Modi ‘trusts bureaucrats’, but BJP cadres in poll-bound states don’t want them in electoral fray

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The party workers were granted an audience with general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santhosh and Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. Their concern, according to a vice president of the Rajasthan BJP, was that former civil servants cannot be trusted to remain loyal to the party, and can hamper the party organisation in the longer run.

“In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP fielded Harish Chandra Meena from Dausa seat. But he joined the Congress in the run-up to the 2018 assembly elections. He is now a Congress MLA. Will this model be useful for the party? These are questions BJP workers raised in their meeting with Gajendra Shekhawat and B.L. Santhosh in Delhi but they had no answers,” said the Rajasthan BJP vice president who did not want to be named.

But this was no isolated case. The influx of more than 20 former civil servants into the party in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh has “annoyed” and “demoralised” cadres.

Former Rajasthan BJP ST Morcha president Jitendra Meena, also a claimant for the ticket from Bassi, said there are many seats in Rajasthan where babus-turned-netas are locked in a contest with party workers for a ticket. He added that BJP workers including him have launched a ‘saheb vs sathi’ campaign to discourage the party from denying a ticket to cadres who invested their time and efforts to shore up the party’s prospects.

Sahebs (civil servants) who never worked for the welfare of the people during their tenures have now come asking for a ticket ahead of polls. Why not work for the party for a few years first? Take part in a protest, go to jail and then ask for a ticket. They come to the party asking for a ticket after having enjoyed power, to get retirement benefits,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he added, won the people’s mandate in 2014 and 2019 “with the help of the common BJP worker, not with the help of bureaucrats”.

Rajasthan BJP general secretary Bhajanlal Sharma, however, clarified that not all former civil servants will get a ticket. “Tickets are given on the basis of winnability, but others can contribute in different ways. We welcome the support of all associated with the party.”

Also Read: Modi’s 3rd term goal ‘inspires’ BJP ticket-seekers in their 70s. Ticket to 75-yr-old in MP raises hopes

‘Bureaucrats can’t be trusted’

Not long after he joined the BJP in June, former IAS officer Chandra Mohan Meena was appointed co-convener of the party’s election management committee in Rajasthan. But according to party sources, he is now also a contender for a ticket from Bassi — the reserved assembly seat under Dausa Lok Sabha limits that the BJP last won in 2003.

Asked what the cadres felt about the former civil servant, Narayan Meena, who was appointed chief of the Rajasthan BJP’s ST Morcha in August, said, “Party workers, from district to mandal presidents, are annoyed at the candidature of Chandra Mohan Meena because cadres work for the party tirelessly, but at the last moment, these bureaucrats who have no trustworthiness get the ticket. This is demoralising for party workers.”

The former IAS officer’s family, he claimed, is “rooted in the Congress”. 

Chandra Mohan Meena, on the other hand, responded to questions by ThePrint by saying that it is the “party’s domain to decide and the party will take a call on whether to give (him) a ticket”.

Besides Meena, there are more than a dozen former civil servants in Rajasthan vying for a BJP ticket, which, according to party insiders, has led to a sense of dejection among cadres.

Former Alwar district collector Nannu Mal Pahadiya (IAS 2007-batch), said party sources, is a contender for a ticket from Weir-Bhusawar seat. Pahadiya joined the BJP in July this year.

Asked whether he was in the running for a ticket, he told ThePrint, “I joined the party to serve the people, now it is up to the party to decide how it wants to utilise my service.”

Sources added that Mahesh Bhardwaj (IPS 2007-batch) who took voluntary retirement in August before joining the BJP, is a contender for a ticket from Ramgarh, former IPS officer Ramdev Singh Khairwa from Neem Ka Thana, and former IAS officers Gopal Meena and P.R. Meena from Jamwa Ramgarh and Sapotra respectively.

Asked to comment, Bhardwaj told ThePrint, “In my constituency, there is no such resentment among the cadres. In this constituency, there is a huge problem of law and order; cybercrime and cow smuggling are prevalent. So, people want a leader with administrative skills. As a former police officer, I am getting a good response.”

Party insiders also said that former Tamil Nadu DGP S.R. Jangid, though he hasn’t joined the BJP yet, could be a contender for a ticket from Barmer. The 1995-batch IPS officer, who retired in 2019, had led the operation to nab members of the Bavaria gang responsible for many dacoities and murders in the state including that of an AIADMK MLA in 2005.

Yet another claimant for a BJP ticket, according to party sources, is former CBI special director Madan Lal Sharma, a 1972-batch IPS officer of the Rajasthan cadre with roots in Alwar who is yet to join the BJP officially. Also on the list are former IPS officer Mahendra Choudhary, who belongs to Nagaur and former Jaipur divisional commissioner K.C. Verma.

Ex-civil servants in fray in MP

Kavindra Kiyawat (IAS 2000-batch), former district collector of Khandwa and divisional commissioner of Bhopal, joined the BJP in August this year. He was made a member of the state BJP’s manifesto committee and according to party sources, is also now a contender for a ticket from Mandsaur for the upcoming assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh.

Kiyawat, however, said the party had not asked him to contest the assembly polls just yet. “There are a number of deserving people. It is for the party to decide what role is best suited for me,” he maintained.

