The reported standoff between the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu, and the Chief Secretary, L.V. Subramanyam, appointed by the Election Commission (EC), after the election code came into operation to conduct the 2019 Parliamentary elections, has serious implications for governance.
It is uncommon that the Chief Secretary gets replaced apparently by setting aside the regular Chief Secretary by the EC of India. It is also uncommon that the newly appointed Chief Secretary apparently refuses to see the Chief Minister’s normal functioning.
Unusually between April 11 — on which date the AP election was over — and the counting of votes on 23 May, there is a time gap of one month and thirteen days. This rumoured stand-off between the elected executive and appointed executive of the state put the people to huge suffering. In-between, the state suffered a massive cyclone. How could the Chief Secretary (CS) seemingly take to this line of functioning? The only possible conclusion could be that Chandrababu Naidu, having broken his relationship with the BJP and Narendra Modi, became the severest critique of Modi. The CS started functioning reportedly as a Delhi man, not an Amaravathi man.
If this speculation is at all correct, this may set a dangerous trend among civil servants of the nation, of being an ideological functionary, not always just a civil functionary.
If they clash, only the common citizen suffers. (Photo: PTI)
The EC headed by Sunil Arora has become the most controversial commission now, which is not at all seen as impartial by many. Arora is a retired IAS officer. There is the view that after the BJP came to power in Delhi, with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, the central government used its ideological structures to influence the civil service, using the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) network. This network functions more on Sanathan religious belief than the administrative principles of good governance.
These are individuals who carry their religious or cultural beliefs into their office. But the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS) officials are trained to function neutrally in terms of religion, culture and ideological belief system.
However, the RSS has apparently been using religious linkages to de-neutralise officials, mainly on religious and cultural grounds. De-secularisation of officers coming from a Hindu religious background has been a systematic effort. Particularly after the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the introduction of Mandal reservation, conservative individuals within the service are often, it is said, influenced to function in a careful but discriminatory manner.
In a subtle way, helping the advancement of the BJP is an ideological task. And such a task is given rumouredly as a nationalist and patriotic act. This election, a subtle operation of such forces from the administrative structures seems to be one of the reasons that this poll is going on expected lines.
Anti-secularism, anti-socialism, anti-casteism and anti-minority-related administrative approach is carefully injected as part of the 'Bharatiya parampara' among viable civil servants over a period of time. They, it is said, pick up officials whose upbringing reflects the RSS notion of 'Bharatiya parampara'. In fact, when Narendra Modi deployed the notion of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' (being with everyone and the development of everyone) in the campaign of the 2014 elections, it surprised many as it was not RSS/BJP language, but rather a programmatic slogan.
Does the exclusivist notion of 'Bharatiya parampara' influence sections of the bureaucracy now? (Photo: Reuters)
No other party except the Bharatiya Janata Party has a religious parallel network to engage with bureaucratic networks and apparently convert some into discriminatory functionaries. Though the language they use is around nationalist rhetoric, the real functioning apparently is to be non-neutral, anti-secular and pro-rich.
Not that other political formations like the Congress, the Left wing and liberals do not try to influence bureaucrats and administrators — they too did and do that. But the difference is that no other party except the BJP has a well-spread organisational structure with so many full-time workers who would be constantly in touch with officials. They also apparently use temples, religious functions and gurus to influence them. The literature they distribute is only of religious indoctrination, not theories of development and equality. And, it is said, any literature that promotes equality is treated as Western.
In the ten-year period when the BJP was in power from 1999 to 2004 (with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister) and from 2014 to 2019, central offices and central universities were freely available for such orientation and contact establishment. Some such carefully nurtured officials are apparently now playing a critical role wherever strong anti-BJP leaders are in power. Chandrababu Naidu may be facing this challenge now. But this is only a visible symptom — there is a deeper orientation that has spread in the Indian administrative system during the BJP regime.
The IAS has a long history rooted in the Indian Civil Service (ICS) put in place by the British colonial Government. Before this service came into being, India never knew an administrative service during Hindu rule or Muslim rule. Unlike the Chinese kings, the Indian kings never worked out a civil service to assist the kings based on a service examination. The kings appointed whoever they liked as ministers and officers. Since Sanskrit education was a key issue during the rule of the Hindu kings, only Brahmins who knew the language could become ministers and officials. During Muslim rule, those who knew Persian were appointed as ministers and officials. During this period, educated Muslims and again, some Brahmins as they too learnt Persian, got those jobs.
During the Muslim rule, those who knew Persian were appointed as ministers and officials. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
During the Hindu rule, the Sanathan Hindu religion was the main governing ideology. During the Muslim rule, the commitment was more to Islam but not to administration. In kingly administration, there was no notion of the welfare of the people. During the British colonial rule as well, welfare was not the central issue.
But in post-Independent India, with a Constitution that puts people’s welfare in the centrality, we required a civil service that works more in the interest of the ordinary citizen. The ordinary citizen acquired the power to elect their rulers who, in turn, would take care of the welfare ideology.
But, in my view, the RSS never accepted this welfare as the cornerstone of nationalism.
The democratic principle of one man/woman’s one vote, one vote, one value is against the traditional parampara of the divine power of kings. The IAS/IPS personnel need to be ideologically neutralised because the elected executive could be from a party they do not like or from a caste that they do not like or from a religion they even hate. Such officials may have their individual preference of ideology — but the Constitutional functioning makes that personal belief dysfunctional.
No matter how loosely this term is bandied about nowadays, the violation of that principle is the real 'anti-national' activity.