The immediate target was Yogi Adityanath, but it would be naïve to believe that the overall attitude of the NDA government was not a critical element in the missive from former top bureaucrats, and others, demanding the dismissal of the man hand-picked by Mr Narendra Modi to head the administration in super-sensitive UP.

He is not just the chief minister of a state that holds the gateway to Raisina Hill in New Delhi, but has regaled in his projection as a “saffron showboy” ~ even if he hardly delivered a few weeks back in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh: not forgetting his hyper-activity that came unstuck in Telangana. Had the BJP romped home victorious in those elections it is most likely that Shyam Saran, Shivshankar Menon, Sujatha Singh and 80 others would have held their peace.

The exploding of the myth of the BJP’s electoral invincibility is what provided the courage for them to speak up. And use the Yogi’s making light of the killing of a police officer in Bulandshahr as a trigger to release pent up anxieties over the NDA’s policy of overturning established norms of governance and institutional sanctity.

Could there be a more scathing indictment of Mr Modi’s brand of governance (the fulminations of Rahul Gandhi are a comparative pinprick) than the former civil servants making bold to declare: “Our prime minister, who is so voluble in his election campaigns and who never tires of telling us how the Constitution of India is the only holy book he worships, maintains a stony silence even as he sees a chief minister hand-picked by him treat the same Constitution with sheer contempt.”

Why even a joint-effort by Mani Shankar Aiyar and Shashi Tharoor could hardly have come up with a more damning condemnation of the manner in which the administrative apparatus is being undermined. True that the Modi government has its acolytes ~ like the IAF Chief whose flight-plan includes commenting on an apex court pronouncement ~ but to write off the letter from the 83 former officials (an impressive team-sheet to be sure) as being politically motivated would by myopic, an indication that an inferiority complex can cloud political perspective and administrative acumen.

It might be a case of “even worms turning”, yet it would be inadvisable not to conclude that the views of the former civil servants also reflect those of folk still in service. The effect of discord within the “steel frame” is difficult to assess, yet with a re-election bid in the offing Mr Modi & Co need to be aware of the complexities of “fighting on two fronts”.

For the bureaucrats have gone as far as asking the people “to unite in a crusade against the policies of hate and division ~ a politics which aims to destroy the fundamental principles on which our Republic is founded”.