Will Yogi Adityanath break the ‘committed bureaucracy’ shackles in Uttar Pradesh?

On 1 April, the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh completed two weeks in power, admittedly a small amount of time to judge any individual who has occupied a seat of power. But the “saffron-robed monk” – as many describe him – has shown a different style in handling the complex issues that this vast state faces.

Traditionally, in the past decades, one of the first things that any new chief minister has done after taking over is building a team of chosen and trusted officers, right from the chief minister’s secretariat to the chief secretary and the director general of police, to departmental secretaries, district magistrate of Lucknow and some other districts. This has been the practice during the tenures of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati, and even Kalyan Singh, Rajnath Singh and Akhilesh Yadav followed this timeless tradition when they took over as chief minister of the state.

In fact, people in media, business circles and elsewhere used to be ready with their own list of officers who were expected to rise up in the order of reckoning whenever a certain chief minister took over. The list included the names of the principal secretary to the chief minister, chief secretary, DGP, principal secretaries of key departments, and a little later, the district magistrate of Lucknow, the vice chairman of Lucknow Development Authority, head of the Information Department, and other heads of departments. About a month ago, the spokesman of a certain political party rattled off names of several officers who could become chief secretary, DGP, principal secretary to the chief minister, district magistrate of Lucknow besides other posts, in case the Bahujan Samaj Party came to power. He asserted that this list was taken seriously among other party leaders also. Needless to say, the names on this list were along predictable lines of caste, community and region.

Yogi Adityanath. PTI

Yogi Adityanath. PTI

However, the Yogi government has set an entirely different example. Not only did he surprise people by visiting offices in the UP Secretariat a day after taking over – something no chief minister has done so far – he didn't bring in a team of his chosen and perhaps favourite officers either to the chief minister's office or in other key departments. Officers known to be very close to the previous chief minister and other functionaries of the Samajwadi Party are still continuing in their positions, causing widespread bewilderment among leaders of both SP and the BJP.

The current chief secretary, DGP, secretary information, power corporation chairman, secretary housing, vice chairman of Lucknow Development Authority and Lucknow superintendent of police are only a few officers in UP who have been known for their proximity to the previous regime, but remarkably, all of them are continuing in their posts.

Not only this, Yogi Adityanath has managed to bring a small but significant change in the working of government officers and employees despite the presence of his so-called favourite officers. Could it be that Yogi is trying to give a signal that he does not need a coterie of select officers to get done what he desires? At least the experience of the last fortnight indicates so.

The chief minister has not even constituted the team of officers in the Secretariat, where previously Akhilesh Yadav had had seven officers posted. Going by convention, all of them including Principal Secretary Anita Singh – who has been a regular on this post since the days of Mulayam Singh Yadav as chief minister – resigned from their posts the day the new chief minister took over.

But Yogi Adityanath took 14 days to appoint only one from amongst them – Ringzin Semphel, a young officer originally from Ladakh — as special secretary in the chief minister's office. By retaining one officer who is not from any particular caste (he is a Buddhist) or region of UP, and has an impeccable reputation of honesty and hard work, Adityanath has again sent out a signal that he probably does not need a team of officers from Gorakhpur or from a particular caste to get things done according to his plan.

The names of several officers of the UP cadre serving at the Centre have been making rounds, apparently being considered for chief secretary, principal secretary to the chief minister and other principal secretaries. It is also reported in some quarters that some officers in the PMO have been given the responsibility to set up a team of appropriate officers for UP. But nothing has materialised so far.

According to a former officer who retired as secretary to the UP government, the chief minister, by choosing to take work from the previous regime’s team, could be trying to stay away from the very idea of a committed bureaucracy, much like what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done in the last two years. Also, this could be an indication that officers will have to follow the chief minister’s orders regardless of their former political proximity or affiliations.

Another interesting input given by this former bureaucrat was that in the last decade and a half, officers of UP had gotten the opportunity of aligning themselves only with two ruling parties — SP and BSP— and they did not get any chance to cosy up to leaders of the BJP. It was only in 2014 that some officers chose to move to the Centre when they found that the environment in UP was not to their liking. This could perhaps explain why there was a delay in identifying suitable officers.

Updated Date: Apr 01, 2017 15:55 PM

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