"After assembly elections, people get a chief minister but in UP they got a chief guest"
Ajay Singh | February 5, 2013
In the second volume of his biography of Chaudhary Charan Singh, noted scholar Paul Brass has given an interesting account of the role of the bureaucracy in Uttar Pradesh. On the basis of written documents, letters and file notings, Brass mentions that a section of the bureaucracy stood in the way of chief minister Sampurnanand and the political leadership who were inclined to curry favours to two big industrialists, SP Jain and the Birlas, in the late sixties.
The obvious reason for the bureaucratic resistance was the shady nature of the deals which were intended to benefit the two influential business houses at the expense of people. Brass’s scholarly treatise on post-independence politics epitomised in the life of Charan Singh bears significance in the context of an atmosphere of anti-bureaucracy being created by chief minister Akhilesh Yadav in recent times.
Yadav is learnt to have run down the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officers during his private meeting with his party’s cadre and described them as “a self-serving lot owing allegiance to none”. Perhaps this remark would have been ignored if Yadav had not donned the mantle of the chief political executive of the state. Obviously, his remark was preceded by many more in the same vein by politicians line Shivpal Yadav, Azam Khan, Ram Gopal Yadav and lately by Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav too. The pattern is quite evident to be missed.
Of late politicians have been gradually resorting to blame the bureaucracy when things go wrong. In Akhilesh’s case, there were all indications that the young chief minister’s honeymoon with the electorate is over. His impressive victory notwithstanding, he proved to be an understudy who was determined not to learn the art of governance. Those attuned to his style of functioning point out that he is absolutely out of depth with the matters of governance.
A cursory interaction with officials in Lucknow would give enough indication of the drift in the governance. A joke is doing rounds in the corridors of power that after assembly elections, people get a chief minister but people of UP this time got a chief guest. This is a commentary on philandering ways of the chief minister when it comes to dealing with the issues of governance while showing his eagerness to do “inauguration or other public appearances” which are nothing but sidelights to the business of governance. That governance is totally adrift can be ascertained by the fact that the state witnessed a series of communal riots within a year.
Instead of introspection and efforts to improve performance, the chief minister joined the chorus against the bureaucracy and discovered a new scapegoat in the IAS officers. In this context, it is instructive to note that the bureaucracy or its top ladder, IAS officers, do not function in isolation. In the administrative arrangement, they are subordinate to the institutions of the political executive which is headed by the chief minister in a state and the prime minister in the country. Even at the department level, a secretary is subordinate to his or her political executive, the minister. By implication, the bureaucracy is an effective tool that enables the political executive to carry out people’s work and governance.
Yadav’s remark creates a situation where those assigned to handle the tool and the tool itself are in a state of conflict. Insiders admit that given the political leadership’s belligerence, the bureaucracy in the state is hesitant to take decision for obvious reasons. There are umpteen cases where IAS officials were in the dock for taking decisions. Since the political leadership declines to own up the responsibility, governance in UP appears to be in a suspended animation. This is quite in contrast to the culture of governance in the country’s most populous state where the bureaucracy was not such an effete tool as it appears now.
The apparent reasons for this are not far to seek. In 1990 when Mulayam Singh Yadav as the chief minister took a firm decision to stop kar seva in Ayodhya, the bureaucracy and the police effectively implemented it. But the same bureaucracy became complicit in the demolition of the mosque when Kalyan Singh was at the helm. Both cases are illustrative of the amenability of bureaucrats to the needs of their masters. And the supine nature of the bureaucracy has been consciously cultivated by the political class by robbing off its independence and autonomy. Perhaps the ideal state of the bureaucracy would be to owe allegiance to none but the constitution. But this will be detrimental to Akhilesh Yadav whose only political strength so far is that he is his father’s son.
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