Lucknow: More district inspections and increased say on transfers for deputy chief ministers, along with weekly coordination meetings with the CM, as well as more responsibilities for ministers — these are some of the changes that have been noticed in the administrative style of the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh over the past month.
Sources in the BJP say these measures are an attempt by the government to address alleged dissatisfaction among ministers.
The move followed state Jal Shakti Minister Dinesh Khatik’s resignation in July over alleged corruption in his department, though he decided to stay on after a meeting with Adityanath. Khatik’s resignation letter, sent to Union home minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah, had spurred the opposition to attack the Yogi government over the allegations made by him.
Last month, a tweet by Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya also created a stir. “The organisation is bigger than the government,” he posted on his Twitter account.
उप्र भाजपा सरकार में भ्रष्टाचार और कुशासन की क्रॉनॉलॉजी समझिए:
– पहले लोक निर्माण विभाग के मंत्रालय में विद्रोह
– फिर स्वास्थ्य मंत्रालय में विद्रोह
– अब जल शक्ति मंत्रालय में विद्रोह
जनता पूछ रही है, उप्र की भाजपा सरकार ईमानदारी से बताए… अब अगली बारी किसकी है?
— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) July 20, 2022
These developments had led to speculation about a possible power struggle brewing within the BJP, prompting Adityanath and the state unit to shift to damage control mode.
Senior leaders in the party however tried to play down the significance of the recent “changes” in governance in UP.
Claiming that coordination meetings were held earlier as well, UP BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi told ThePrint that there had been slight changes in the working of the group of ministers, and that they have been tasked with doing field visits and sharing reports with the CM.
Tripathi added: “This is to ensure that if one has become a minister, it doesn’t mean that he will not stay in touch with the ground (in touch with people).”
Deputy CM Brajesh Pathak on the other hand attributed some of the newly-initiated moves — such as the weekly coordination meeting — to the Yogi government’s policy of ‘zero tolerance’ for crime and corruption, which he claimed will be strengthened at every level.
In July, a letter by Pathak to then additional chief secretary (medicine and health) Amit Mohan Prasad on alleged irregularities in the following of the transfer policy, had raised questions against the Adityanath administration. Prasad was transferred in a major bureaucratic reshuffle earlier this month.
Asked if the latest administrative changes reflected the growing influence of deputy CMs in governance, Pathak told ThePrint: “There is nothing like that. We are all working together in the government…we are working for the benefit of the public. We regularly hold the (coordination) meeting and hold discussions.”
Sources in the chief minister’s office (CMO) meanwhile said that the coordination meetings were the domain of the party and not the government.
Shift in Yogi 2.0’s initial stand
Soon after the Yogi government returned to power in UP with a thumping victory in this year’s assembly elections, the CM had issued a list of do’s and don’ts for his ministers.
These included directives on appointment of personal staff, a daily work schedule for ministers, ministers making presentations of their respective departments in cabinet meetings instead of asking officers to do so, and staying in government guest houses instead of hotels during official visits to districts.
The ministers had also been tasked with visiting the divisions — a cluster of three to six districts — assigned to them for inspection of development work and proper implementation of government schemes, two days in a week. Ministers of states were told to accompany their cabinet colleagues on these field visits.
With 18 divisions and 18 cabinet ministers in the state, each of Adityanath’s cabinet colleagues received the charge of one division.
In May, there was a change in the assigning of divisions.
But Khatik’s resignation letter — in which he also claimed that “he was not given any responsibility in the department” — and Pathak’s letter to Prasad on the alleged irregularities in transfers, had raised questions against the Adityanath administration.
Pathak holds the medical and health portfolio in the UP government, and his letter led to speculation that the deputy CM had not been kept in the loop about the transfers.
As the Adityanath government went into damage control mode, one of the changes visible was that the cabinet minister in charge of the Jal Shakti department, Swatantra Dev Singh, started sharing the departmental work with ministers of state Khatik and Ramkesh Nishad.
“Departmental work is usually concentrated in the hands of the cabinet minister. However, with recent developments, the workload has been divided in the Jal Shakti department to start with,” a UP government official said on condition of anonymity.
Khatik and Nishad were told to handle work related to flood control, drainage inspection, dam rehabilitation and improvement project (DRIP) and dam safety in different divisions. While Khatik was told to handle the work in western UP divisions including Saharanpur, Meerut, Moradabad and Aligarh, Nishad was given charge of the same in central and eastern UP divisions like Lucknow, Prayagraj, Azamgarh, Devipatan and Basti.
Talking to ThePrint, Nishad said he was overseeing the work of group C of the Civil Mechanical Organisation of Jal Shakti department.
“Along with the work of group C employees, we (the two MoS) can take meetings and make inspections. The government is working with full coordination,” he added.
Meanwhile, both deputy CMs in the state — Maurya and Pathak — were last month given the responsibility to inspect work (development and implementation of government schemes) in 25 districts each, at par with the number the CM had kept under himself.
The inspection by the CM and deputy CMs will be in addition to the charge of divisions given to the cabinet ministers.
“Giving one division each to deputy CMs made no sense. If deputy CMs are given what every cabinet minister is given, what is the difference between the deputy CMs and the other ministers? This was communicated to higher ups and a clear message was sent that deputy CMs should be given work as per their stature,” a senior UP BJP leader told ThePrint, not wanting to be named.
Weekly coordination meetings
As Maurya’s “organisation greater than government” tweet grabbed eyeballs last month, Bhupendra Chaudhary, who was appointed BJP state president on 25 August, insisted that the government was working according to the party’s agenda.
Party insiders told ThePrint that the weekly coordination meeting between the CM and his deputies was started last month and is held at the CM’s residence every Monday.
“Since the last week of August, a meeting is held between the CM and deputy CMs every Monday at CM’s residence. It is a coordination meeting to ensure better tandem between the CMO and the deputy CMs,” said the senior BJP leader quoted above.
Last week, Amit Mohan Prasad, who has been facing probe for alleged irregularities in the medical health department, was relieved of the charge of that department and was given the micro, small & medium enterprise (MSME) department.
His transfer is being seen as an outcome of Pathak’s letter against him.
“Ever since the deputy CM’s letter went viral, his unease with Prasad’s continuance as the ACS of the department had become clear. His shift suggests that deputy CMs are being heard now,” a second UP government official told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)