New Delhi: Former IAS and IPS officers dabbling in politics may not be a new trend in India by any measure, but the ongoing 2019 Lok Sabha polls stand out due to the sheer amplification of this phenomenon.
While some of the civil servants contesting this election entered the fray after retirement, others chose to take the plunge mid-way through their careers by opting for voluntary retirement.
The motivations vary: Perhaps it’s the glint of power, or the fact that politics offers more direct engagement with people, or just plain fatigue with existing trajectories and the desire to experiment.
It could be the skills acquired in services and their deep knowledge of the system that make these aspirants more confident of their abilities to manoeuvre their way through the political world.
However, the ethics of a civil servant/police officer joining politics, particularly mid-way through their careers, remain a fuzzy territory, with strong arguments offered on both sides of the debate.
As they gear up to face the hustings, ThePrint brings you some of these candidates and a glimpse at their careers.
IAS vs IPS
Aparajita Sarangi, a former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the presence of party president Amit Shah late November last year.
A 1994-batch Odisha-cadre officer, Sarangi was serving as joint secretary in the Union Rural Development Ministry, in-charge of the rural employment guarantee scheme — MGNREGA — when she opted for voluntary retirement in September last year.
Sarangi was handpicked by then rural development minister Jairam Ramesh to handle MGNREGA in 2013, and was known to be one of the officers the minister relied on.
Along with other BJP leaders, Sarangi was quick to prefix her Twitter handle with ‘chowkidar‘ when Prime Minister Narendra Modi did so last month.
Sarangi is now contesting the Lok Sabha polls as a BJP candidate from Bhubaneswar in Odisha, ironically, against a retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer.
Her rival Arup Patnaik, a Biju Janata Dal (BJD) candidate, is a former Mumbai Police commissioner. A 1979-batch IPS officer, Patnaik retired from the service in 2015, but joined the BJD only in 2018.
The Lok Sabha elections mark the electoral debut of both these candidates.
The Odisha factor
Odisha, in fact, seems to have emerged as a fountainhead of civil servants taking the political leap.
Prakash Mishra, former director general of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and a former Odisha director general of police, is contesting the Lok Sabha elections as a BJP candidate from Cuttack.
A 1977-batch IPS officer, Mishra retired in February 2016 and joined the BJP only last month, heaping praise on PM Modi.
Mishra has his task cut-out. Cuttack is a traditional BJD seat and senior party leader Bhartruhari Mahatab has been elected from it as many as five times.
Nalini Kanta Pradhan, a former secretary in Odisha’s works department, joined the BJD last month after quitting the government, and is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Sambalpur.
Meanwhile, after resigning from the state’s Financial Services just days before the polls were announced, Sarmistha Sethi will contest as a BJD candidate from the Jajpur seat. Ramesh Chandra Sai, the BJD candidate from the Athamallik seat, is a former member of the Odisha Administrative Service.
Other prominent faces
Retired IPS officer S.R. Darapuri will contest the election from Robertsganj in Uttar Pradesh as an All India People’s Front candidate. Darapuri, a 1972-batch IPS officer who retired in 2003, had also contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election from the constituency, but lost to the BJP’s Chhotelal.
A Dalit, Darapuri has been publicly critical of the Yogi Adityanath government and its treatment of the community.
In July 2017, Darapuri, along with seven others, was arrested for staging protests against the UP chief minister in Lucknow.
Meanwhile, retired IAS officer Vijay Shankar Prasad will contest from Ayodhya as the candidate of the Lok Gathbandhan Party (LGP), a new, lesser-known outfit.
An officer of the 1979 batch, Prasad served as district magistrate of Faizabad in the immediate aftermath of the Babri masjid demolition in Ayodhya in 1992.
Prasad has been known as an “honest” officer and an anti-corruption crusader.
Also in the electoral fray is former IPS officer Kush Saurabh, who took voluntary retirement to join the Congress earlier this year. He will contest from the Bansgaon seat in Uttar Pradesh.
Former CBI joint director V.V. Lakshminarayana, who cited “personal and family commitments” to seek voluntary retirement from the IPS in March 2018, joined the Jana Sena Party of actor-politician Pawan Kalyan last month. He contested the election from Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, which voted in the first phase on 11 April.
Also read: There is no way India can abolish the IAS
The success stories
The enthusiasm of former civil servants and police officers to join politics could well be a result of the successful attempts made by those before them.
Hardeep Singh Puri, a 1974-batch Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer, joined the BJP in early 2014. A Rajya Sabha member, Puri went on to become Minister of State (independent charge) for Housing and Urban Affairs in the Modi cabinet.
Another similar example is that of R.K. Singh, a 1975-batch Bihar-cadre IAS officer who also served as the home secretary of India. Singh joined the BJP in December 2013, won the Lok Sabha poll from Arrah in Bihar, and is now the Minister of State (independent charge) for Power and New & Renewable Energy.
K.J. Alphons, Minister of State (independent charge) for Tourism in the Modi government, is a former Kerala-cadre IAS officer of the 1979 batch. Currently a Rajya Sabha member, Alphons is contesting this election from the Ernakulam Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala. He joined the BJP in 2011.
Not everyone, however, is as lucky. O.P. Choudhary, a 2005-batch IAS officer, resigned as the collector of Raipur in August last year and joined the BJP two days later. He claimed he joined politics to “serve the people”, and, within months, was given a ticket from the Kharsia constituency in last year’s Chhattisgarh assembly polls.
Choudhary, however, lost the election and the BJP, led by CM Raman Singh, was routed in the state.
With inputs from Fatima Khan
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