'Metro Man' E Sreedharan set to join BJP in Kerala: A look at prominent bureaucrats who took the political plunge
An analysis of the trend noted that the 'most prominent reason seems to be that after working under politicians for many years, civil servants aspire to wield power rather than just take orders'
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has seen a consistent stream of bureaucrats joining the party since 2014. The latest is 88-year-old 'Metro Man' E Sreedharan, who is set to join the saffron party ahead of the Assembly polls in Kerala.
Sreedharan is credited with changing the face of public transport in India with his leadership in building the Konkan Railway and the Delhi Metro.
Stating that he would be open to occupy the office of the chief minister if BJP wins the Kerala polls, Sreedharan said, "My main idea is to bring BJP to power in Kerala. If BJP comes to power in Kerala, there will be three to four major areas we want to focus. One is infrastructure development in a big way and another is to bring industry to the state."
Sreedharan also explained why he has decided to join the BJP, which is in power at the Centre and is one of the main Opposition parties to the Left-led Kerala government.
In an interview with PTI, Sreedharan said that he wanted to do things for the benefit of Kerala as the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) alliance and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) alliance "have not been able to bring any tangible progress in the state".
"Why I chose BJP is for a different reason. The two others in Kerala — UDF and LDF — have been ruling Kerala alternately. They have not been able to bring any tangible progress to the state, not even one industry has come to the state in the last 20 years.
"They were having tussles with the (Central) government all the time. The two governments are not able to see eye to eye on many matters. The development of the state is suffering. If the BJP comes to power here, they will have a good rapport with the Government of India," he said.
Sreedharan joins the ranks of current External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, former home secretary RK Singh, former Mumbai Police commissioner Satyapal Singh, ex-bureaucrat Arvind Kumar Sharma, and General VK Singh, who was inducted into the party ahead of the Lok Sabha election in 2014.
Union Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar formerly held the post of a foreign secretary. As the longest-serving foreign secretary, the 1977 batch IFS officer has played a significant role in shaping the Narendra Modi government's foreign policy in its first term from 2014 to 2019.
He also had a hand in resolving the Doklam crisis between India and China in 2017. Reportedly, during his tenure as a foreign secretary, Jaishankar "helped India improve ties with China in trade, border, and cultural relations".
He served as the Indian Ambassador to China from 2009 to 2013, and to the US in 2014-15. As an ambassador, Jaishankar played a role in negotiating the India-US civil nuclear agreement.
Dubbed as Modi's "favourite diplomat", Jaishankar was officially inducted into the BJP on 24 June 2019, around a month after the saffron party won its second term in Centre.
Former Mumbai Police commissioner Satyapal Singh's induction into the BJP in February 2014 was seen as a "significant move in view of the political dynamics in western Uttar Pradesh" ahead of the General Elections that year.
His membership in the party was confirmed at a time when parties like the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) were seeking to recover their voters among members of the Jat and Muslim communities, after the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013.
As a Jat and a 1980 batch IPS officer from Meerut, the BJP sought Singh to appeal to the Jat community and the caste "lobby in the bureaucracy", The Hindu reported.
"Singh, who has had close relations with the RSS from the time he was Nagpur Police Commissioner and regularly attended functions of the saffron unit, had refused to head the Special Investigation Team formed by the Gujarat High Court to investigate the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case," the report added.
Singh was appointed as the Minister of State for Human Resource Development and the Minister of State for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. He is currently an MP in the Lok Sabha representing Uttar Pradesh's Baghpat constituency.
Arvind Kumar Sharma, reportedly Modi's "trusted bureaucrat", joined the BJP in January 2021. The former MSME secretary's decision to take voluntary retirement and join the saffron party comes ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council polls.
Sharma has been an officer in Modi's entourage ever since October 2001, when he was appointed as the secretary. Modi had then just taken over as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Sharma followed Modi to the Centre in 2014 and was accorded a post in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
In April 2020, he was made the MSME secretary.
On Sharma's decision to join the BJP and the possible role he could play in the party, The Times of India quoted a BJP leader on the condition of anonymity as saying, "Why would one of the most trusted men of the prime minister just be an MLC? Definitely, he is being sent for a bigger role."
VK Singh and RK Singh
General VK Singh, a former army chief, and RK Singh, who was the home secretary during the UPA's tenure joined the saffron party before it came to power at the Centre in 2014.
VK Singh joined the BJP in March 2014 and RK Singh joined the party in December 2013.
The former Army chief was inducted into the party by then-BJP chief Rajnath Singh. He said, "If there's one party that works in the interest of the nation, can strengthen the nation and provide a stable government and good governance, it is the BJP.
"We, who have served on borders, should work with nationalist forces. So, we have decided to move with BJP to bring a government which is stable, strong and takes decisions for the national interest."
He is currently appointed as the Union Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways.
RK Singh's induction into the saffron party in 2013 was seen as a setback for the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government. The former home secretary had reportedly arrested BJP leader LK Advani in 1990 during the latter's rath yatra in Bihar.
After joining the BJP, RK Singh, a 1975 batch Bihar cadre officer, had said, "The BJP doesn’t compromise on national interest and there is a need to end corruption in this country. I also want to work in national interest and end corruption which is responsible for coal scam and spectrum allocation scam."
It's to be noted that a special CBI court acquitted all the accused in the alleged 2G scam in 2017.
Why do bureaucrats join politics?
Bureaucrats taking a plunge into politics is not a new phenomenon and is not a trend in the BJP alone. A recent article by The Print notes that a bunch of former IPS officers have been "well accommodated" in the Trinamool Congress party, which is ruling in West Bengal.
In the duration of two terms, West Bengal chief minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee inducted at least nine retired bureaucrats into the party, the report said.
The trend raises the question of whether administrators make good politicians. An analysis by Outlook seeks to answer the question by saying, "There are various motivations — quest for power, greater control over the policy-making process and the prospect of financial rewards. Many bureaucrats believe that individuals who excel in a certain profession, whether in the private sector or the public, should enter politics as they add value due to their administrative experience."
The report also quoted a political science professor at AMU, Mirza Asmer Beg, as saying that the "most prominent reason seems to be that after working under politicians for many years, civil servants aspire to wield power rather than just take orders".
"Once you are there, you want to move up to the next level. Political parties also prefer bureaucrats as they have a clean image and give a boost to their ideology," she said.
With inputs from PTI
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