Politicization of the Indian Bureaucracy

By Prabhakar Kulkarni

The British introduced the system of bureaucracy in our country, which continued in similar spirit and words after Independence. Rulers whether the Congress, alliance or opposition parties have not seriously considered the specific socio-political conditions in our country which needs a system more in public interest than that of the rulers. Rulers in an independent and democratic country should form bureaucratic system which is sincere and responsive to people as also obedient to the ruling government. Public experience for the last sixty six years is not in any way in conformity with this concept. On the contrary people are being exploited both by the government and the bureaucracy either in their own working style or with connivance, with the result that both the political and administrative wings are entangled in corruption which now has been a main issue in the recent electoral scene.

 The bureaucratic cadre has enjoyed a sort of privilege and protection which is not normally available to the lower levels of the same system. The IAS, IPS, IFS and similar high cadres have national status and therefore more protection than those who are under the control of the state governments. While the state governments are the rulers in the states and have power to tell and tame them as their subordinates, they have safe alternative to approach the union government when they feel that they are under any crisis of political interference by the state level political wings.

 They are enjoying the status as rulers as all governments’ decisions are supposed to be implemented by them and to that extent they are as much rulers as the political ones who delegate them their power for implementation. But while the political rulers are volatile the high level bureaucrats are stable. Political parties and their elected representatives face upheavals as their fate depends on voters in democracy. Their status faces uncertainty while bureaucrats enjoy permanency until they retire. They enjoy all perks and privileges besides opportunity of collecting wealth if they are corrupt. Their corruption is more concealed that that of the elected rulers. If they connive with political leaders and join hands in a corrupt deal, they are exposed as in the controversial ‘Adarsh’ case. Their attempt to keep secrecy of their assets and wealth is not challenged as according to reports all bureaucrats have not declared their assets before and after their service even though the declaration is statutorily required.

 They are thus enjoying much more privilege and their status is continued up to their retirement. If they are enjoying such privilege throughout their career, why should they enter politics after retirement or leaving their career by way of voluntary retirement? Compare them with sincere political activists who mix with people, hear their grievances and represent them with various cadres of political and administrative wings of the government and when both fail to respond they agitate and face trials and punishment. They also face insults by the privileged bureaucrats who do not respond to their representations in public interest. There are number of instances when the bureaucrats either IAS or IPS have insulted them either on their own free will or with connivance of their political rulers in their strategic opposition to the confrontation of opposition political parties.

 There are number of instances when bureaucrats in district administration including that of collectorate or Zilla Parishads or municipal corporations create controversy by staunchly opposing their respective political rulers by inaction or indirect confrontation. Periodical reports in regional language print media about such confrontation are glaring instances the way the privileged class behaves with the elected class in our democratic system. They are easily accessible to people. Most of the collectors at the district level have limited time to meet people with their grievances almost once a week or one or two hours in a day. The hours specified are more in their convenience that that of common people in both the rural and urban areas. If they are really too busy in duty to meet people, there would have been no lacuna in implementation of development programs sanctioned by the political wing of union and state governments and our country would have reached a very high position in the global atmosphere of development and socio-economic equality and prosperity.

 Not that all bureaucrats are insincere or opposing to their political rulers. But some sincere and honest among them are not encouraged or backed by united efforts when they face crisis as has happened in some recent cases. Again there are groups according to the regional identities and some hidden strategies are also suspected when certain bureaucrats with sincere approach to people and clean image are not appreciated by other in the same cadre. These are the plus and minus points within the cadre and may not be much harped upon. Because all of them enjoy the same privilege, pay and perks which political party workers do not enjoy unless they turn to be rulers after being elected. Hence after enjoying so much privilege and perks why should bureaucrats be allowed to enter politics? That is the main question which is haunting not only common citizens but also some colleagues of the bureaucracy. For instance in his article demanding ban on bureaucrats entering politics the retired high level bureaucrat Madhav Godbole has stated that politics and administration should have separate status and if it is jeopardized, the very spirit of the constitutional provision would be eroded.

 While political leaders may have their good and bad connotations they are at least striving to gain power by working as party members since the beginning of their political career. But why bureaucrats should be allowed to be absorbed as politicians after their full enjoyment of career at the cost of public money? Again how many bureaucrats who have entered politics have proved to be successful politicians? Pune commissioner S.G.Barve was perhaps the first bureaucrat who entered politics and achieved status of a minister. But besides urban development of Pune in Maharashtra and similar contributions he is not known to have contributed much as a minister.  Former bureaucrat Yeshwant Sinha joined politics after serving the administrative cadre for twenty four years and turned minister in the BJP led central government. He is not known for dynamism and notable career as a politician as other active politicians like late Pramod Mahajan or other party leaders in the BJP. Not that these bureaucrats lack any merit or other required qualities but their mindset is more of obeying trend than the ruling one, though they are rulers in implementing government policies in their respective administration.

 The Indian political party leaders are therefore expected to think of the propriety and utility of the privileged bureaucrats who enjoy with perks and VIP status as administrators and then join politics after retirement having pension and other post-retirement benefits. This is more so when the party cadres who work hard for the party are left aside while providing space for the retired bureaucrats. If they want to work as social service let them come forward to be part of political parties of their choice without expecting any power but striving with their acumen and experience to let all cadres in the administration be compelled to work for proper implementation without any expectation thereby rooting out the deep-rooted and systemic corruption in the administration.

About the Author: Writer is senior journalist in Western Maharashtra, India.


  1. Nice one

  2. Sajjad Hussain Sajideen

    politicians r selfish and they always use the bureaucrates for their own benefits