A bureaucrat-turned-politician, Congress Rajya Sabha member PL Punia is known for his accessibility and popularity cutting across political lines.
As a bureaucrat, he worked closely with politicians. However, Punia is opposed to bureaucrats seeking or giving political patronage.
He is also against cooling off period for bureaucrats before they join politics.
“A bureaucrat need not have a cooling off period if he or she decides to join politics and contest a direct election. One should, however, not cross one’s line while in service. Similarly, seeking political patronage to take Rajya Sabha route is not acceptable,” Punia told HT.
“During our times, complaints were received against tehsildars and naib tehsildars. PCS officers were considered honest and there were no complaints against them. Corruption in IAS cadre was unthinkable. But now, IAS officers try to make money in their first posting,” said Punia.
“I joined the Congress about 5-6 months after retirement in 2005. I wanted to join politics. What is the harm if some one wants to serve people after retirement? I did not get any favour in politics. In fact, I was among the people till 2009 when I contested and won the Lok Sabha election,” he said.
Punia said he never thought of joining politics when he was a bureaucrat although he always considered Congress as a party that upheld high values.
“I always liked the ideology of the Congress. I worked as principal secretary to two political adversaries, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP president Mayawati, during their tenures as chief minister. Jagdambika Pal also asked me to join him as principal secretary during his short stint as the chief minister,” he said.
“As principal secretary to the CM, I had interaction with MLAs and MPs who used to visit the CM’s office in the evening. They often asked me about joining SP or BSP but I always liked the Congress ideology,” said Punia.
“Many people approached me recently and suggested I should switch over to the BJP. I made it clear to them that I am not pursuing this kind of politics,” said Punia.
“There was no electricity in my village in Haryana and I used to study in the light of an earthen lamp. I had my first experience of studying in the light of an electric bulb only when I took admission in intermediate at tehsil headquarters in Jhajjhar. I did my MA from Punjab University, Chandigarh, and joined the IAS on July 10, 1971. I served as district magistrate in five districts and was posted in Lucknow from 1985 onwards,” he said.