Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah receives a bouquet from former IAS officer Aparajita Sarangi in New Delhi | Atul Yadav/PTI
Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah receives a bouquet from former IAS officer Aparajita Sarangi in New Delhi | Atul Yadav/PTI
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While many ex-bureaucrats & diplomats have succeeded in politics before, this phenomenon of joining parties just before elections has grown in recent times.

New Delhi: Last Tuesday, a senior Odisha-cadre IAS officer who had sought voluntary retirement from the services in September joined the BJP. Party president Amit Shah was present to welcome the officer, Aparajita Sarangi, into its fold.

“I want to work for people on a very large scale. Politics is the only platform which provides this kind of opportunity for me. The party’s motto and leader made me choose BJP, which not only assures development but ensures speed in development,” Sarangi told the media.

Sarangi, a 1994-batch IAS officer, was serving as the joint secretary for MGNREGA under the Ministry of Rural Development in the Central government, before she sought voluntary retirement. Elections in Odisha are due in 2019, alongside the general elections.

Sarangi is just the latest civil servant to retire early from the services to pursue her political ambitions. It’s a trend that has only got more and more common in recent years, and what’s more, most of these retirements occur just before elections.

Another prime example was 2005 batch IAS officer O.P. Choudhary, who resigned as the collector of Raipur earlier this year, and joined the BJP two days later. Within three months of joining politics to “serve the people”, he received a ticket from Kharsia constituency in Chhattisgarh, and is now awaiting the results of this month’s assembly polls.

It’s not just a phenomenon restricted to administrative officers. CBI joint director V.V. Lakshminarayana sought voluntary retirement from the Indian Police Service in March this year, citing “personal and family commitments”. Eight months later, he is planning to float a new party, and is reportedly in talks with the Lok Satta Party to form an alliance in Andhra Pradesh, which is set to go to polls alongside the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

In Uttar Pradesh, former diplomat Satendra Kumar, who hails from the Dalit community, joined the Congress last month. Senior party leaders said more civil servants will join the Congress in the run-up to the general elections.


Also read: IAS officer handpicked by Congress’ Jairam Ramesh in rural ministry joins BJP


Cops in Rajasthan

In poll-bound Rajasthan, at least three former as well as current IPS officers had been vying for Congress tickets. While Sawai Singh Choudhary, who retired from the post of DIG (training) got a Congress ticket from Khinvsar, the other two failed to get tickets despite publicly expressing their desire to quit the services.

The case of Madan Meghwal, SP (Crime Branch), is particularly interesting. Keen to fight on a Congress ticket from Khajuwala constituency, Meghwal sought voluntary retirement a day before the party released its list of candidates. However, a day after not being given a ticket, he moved an application to cancel his voluntary retirement and rejoin the service.

Meghwal, whose fate is currently uncertain, had five years of service ahead of him.

“I felt driven towards politics and the Congress ideology, so I said I wanted a ticket to fight the election. If the party thought otherwise, it is their prerogative,” Meghwal told ThePrint.

When asked if his publicly-expressed affinity for the Congress would land him in trouble with the ruling BJP, he said: “I don’t think governments have a vengeful attitude… If they do, what can I say?”

Another IPS officer, inspector-general Hari Prasad Sharma, also took voluntary retirement a little more than a month before the elections.

On the BJP side too, O.P. Saini, a retired IAS officer of the 1983 batch joined the party just before the final list of candidates was announced. He was given a ticket from Karauli.

Not a new trend

There are numerous examples in history of retired civil servants joining politics — what’s rarer is for serving officers to quit and join politics.

In the Narendra Modi government at the Centre, for example, there are at least four bureaucrat-turned-ministers — K.J. Alphons, R.K. Singh, Hardeep Singh Puri and Satya Pal Singh. Of these, former home secretary R.K. Singh and former Mumbai Police commissioner Satya Pal Singh joined the BJP just months before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, as did former army chief V.K. Singh, who also became a minister.

Other successful names in the list of bureaucrats/diplomats-turned-politicians include Yashwant Sinha, Meira Kumar, Ajit Jogi, M.S. Gill, Pavan Verma and P.L. Punia.


Also read: The IAS officer who everyone believes is Maharashtra’s ‘second CM’


‘Massive scope for conflict of interest’

Former chief election commissioner V.S. Sampath has termed the trend of leaving the services and immediately joining a political party months or days before elections “unethical”.

