Why is Maharashtra CM Fadnavis irked with the state’s bureaucracy?
Devendra Fadnavis said the state bureaucracy was not fully cooperating with the new government, which was posing a hurdle in implementing new policiesmumbai Updated: Nov 10, 2015 00:10 IST
On November 1, a day after his government completed one year in office, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis made his unhappiness with the state administration known. He said the state bureaucracy was not fully cooperating with the new government, which was posing a hurdle in implementing new policies. He also felt that his government was facing stiff resistance from the bureaucracy. While most in the higher-ups mended their ways, those in the lower rung of the administration were not falling in line, he remarked. It is unusual for a chief minister to publicly express displeasure with his administration. Many in the Mantralaya are wondering why Fadnavis is losing patience with the bureaucracy. In fact, right from day one, Fadnavis has ruffled feathers in some sections of the state administration.
After taking over the reins of the state government, he made it clear he would not allow personal secretaries (PSs) and personal assistants (PAs), who had served with ministers in the previous Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) regime, to work in the offices of his ministers. He even issued a circular stating PSs/PAs who were in the ministerial establishments for 10 years should not be deputed to any minister’s office. Apparently, the rationale behind this decision was to avoid any scams or links to the previous regime. But this did not go down too well with several middle-level bureaucrats, who were on ministerial establishments. Labelling the administration as pro-Congress or pro-NCP was wrong, they felt.
The Rakesh Maria transfer episode was another instance that was not appreciated by the officers, who thought the CM should have waited for a few more days to shift the outgoing Mumbai police commissioner since his tenure was anyway due to end. Fadnavis, on the other hand, wanted to send out a strong signal that he was the boss. So, is Fadnavis handling it wrong or it is just the change of regime that is creating a sense of discomfort among the bureaucrats? In the face of it, both sides seem right.
For decades — except from 1995-99 when the Sena-BJP ruled — the state bureaucracy has been used to the Congress style of functioning. The BJP’s culture is different. Fadnavis also wanted to bring some fresh ideas into governance and hence, hired people from different fields. He and some of his ministers are brimming with ideas and expect the administration to implement these. They are also under tremendous pressure to meet the expectations of the people of the state who have put faith in them while voting out the Congress-NCP that ruled the state for 15 years. With this background, if the expected changes are not seen on ground, it is natural that Fadnavis and Company would vent ire on those who are supposed to implement their ideas of governance.
Significantly, the state administration, which was once known for its efficiency and discipline, started losing these qualities over the past two decades, thanks to the coalition politics. With more than one party in charge of the government since 1995, the administration was being pulled in different directions. The ruling parties had their favourite bureaucrats who would serve their interests. It won’t be surprising if many of them would try to behave in the same manner now. If that is happening, Fadnavis would be justified in expressing his anger.
On the other hand, several Mantralaya officers have been privately saying that Fadnavis and his colleagues should not measure the entire administration with the same yardstick. Many of them are career-oriented and are willing to push through the ruling parties’ agenda. The ruling parties cannot just dictate the terms to the bureaucrats, but should work with them by taking them into confidence, they say. While this debate or tussle could go on, what matters more for the people is how the government is responding to them. When it comes to the interface between the people and the government, what matters is local-level administration and not the elected representatives or ministers. Unfortunately, the situation at that level has not changed much. Whether it is the state departments that have a direct interface with the people or the civic administration, citizens often witness the same arrogance and apathy as they have been watching for decades.
May be, the right way for Fadnavis could be to go ahead with his plans to implement the Right to Services Act, which makes it mandatory to provide services to the citizens in a time-bound manner, stringently. It has the potential to change the common man’s experience of dealing with the government and could even be a game changer for the chief minister.