Coffee with HT: A seamless transition from top cop to minister
Asim Arun, now minister of state (independent charge) for Social Welfare, Schedule Caste and Tribal Welfare in Uttar Pradesh Government, is a first time BJP lawmaker from Kannauj, famous for its fragrance.
He doesn’t always wear the khadi kurta-pyjama, largely preferred by politicians, but opts for the more regular shirt-trouser combo that an average Indian wears to the workplace.
But barring his dress, Asim Arun, 51, the former anti-terror squad (ATS) chief in Uttar Pradesh (U.P), who loves reading Dr Ambedkar’s works, has made a seamless transition from policing to politics, covering the distance in surprisingly quick period of about three months!
His vocabulary has changed as he reels off political jargon like a pro, confidently asserting “all 80” on being asked about number of seats he feels BJP would win from U.P in 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Earlier, he was ‘targeting terrorists’ but now as the state’s social welfare minister, he looks for ‘better scheme targeting’.
“Previously, I was with the ATS, now I am involved with another ATS – the Ashram type schools that my department runs,” he said with a smile at the Coffee with HT programme at the Hindustan Times office in Lucknow on Wednesday.
As a top cop, he would speak about criminals and encounters, now he talks of ‘14567,’ the elder line or the helpline his department has launched for the elderly. His English is crisp but he switches to Hindi every now and then, especially when he is making a political point or using catchy phrases like ‘sarkaar aapke dwaar (government at your doorstep)’ initiative.
He is aware of the controversy that his quick “lateral entry” into the ruling BJP, kicked off. He took VRS on January 15 after 28 years of service and by March 25 he had become an elected lawmaker from Kannauj.
However, this ex-IPS doesn’t seem weighed down by the criticism as he describes the BJP as a ‘netritiva vikas karyakram (leadership development programme)’ which also has space for people like him with some specialisation.
He said the rules did not prohibit the switch because there had not been any instance of misuse so far.
“The All India Service Rules restrict switch after VRS or retirement to private job for a year. In my case or for that matter any bureaucrat making a political switch, there is apparently no conflict of interest and hence no rule to prohibit it exists at the moment. If that happens, then maybe there would be a case for a rule,” he said.
But shouldn’t there be one?
“It’s a little complex. What if someone takes VRS to contest as an independent? What, if someone were to take VRS to join a ruling party, or an opposition, or to contest a Rajya Sabha election? All these might be construed differently by different people. As I said, there isn’t a law barring this transition from government service to politics as there hasn’t been any case of misuse so far,” said Arun.
He talks of how he was reminded by the chief minister Yogi Adityanath of the importance of taking risk in life.
“Yogi ji told me that if one doesn’t take risk in life, one won’t be able to do anything better. In our subsequent meetings too, he emphasised that it was important to take risks in life. I believe there is a lesson in this for all. Incidentally, the advice fit in perfectly as I recalled how in 2003, I had taken a risk when I was the first IPS officer to opt for commando training. Back then, the rules had to be changed to accommodate me. It was tough but I took the risk. I knew this too (being in politics) would be tough, but I decided to take the risk,” he said.
The risk has been worth it.
Soon after winning his first election from Kannauj, Asim Arun also sent out a big message. As soon as he was declared winner, he started cleaning the counting centre. Subsequently, in a welcome gesture, he walked over to his Samajwadi Party opponent, whom he had defeated and shook hands with him.
“Politics is not a war. Once the elections are over, it’s time to shake hands with your opponent and move on, ” he said.