Party insiders said former Panna district collector Ravindra Mishra (IAS 2002-batch) and former Jabalpur municipal corporation commissioner Vedprakash Sharma are also in the running for a ticket, in addition to Mahesh Kumar Agarwal (IAS 2000-batch).

All three joined the BJP in August.

Also Read: Annoyed by ‘poor’ response to Parivartan Yatras, Amit Shah tells Rajasthan BJP leaders to buck up

‘Modi trusts bureaucracy’

During Modi’s tenure as chief minister of Gujarat, the CMO — then largely managed by technocrats K. Kailashnathan, A.K. Sharma and G.C. Murmu, among others — was seen to wield more power than the council of ministers. Important to note though that no serving or former civil servant was inducted into the state cabinet.

This changed after Modi became prime minister in 2014.

At present, technocrats hold key portfolios in the Union Cabinet including foreign affairs, urban development, power and law and justice.

In his first tenure (2014-19), Modi inducted four technocrats into his cabinet: R.K. Singh (IAS 1975-batch), Hardeep Singh Puri (IFS 1974-batch), K.J. Alphons (IAS 1979-batch) and Satyapal Singh (IPS 1980 batch).

At present, Ashwini Vaishnaw (IAS 1994-batch), who also served as Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s private secretary, is part of the Union Cabinet and holds three plump portfolios, namely Railways, Communications, Electronics & Information Technology.

Similarly, Hardeep Singh Puri has the urban development and petroleum portfolios, while R.K. Singh is minister for power and renewable energy, and Arjun Ram Meghwal (IAS 1999-batch) the minister of state (MoS) for law and justice, parliamentary affairs and culture. Meghwal is also chairman of the manifesto committee for Rajasthan BJP. 

Som Parkash (IAS 1988-batch), meanwhile, is the MoS for commerce and industry.

While BJP’s affinity for technocrats is no revelation, party insiders said former civil servants are now also stepping into prominent organisational roles previously reserved for cadres, citing the appointment of K. Annamalai (IPS 2011-batch) as president of Tamil Nadu BJP as an example.

Another example is that of former Raipur collector O.P. Choudhary (IAS 2005-batch). Choudhary joined the BJP in August 2018, two days after resigning from the Indian Administrative Service. Seen as a favourite of the party high command, he was appointed general secretary of the BJP in Chhattisgarh in 2022 and may figure in the BJP’s list of candidates for the Chhattisgarh assembly polls slated for later this year. 

Yet another name that surfaces in this context is that of A.K. Sharma (IAS 1988-batch). Sharma, who served as secretary in the Gujarat CMO and later joint secretary in the PMO, was appointed vice president of Uttar Pradesh BJP in June 2021. He was inducted into the Yogi Adityanath cabinet in March 2022 after the BJP returned to power in the state.

The position of chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, which was also previously reserved for political appointees, is now held by Iqbal Singh Lalpura, a former IPS officer who joined the BJP in 2012.

Meanwhile, among the babus-turned-netas who made a successful electoral debut is former Enforcement Directorate (ED) joint director Rajeshwar Singh (PPS 1994-batch), who opted for voluntary retirement in February 2022 before he contested and won the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls from Sarojini Nagar in Lucknow on a BJP ticket. Former Kanpur police commissioner Asim Arun (IPS 1994-batch) too made his electoral debut in 2022 as the BJP candidate from Kannauj Sadar where he defeated the sitting Samajwadi Party MLA.

Even in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had fielded Aparajita Sarangi (IAS 1994-batch), Brijendra Singh (IAS 1998-batch) and former Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh, among other former civil servants.

At the same time, the Modi government has also accommodated former civil servants who did not formally enter electoral politics.

Nripendra Mishra (IAS 1967-batch) was serving as principal secretary to the PM until August 2019 when he was appointed chairman of the committee to oversee the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. G.C. Murmu was appointed the first lieutenant governor of J&K in 2019 and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in 2020.

K. Kailashnathan, who retired in 2013, was granted another extension last December, this time for one year, and continues to serve as chief principal secretary to the Gujarat CM. And former IPS officer and UP DGP Brijlal, now with the BJP, was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh in 2020 and currently heads the House Panel on Home Affairs. 

Asked to comment on the influence of civil servants in the government, a Union minister who did not want to be named told ThePrint about a meeting of the Union Cabinet held in July this year to discuss a roadmap for the government’s ‘Vision 2047’.

“Most ministers, with the exception of one or two, were spectators. The presentation was given by secretaries and they were the ones who answered questions. There was no involvement of ministers in the drafting of the vision document.

“The PMO keeps a tab on the engagement of ministers and even decides where they are to be deputed for public engagements,” said the minister.

A former civil servant who worked with Modi in Gujarat, said, “Modi trusts the bureaucracy because he believes they expedite execution (of schemes, projects). Politicians consider various risks and implications before executing an idea, while bureaucrats obey orders.”

He added that Modi “gained the trust of bureaucrats by allowing them to present counter-arguments; that’s why his execution is faster than that of any other prime minister”.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: BJP vs BJP in Rajasthan — Raje loyalist Kailash Meghwal calls Union minister Arjun Ram ‘Corrupt No 1’


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