At least they knew when to quit

The res­ig­na­tion of two top bu­reau­crats like Alok Verma and Shah Fae­sal, one after an­other, re­flects the fail­ure of Modi’s gov­er­nance

Mid Day - - Comment - Aditya Sinha Send your feed­back to mail­[email protected]

The re­cent tale of two bu­reau­crats was no or­di­nary tale: one is In­dia’s sec­ond high­est Po­lice Ser­vice (IPS) of­fi­cial — the In­tel­li­gence Bureau chief pro­to­col-wise our top po­lice of­fi­cial — and the other is an In­dian Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ser­vice (IAS) of­fi­cer, the civil ser­vices’ top­per in his year, no small achieve­ment. Alok Verma headed the Cen­tral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (CBI) twice, and was re­moved twice by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi. A pe­ti­tion to the Supreme Court by for­mer BJP min­is­ters Arun Shourie and Yash­want Sinha (plus emi­nent ju­rist Prashant Bhushan) soon after Verma was dra­mat­i­cally re­moved in a mid­night coup on Oc­to­ber 23, stated that Verma’s re­moval was to pre­vent an in­quiry into the Rafale jet fighter deal, on which Con­gress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi has al­leged favouritism to the tune of ap­prox­i­mately R30,000 crore by Modi.

The in­fer­ence is that the PM is wor­ried about a probe and found it nec­es­sary to re­move Verma on charges made by Verma’s sub­or­di­nate (an of­fi­cer from Modi’s home state who has pre­vi­ously probed the train burn­ing in Godhra that led to the 2002 Gu­jarat ri­ots), which a re­tired Supreme Court judge (ap­pointed by the cur­rent Court to over­see the probe) found un­sub­stan­ti­ated. When Modi, as part of the panel to choose the CBI chief, con­sid­ered Verma’s case again last week, he did not con­sider the re­tired judge’s re­port. Verma, him­self an of­fi­cer of high pro­bity, stated that he was pres­surised to work things out with the sub­or­di­nate. He has writ­ten to the gov­ern­ment ask­ing to be re­lieved from ser­vice.

The other res­ig­na­tion was of Shah Fae­sal of J&K. Fae­sal him­self is a Kash­miri, a for­mer doc­tor who was a boy when his fa­ther was killed by mil­i­tants. The IAS of­fi­cer be­lieved in the idea of In­dia, and his top­ping the IAS was her­alded by many as a model for fel­low Kash­miris to fol­low. While re­sign­ing, he let it be known on so­cial me­dia that he was dis­mayed by the down­ward spi­ral of vi­o­lence in Kash­mir since 2014, and the threats to J&K’s con­sti­tu­tional sta­tus in the Supreme Court on pe­ti­tions by BJP sym­pa­this­ers. On Face­book, he ex­plained: “I [am re­sign­ing to protest] the marginal­i­sa­tion and in­vis­i­bil­i­sa­tion of 200 mil­lion In­dian Mus­lims at the hands of Hin­dutva forces, re­duc­ing them to sec­ond-class cit­i­zens... grow­ing cul­ture of hate and in­tol­er­ance in main­land In­dia in the name of hy­per­na­tion­al­ism.”

Fae­sal was re­flect­ing the un­hap­pi­ness of or­di­nary Kash­miris. Since 2014, Modi’s gov­ern­ment has been fol­low­ing a “mus­cu­lar” pol­icy of re­pres­sion

The views ex­pressed in this col­umn are the in­di­vid­ual’s and don’t rep­re­sent those of the paper in which there is no scope of dis­cus­sions with dis­senters or sep­a­ratists. This was ev­i­dent in the sum­mer of 2016, when Hizbul Mu­jahideen mil­i­tant Burhan Wani was killed in a shoot-out with se­cu­rity forces; there were, as has be­come usual, street protests over the killing of a young and pop­u­lar man, and the forces used pel­let guns against in­creas­ing crowds, which led to around 100 deaths and thou­sands of se­vere in­juries, in many cases blind­ness. Yet Modi per­sisted with this pol­icy; and when for­mer min­is­ter Yash­want Sinha vis­ited Kash­mir later in 2016 and tried to give Modi an as­sess­ment of the ground sit­u­a­tion, Modi did not meet him. (The na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor did meet Mr Sinha and re­port­edly lec­tured him on the “doc­trine of state”.)

In this re­gard, Modi is a far cry from the late Atal Be­hari Va­j­payee, the only other PM from the BJP. Kash­miris con­sid­ered Va­j­payee the best PM and had hoped dur­ing the 2014 Lok Sabha elec­tion that Modi would fol­low in Va­j­payee’s foot­steps. But whereas Va­j­payee had spo­ken within the par­a­digm of in­saniyat, Modi has acted within a par­a­digm that is the to­tal op­po­site. And to no one’s sur­prise, Modi’s Kash­mir pol­icy has been a fail­ure.

By it­self, it is un­usual that two top bu­reau­crats quit the civil ser­vice; what makes Verma and Fae­sal’s de­par­ture a big­ger deal is that they re­flect the fail­ure of Modi’s gov­er­nance. While BJP sup­port­ers (and Modi him­self, at his count­less ral­lies) tom­tom Modi’s dili­gence and in­dus­try, there is no ev­i­dence other than his own tes­ti­mony that he works hard. The Rafale jet fighter deal shows how Modi tried to, un­ham­pered and rapidly, ex­e­cute a pol­icy de­ci­sion, and is now fac­ing ques­tions about its le­git­i­macy, if not its crim­i­nal­ity. The Kash­mir pol­icy shows that ide­ol­ogy is no sub­sti­tute for pol­icy, and that gov­er­nance re­quires cre­ative outof-the-box so­lu­tions rather than be a hostage to an os­si­fied per­cep­tion of his­tory.

Modi’s sup­port­ers think he is bet­ter off in­de­pen­dent than be­ing at the mercy of a coali­tion gov­ern­ment, be­cause he would lose the free­dom to take de­ci­sions. They want him re-elected with a free hand to con­tinue clean­ing up the coun­try. But if “free­dom” and “clean­ing up” are go­ing to in­volve nutty de­ci­sions like the Novem­ber 2016 de­mon­eti­sa­tion, for in­stance, then this time I’d like some khichdi in­stead, please.

Aditya Sinha is a writer and colum­nist. His lat­est book ‘In­dia Un­made: How the Modi Gov­ern­ment Broke the Econ­omy’, with Yash­want Sinha, is out now. He tweets @au­tumn­shade

The Rafale jet fighter deal shows how Modi tried to, un­ham­pered and rapidly, ex­e­cute a pol­icy de­ci­sion, and is now fac­ing ques­tions about its le­git­i­macy, if not its crim­i­nal­ity. The Kash­mir pol­icy shows that ide­ol­ogy is no sub­sti­tute for pol­icy, and that gov­er­nance re­quires cre­ative out-of-the-box so­lu­tions

IAS of­fi­cer Shah Fae­sal an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion in Srinagar on Jan­uary 11, the very same day IPS of­fi­cer and erst­while CBI chief Alok Verma (right) quit

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