dongle while she would oversee the process via remote access software TeamViewer.
UP government seeks report
The UP panchayati raj department has started an inquiry in the case and sought a report from the ADO.
Girish Chandra, district panchayat raj officer, Hardoi, said when information was received about Vaishali pursuing MBBS in Ukraine, the ADO concerned was asked to submit a report.
“As soon as the report is received, action will be taken under relevant sections of the panchayati raj Act. She is absent from the gram panchayat. The inquiry will be held according to the work related to the gram panchayat,” he told reporters.
Asked about a possible conflict of interest since the inquiry was being conducted by the ADO, who himself was reportedly a part of the team that recommended the work, Chandra said that action will follow when the report comes.
Mahendra alleged all this is part of a conspiracy by local BJP supporters. Last year, he said, he was also jailed ahead of the block pramukh polls over a “framed attempt-to-murder case”.
“I was first framed in an attempt-to-murder case and then, as part of a conspiracy, I was made to lose the elections due to irregularities in ballot votes. The village supports me but there are some BJP supporters who are behind all of this,” he alleged.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)
Source: The Print