Just like bureaucrats are debarred from taking up corporate jobs immediately after retirement in order to prevent conflict of interest, it was thought that they should be barred from joining political parties immediately as well in order to prevent conflict of interest, he said.

“There is massive scope of misusing their office to benefit a political party or to cultivate certain constituencies while in office,” Sampath said.

“In Punjab, for example, when we were in the commission, we saw several senior officers preparing the ground for their political career while in office… We saw this happening, so to clear our conscience, we recommended that the government make a two-year cooling off period for officers mandatory before they join a political party.”

In 2012, the EC recommended to the government that recently-retired or resigned IAS, IPS and all-India services officers be kept away from electoral politics for two years. The proposal was rejected by the government, which argued that disallowing former bureaucrats to immediately join politics could violate their right to equality enshrined in the Constitution.

According to Sampath, the government’s response was only to be expected. “Why would the government do anything? They are the beneficiaries of such practices,” he said.

An IAS officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said while there was no rule, it surely was a question of morals and ethics.

“Isn’t it obvious that your decision-making as an officer will be guided by your political ambitions if you are leaving the service to join a party right away?” the officer said.

Consider the case of 1992 batch IPS officer Dawa Sherpa, who was appointed additional director general of police of Gorakhpur zone in Uttar Pradesh in February this year. Sherpa had applied for voluntary retirement from the service in 2008, and proceeded on long leave until 2012.

During this four-year period, Sherpa formally joined the BJP, and wanted to contest elections as well. When that did not happen, he returned to the service in 2013 and was even given a promotion as deputy inspector general (DIG) the same year — even as others wondered under what rules he was allowed to return to the service.


Also read: Indian diplomats attend RSS-linked events, raise question about their political neutrality


Freedom granted by the Constitution

However, diplomat-turned-politician Pavan Verma refuted the conflict of interest argument. Verma joined the Janata Dal (United) after retiring from the service in 2013.

“There is no conflict of interest if you are leaving the civil service to join public life… In fact, if you are leaving the services prematurely, you are giving up a secure career for the sake of uncertainty and risk in public life,” he said.

Besides it is a case of free choice, he added. “If you feel that politics and public life will give you a bigger canvas and a better platform, one is constitutionally free to make that choice,” he said. “Subhas Chandra Bose resigned from the ICS to join the freedom movement too.”

A forest officer who spoke to ThePrint on the condition of anonymity agreed. “Among bureaucrats, politics is usually seen as the next big step…It is common.”

Asked if joining politics immediately after retirement from service breaks the myth of the political neutrality of officers, Meghwal said: “We have never allowed our political leanings to come in the way of our work…But that does not mean officers don’t have political views or are not influenced by political ideologies.”

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15 Comments Share Your Views

15 COMMENTS

  1. Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist,Barnala(Punjab)

    What a pity !

    Where the nation now is heading towards ?

    Ironic indeed !

    Is not the nation wavering and dithering in direction ?

    Where is the vision ?

    Are we really sincere and committed towards nation’s
    progress, development and advancement ?

    Is anyone having peace of mind and contentment in
    India ?

    For the past about a decade or so , it was observed youth
    duly qualified in medical profession and IITIANs began
    !

    Nowadays this trend of IAS, IFS and IPS in huge numbers
    making beeline to join politics is quite uncalled for and
    unfortunate ! Does this not in a way imply frittering away of
    rich and healthy human resources of the nation whimsically
    and in futility ?

    Which section of society is thesedays loyal to society and nation ?
    Is it not a million dollar question ?

    Is it not an open secret, barring only a few exceptions most of
    the bureaucrats and politicians have been bent upon playing
    havoc with the polity, system and nation for their ambitiious,
    vested self and material interests !

    Amazingly, why all are not equal before law ? Why does not the
    Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax Department lay hands
    on big fishes among bureaucrats and politicians alike !

    Following DEMONETISATION, both these departments did not
    discharge their duties fairly and objectively going in for pick and
    choose victims sparing a big chunk of big fishes ! Only microscopic
    number among bureaucrats and politicians can go scot free but the
    majority of them would not be able to face and stand scrutiny !

    The problem is who will bell the cat ?

    Only and only God can pull the nation out of the pell-mell, chaos,
    confusion, restlessness, discontentment and predicament !

    Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist
    Pom Anm Nest, Barnala(Punjab)

  2. This is what I have always wanted ias and ips or anyone who has cleared their upsc exam Shud be the qualification for joining the politics. This might sound absurd but actually this will work. Coz people who knows abt the reality of the nation wide serve better. Jai hind.

  3. For anyone feeling stagnated within the rulebook , for the ambitious to wield more ‘power’, and to ones who feel that they deserve better and capable of hogging more limelight, there is ample opportunity to be on the ‘other’ side. The issue is whether high profile scientists, academicians, biomedical professionals , researchers who have held high posts could also chip in and contribute to welfare of the people of the country as the generalists have shown to do. Prof Murar Yeolekar.

  4. For ower level CGEs,there’s a restriction on re employment within Two years,unless prior permission is granted by government.
    On this analogy,the AIS officer s also are to be restricted ,if there’s no such condition.Political party’s membership and in turn becoming legislator or minister also should be brought under the purview of restriction.
    Showing partisan politics,while in service will definitely be detrimental as also against oath taken while joining service.
    Election Commission and Judicial intervention is urgently called for.

  5. IAS/IPS के पास इलेक्शन लड़ने के लिए पैसा कहां से आता है। अब यह मत कहना कि जनता ने इनको चंदा दिया है।
    इस देश का दुर्भाग्य है कि नौकरशाहओं और नेताओं ने मिल कर इस देश को लुटा है।
    रिटायरमेंट से पहले और रिटायरमेंट के बाद भी।
    राजनीतिक पार्टी भी टिकट केवल इन्हें ही देती हैं।किसी और सरकारी या गैर सरकारी कर्मचारी को शायद ही कभी टिकट या इलेक्शन लड़ा हो।आईएएस में कोई देश सेवा के लिए नहीं आता। इनको लूटने का ज्यादा मौका मिलता है। सब अपनी अपनी औकात के हिसाब से लूटते हैं और इसका चरम मंत्री बनना है।

  6. I concur with Sudhir Rana’s statement.If a Civil Servant joins in a Political Party immediately after he/she demits the office, there is an ever scope of men’s rea by way of abusing power of his office. So, the cooling period is a must to a civil servant;but it should not prohibit him to join in public service as an individual or with a non political organisation.

  7. Conflict of interest is writ large in the civil servants resigning/ retiring and immediately joining political parties. Pawan k verma’s argument of equating them with Bose will find no takers. If there is a cooling off period for taking up corporate jobs why cant the same be applied in politics?…It seems the phenomenan of giving tickets to this group has brought in a kind of lateral entry in Politics!..Additionally; hardly any justification can be given for superseding the long time workers of the party. Hopefully; the introduction of Ethics paper in the examination process of selection of civil servants may bring much needed Ethics in the Administration

  8. Conflict of interest can be easily tracked, and should be dealt with separately. Most corporate houses themselves have rules against conflict of interest. Barring someone from seeking employment violates the basic constitutional right of livelihood. Similarly, barring someone from politics too violates fundamental rights. When these rights are circumscribed, that should be in an extreme case (such as issues involving national security). In the US, it is quite common for bright people to work in a political campaign, and then be appointed bureaucrats., all the while declaring any conflicts of interest. Career bureaucracy is an outdated concept, which we still seem to hold on to.

  9. I feel there should be a cooling off period of 5 years for government babus before they can join politics. This will prevent bootlicking of politicians by the beaurocrates. The previous record of these bunch of self-seeking babus like Ajit Jogi, Mani Shanker Aiyyer etc does not inspire confidence. Those who genuinely seek public service will built their credentials before seeking public office.

  10. What is this article trying to say?
    If the author knew what the IAS are all about, he would know that the political acumen (read what is more vote grabbing than the other) is very high. Sometimes even more than that of a regular politician. An IAS Officers has spent years surviving and flourishing in this politically charged environment. More so in under developed states where politicians and bureaucracy is all powerful in itself.
    In these times when politics is all about getting power and holding onto it, who else but an IAS Officer to take over the mantle?

    • What a buch of self serving so called Intelligent Jokers these Politicians, IAS & IPS are. Right of Equality is under threat if not allowed to join Politics without a Cooling Period but no Problem if the same person is barred from joining a Corporation. Then one Shreeman Ji has equated joining a Political Party in Independent India with joining the Freedom Struggle. Bravo. India will alway’s remain just a Developing Country till such Mentally Challenged people are the Elite.

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