New Delhi: Union Minister Piyush Goyal, who has seen a steep rise in his profile during the tenure of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government at the Centre, seems to have developed a reputation for “unsavoury behaviour” with civil servants.
At the launch of his book Not Just A Civil Servant in Delhi last week, retired IAS officer Anil Swarup, who served as secretary in the Ministry of Coal when Goyal held charge, recalled how “a minister would shout at officials”.
While Swarup did not mention Goyal, his tenure as secretary in the Ministry of Coal fell entirely within the minister’s stint at its helm. Swarup held the position from October 2014 to November 2016, before moving to the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
Goyal, meanwhile, was Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Coal since the BJP government came to power in May 2014 till September 2017, when he was appointed Union Minister for Railways.
‘Used to shout at officials’
“When I was in coal ministry, a minister used to shout at officials. I told him you can’t shout at my joint secretary in front of others,” said Swarup.
“If you are unhappy with him, you can call him to your room and pull him up, not in front of others. And if you speak to my officials like this, I will go to the PM and ask for a transfer,” he added.
“He stopped doing it when I was there but I believe he continues to do so elsewhere,” Swarup said.
Another ministry, same story
Swarup, a 1981-batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre, isn’t the only civil servant to point out Goyal’s allegedly brusque behaviour with officials.
Civil servants in the finance ministry, where Goyal has had two brief stints while Arun Jaitley was away for medical reasons, also talk about his “rude” behaviour.
“He would have frequent fights with secretaries in the finance ministry, particularly in his previous three-month stint last year,” said a ministry official who did not wish to be identified. “He was, in fact, rude to officials.”
Giving a specific example of the minister’s “disregard for bureaucrats”, the official cited a July 2018 meeting of the GST Council, where Goyal overruled the objections of senior ministry officials and proposed certain rate cuts even though he had not included them in the agenda circulated to state governments.
“Goyal announced rate cuts even though they were not on the agenda. According to rules, the agenda has to be circulated seven days in advance. He did so [announced the cuts] despite officials having advised him against it,” the official added.
A similar account is offered by civil servants in the railways ministry.
A Railway Board official told ThePrint that Goyal “is usually seen in a towering rage in office”.
“At the meetings as well, he becomes impolite with his officers a number of times,” the official added.
Goyal’s office was contacted by ThePrint for a response but they declined to comment. An email and a message were sent to the minister as well, but no response was received till the time of publishing this report. It will be updated when there is a response.
Goyal, a Rajya Sabha member from Maharashtra, is the son of the late union minister and BJP treasurer Ved Prakash Goyal.
While he started out in the Modi council of ministers as a Minister of State (Independent charge), he was promoted to full Cabinet rank and given charge of the high-profile railways ministry in September 2017.
In May 2018, Goyal held charge of the finance ministry for three months while Jaitley was recovering from kidney surgery. In January, as Jaitley was away in the US for treatment, Goyal was once again given charge of the ministry for a few weeks.
The minister presented the last budget of this government — a crucial responsibility, given that it came barely months before the Lok Sabha polls.
Goyal was named the BJP’s Lok Sabha election in-charge for Tamil Nadu in January and, along with party president Amit Shah, was at the forefront of stitching an alliance with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) last week.
With inputs from Remya Nair and Ifrah Mufti