Uttar Pradesh Election 2017: UP bureaucracy's keen interest in politics has created 'super CMs'

Can you recall the name of an IAS officer called Rai Singh in Uttar Pradesh? In Mayawati’s first stint as the chief minister of the state in 1995, the turbaned Sikh officer earned the epithet of a “super CM”.

Just after Mayawati was sworn in as the chief minister by then Governor Motilal Vora, she was literally overshadowed by a lurking Rai Singh who practically behaved like a super CM. Though not a very senior officer then, he literally wrested protocol equal to that of a chief minister for himself. However, Mayawati subsequently distanced herself from Rai Singh.

The rise and fall of officers like Rai Singh in UP is not an aberration but forms a pattern. And it bears context as a highly politicised bureaucracy of the state is tasked with holding the assembly elections in the country’s most populous state. In Uttar Pradesh, there are stories abound of bureaucrats taking keen interest in politics and pulling the strings from behind the shadow. Perhaps Uttar Pradesh is a classical example of having committed bureaucracy that is intensely divided not only on political lines but also on caste lines.

 Uttar Pradesh Election 2017: UP bureaucracys keen interest in politics has created super CMs

UP CM Akhilesh Yadav and former UP CM Mayawati. Agencies

Though Rai Singh acted like a super CM and met his nemesis sooner than later, the culture of political patronage by Akhilesh Yadav and his family members encouraged a trend of committed bureaucrats acting like “mini CMs” in their respective domains. And most of them have personal high stakes in political outcome.

No doubt, Uttar Pradesh has given some of the most outstanding bureaucrats with unimpeachable track record. But that does not take away the reality that the state has nursed a highly politicised bureaucracy since independence. Take for instance during Govind Ballbha Pant’s time after 1947, Brahmins and people largely from Kumaun were inducted in the state government on a large scale. And it became a truism that the chief minister’s caste determined the contours of the state bureaucracy. Pant’s successor and longest serving chief minister at a stretch for 6 years Babu Sampunanand Shastri propped up Kayastha bureaucracy and inducted a large of number of Kayasths in Lucknow’s secretariat. Rajput chief ministers were instrumental in creating a silo of Rajput bureaucracy. Yet the preponderance and dominance of the Brahmin bureaucracy was most evident.

It is in this context that BSP founder Kanshi Ram established a powerful union of government employees known as BAMCEF (All India Backward and Minority Communities Employees’ Federation) that drew government servants belonging to SC, Backward and Muslim to one platform. Since 1990s, BAMCEF proved to be an effective countervailing influence against the dominance of the upper caste bureaucracy in the state. Top bureaucrats from the scheduled caste mobilised fund for Kanshi Ram and acted like a political cadre to acquire the political centre stage.

Rai Singh’s emergence as “super CM” during Mayawati’s first term therefore was a logical outcome of a consistent politics of Kanshi Ram. However, the post-Mandal phase saw the emergence of the Mulayam Singh Yadav clan which cultivated Yadav bureaucracy in the most brazen manner. For instance, the recruitment of large number of police constables, state employees and even PCS officers from Yadav caste was nothing but a political project to build a committed bureaucracy.

This is the precise reason why certain bureaucrats acquired larger-than-life image and often guided the politics for the state. Unlike ostentatious Rai Singh, another IAS AP Singh practically ran the administration during the tenure of Bir Bahadur Singh as the chief minister. Singh was later elevated as the chief secretary. He faced probes by the central agencies and his house was raided. But there is little doubt that AP Singh enjoyed the clout much bigger than his real worth on account of his allegiance to chief ministers on caste lines. PL Punia was yet another powerful IAS during Mayawati’s time. After his retirement, he joined the Congress, contested and won Barabanki Lok Sabha seat twice (in 2004 and 2009).

In the past two decades, what began as politicisation of the state bureaucracy ultimately developed into a full-blown malaise of criminalisation of governance and large-scale corruption. The relevance and significance of government officers like Yadav Singh in Noida confirmed the worst fear that the bureaucracy is being used to mobilise political funding by parties. Noida's Yadav Singh, arrested on corruption by the CBI, was important for both Mayawati and Akhilesh. There are stories of IAS and IPS officers who act like political cadre that cast serious doubt on bureaucratic neutrality in the state. And these “mini CMs” tend to have greater personal stakes than real aspirants in having a favourable political dispensation. Ironically, this subversive perversion of democracy goes unchallenged in the elections.

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Updated Date: Jan 26, 2017 14:00:30 IST