The Bharatiya Janata Party has been generally famous for its tradition of ‘baithak’ (meetings), ‘bhojan’ (food) and ‘vishram’ (rest).
But Yogi Adityanath, the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, seems to have gone back to its earlier practice of ‘chintan-manthan’, reminding many of Kalyan Singh’s first tenure in the early 1990s when meetings lasted for over 8-10 hours, so much so that once he himself had fainted because of mental fatigue.
Interestingly, Kalyan Singh headed a jumbo-size government with over 90 ministers in his second term (1997) when many of his ministers had earned the sobriquet of ‘no file ministers’. They had departments but with no work. Kalyan Singh had cut short meetings that he had become famous for.
The rest of the BJP chief ministers – Ram Prakash Gupta and Rajnath Singh – did not actually follow the party’s tradition of long-drawn meetings.
Yogi Adityanath has, however, revived the BJP’s work culture, leaving many a minister fuming and fretting due to sleep deprivation.The gruelling induction process of the new government will conclude on Tuesday.
It’s almost three weeks since the departmental presentations started in the cabinet room in the state annexe, which houses the chief minister’s office.
Yogi, following in the footsteps of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had made the presence of all the 47 cabinet and state ministers compulsory. Generally, the meetings started by six in the evening and ended well beyond midnight.
A senior minister said in a complaining tone, “We are literally sleep deprived. He is a yogi and can manage his tough routine on barely two hours sleep; but what about us.”
Others said that as the government was new, people from their constituencies came visiting them at their residence early in the morning as thereafter many of them were not accessible till late night. After all punctuality is another hallmark of the Yogi government?
The 47-odd ministers, who sat through the daily presentations from evening to midnight, now are hoping for a temporary reprieve as they will soon be asked to travel the state in May-June heat.
The three-part sessions focused on the department’s administrative structure, the present schemes and the future roadmap.
Once when a minister wanted to know why he should be attending presentation of a department other than his own, Yogi had brusquely said, “The departments can change too. Moreover as in-charge of districts, all ministers should know about every department.”
Yogi will soon allot districts to ministers for monitoring of development works thereafter which would start their tours with night stay in villages.
Incidentally, not only the ministers but bureaucrats and babus are also burning midnight oil. A senior bureaucrat lamented, ‘ Now that biometric attendance has been made compulsory, we have to give our thumb impression every time we enter or leave office.”
Another bureaucrat quipped, “Between the time when the meeting started and ended, the date often changed.’
While Yogi likes to hold official meetings in his office, both his predecessors -- Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav -- had preferred their office at home. In fact, the only time when Mayawati came out of the confines of her home was for the cabinet meeting, for which also a separate road was built from her residence to office – about a km away. Public was not allowed to use the road.
The other chief minister who spent nights in office was ND Tiwari, who often checked implementation of the schemes late in the night. In fact, officers never slept before midnight not knowing when the call may come from the CMO. Kalyan Singh used both his office and residence for meetings, but they were actually long-drawn.
Mayawati, while heading fragile coalition governments, often made surprise calls and checks. She became famous as iron lady for the suspensions she announced from the dais. However, after she formed a majority government in 2007, her focus shifted to development of parks and statutes.
Now Yogi is trying to change the work culture in the secretariat. The first month of the government saw positive results. And it’s just the beginning.