Administrative Coup In Shimla —— Bushahr Rules !

Bushahr state, a tiny principality in earlier times, has finally achieved what Mr. Virbhadra Singh’s ancestors could never do: it has staged a coup and conquered the whole of Himachal Pradesh ! Mr. Singh’s satraps rule everywhere.

Himachal’s Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has caused immense damage to the bureaucratic edifice in the state by superseding four IAS officers in his determination to appoint a favourite as Chief Secretary (31.05.2016). This was expected, because the decks were being cleared for this for quite some time and inconvenient officers were being made to walk the plank in true Bluebeard fashion. Nonetheless, this purge goes against the traditions of this model state. Till now HP has had a relatively cleaner, equitable, non-partisan and transparent higher bureaucracy, and both rules and conventions have been followed in the matter of promotions. I do not recollect of any such supersession taking place in the last twenty years. It has now become an accepted (but nonetheless unfortunate) practice that a CM is entitled to appoint as Chief Secretary an officer who enjoys his ” trust” (whatever the hell that means), even if he is not the senior most or most competent among the lot. But there are graceful ways of doing this without humiliating more senior officers who have first claim on this post.                                                                      RAMPUR-BUSHAHR

Virbhadra Singh’s predecessor, Mr. PK Dhumal, and his close aides had a generic dislike for a particular officer who was the senior most IAS officer in the state on at least  two occasions between 2008 and 2010 and could therefore legitimately claim the post of CS. Dhumal did not appoint him because he didn’t ” trust” him to do his bidding- but he didn’t supersede him either. On both occasions he asked a more senior, and equally if not more competent, officer to revert to the state from Delhi and appointed them as CS by turn. Perfectly fair, compliant with rules, respectful of conventions: nobody could have a grouse, and the ignored officer happily retired as Addl. Chief Secretary.

The govt. has not only superseded the four IAS officers but has also heaped humiliation on them by placing them directly below an officer (the CS) who is junior to them. It could have shown more consideration and grace by posting them in some Board or Corporation or Commission where they would have been nominally independent of the Chief Secretary on a day to day basis. By not making the effort to devise a middle formula and openly humiliating three of the four superseded officers (the fourth has fortunately escaped to Delhi in the nick of time) Virbhadra Singh has shown his contempt for the bureaucracy and the arrogance of a six-term Chief Minister. The bureaucracy is a carefully structured organisation in which hierarchy is important: Mr. Virbhadra Singh, who constantly stresses his own political “ seniority”. could not be unaware of this cardinal principle of organisations; he has, however, chosen to spurn it in a pattern of actions which is looking increasingly like a scorched earth policy.

His action has also reinforced the widely held perception that he is more than partial to officers from a particular region of the state who now form his Praetorian Guard, as it were. This will, regrettably, also create a divide in the higher echelons of officialdom which the state had managed to avoid all these years. Mr. Virbhadra Singh may or may not  be around as Chief Minister in the days to come, but this is one legacy he need not have bequeathed the state.

By the way, a little bird tells me that a similar Night of The Long Knives is being planned for the Indian Forest Service soon. Banana republic or Apple republic- take your choice, folks.

Bushahr state, a tiny principality in earlier times, has finally achieved what Mr. Virbhadra Singh’s ancestors could never do: it has staged a coup and conquered the whole of Himachal Pradesh ! Mr. Singh’s satraps rule everywhere. Is this the kind of real politic Mrs. Dilma Roussof, the ex-President of Brazil, was referring to when she coined the phrase “democratic coup”?

Avay Shukla retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains. He divides his time between Delhi and his cottage in a small village above Shimla. He used to play golf at one time but has now run out of balls. He blogs at http://avayshukla.blogspot.in/

6 Comments

  • We in U.P. as common lot have noticed 8-10 officers being superseded in CS ang DG Police posting.
    When bureaucracy becomes personal ally of politicians then it becomes simple for them to manoeuvre.

  • Although the question of seniority remains, nonetheless if someone at CS level is not in sync with government, it would be really difficult for government to execute their plans. Notwithstanding the seniority levels, I really doubt if competency wise VC Pharka is any less then any of those he superseded.
    I having observed these seniors deliberately defying govt. orders and overlooking the competency when it was in their control just to rub it in and now when it was the government’s turn to give it back, it could certainly overlook a few things here. Ultimately executive is responsible to legislature for their actions and policies.
    Overlooking a few seniors members who are looking at every possible opportunity to stall the government/defy its orders would always be good for the democracy.

  • I don’t know the basis of the above comment. But I do know of the capabilities (and neutrality) of the three superseded officers who are all very good. So yes, this is a very sad development when only chamchas can get the top job. The current Congress govt fears (quite rightly perhaps) that they won’t win any more elections in the foreseeable future, so they’re making the most of their remaining time and have lost all shame. I wish Chief Secretary and equivalent head of police and forest appointments needed UPSC and/or Central Govt approval if seniority is being ignored.

  • While seniority alone is a double edged weapon, loyalty is single ‘edged’ and monarchs have always thrived on loyalty of the loyal. But that does not necessarily have to do with ‘Royal’ families as non royal CMs are equally susceptible to this loyalty factor, (notice how the PMO has been packed with loyal Gujarat cadre officers or the Congress has become moribund). In our case the idea of Democracy is not to elect those who really represent (and will fight for) the people, but to elect Ruling Dynasties, just like when Kings and Emperors spent their entire life in just ensuring that their sons accede to the throne; by hook or crook (elections) or Divine and always with the help of a ‘chosen’ bureaucracy. How can we blame Raja Sahib for that?

  • Royals are, of course, subject to their personal foibles, likes, dislikes and favorites, but no more than other “commoner” politicians. Mr Dhumal has been doing much the same whenever he was in a position to do so. Officers from HIS constituency got plum jobs and postings, while others were sidelined. Vir Bhadra Singh is doing the same. The officers who are favored are not necessarily “chamchas”, as some would have us believe, but they would surely be obliged, when it comes to the crunch, to return the favors they have received. It is sad, but true, that uprightness and principles in the bureaucracy have rapidly eroded, and the politicians are reaping the benefits. One feels sorry for the IAS ….. and look out, IFS.

  • Surprisingly we are hearing this pearls of wisdom from those who were instrumental in disassembling all through their career hierarchies in other formations. What is leadership , team bonding and most important Chetwode principal commenced from one service and if some of its remnants exists it is still in military, albeit under a slow poison death. Honour is in its graceful exit rather then the desire to keep clinging to office of profit.
    Not sure when I read a viral blog of your brother which says that only those who have power to arrest , select and cause to legislate are the true wheel in the system, rest are peasants and sacrificeable.
    When I am destroying someone else’s frontiers, surely there is another digging my side of earth.
    When competition is positive it means pace and progress. When vultures are multiplying, it means nature is decaying.
    This degeneration in society has already effected all corners of the society and now that we are slowing destroying the base of the education , redefining the definition of nationalism and even the god is apportioned, wonder if we are again moving towards another eclipse in our civilisation.

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