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HP CM faces challenge of handling ‘politically tagged’ bureaucracy

Statesman News Service | Shimla |

As the new leadership in Himachal Pradesh faces the challenge of handling the ‘politically tagged bureaucracy’, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has undertaken major reshuffle since Jai Ram Thakur took over as the Chief Minister 25 days ago.

Not only that bureaucracy has been working cross-purposes in HP, some officers have shown more loyalty for the political bosses than the state.

As a result, the state has been witness to ‘unhealthy’ race in bureaucracy for getting key postings in service or even post-retirement, irrespective of merit or seniority.

Some officers go too close to the politicians in this small state, playing up factors other than ‘performance and for this they don’t mind using power to settle personal scores. That’s one reason that the change in guard now means complete shuffle of officers.

The Congress and BJP have been coming to power in HP alternately since 1985. For the past two decades, two former Chief Ministers, Virbhadra Singh (Congress) and Prem Kumar Dhumal (BJP) have exchanged power.

Actions such as the appointment of retired IAS officers as Principal Private Secretary and Principal Secretary to CM in the previous Congress regime spoil the administrative environs even more.

Undoubtedly, while the unexpected outcome of 2017 Assembly polls left officers at all rungs in HP perplexed as they do not enjoy good equation with present CM, who, along with half of the cabinet, is new to handling the administrative cogs.

“I am not in a hurry. I am trying to understand the functioning,” CM Jai Ram Thakur said in an informal chat with mediapersons.

So far, Thakur has tried to put things in perspective by bringing to the front line the officers who were ignored in previous Congress government.

His decision to post 1982 batch IAS officer, Vineet Chaudhary as Chief Secretary has gone down well. Chaudhary was sidelined in previous Congress regime, which had appointed 1983 batch officer, VC Pharka as CS, superseding him and five other officers.

At a time, little over 100 IAS officers are serving in HP, excluding those on Central deputation.

A battery of officers for the field comes from Himachal Pradesh Administrative Services (HPAS).

“We never saw any political divide in official circles till 90s. The change in government did not necessitate administrative reshuffle in those times,” shared some retired officers.

“The new CM faces a tough task of restoring the administrative decorum in the state, which has gone for a six, for good governance,” they opined.