Transport Commissioner Mahesh Zagade’s removal yesterday from the crucial post within eight months is said to be a fallout of the growing friction between ministers and the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers in charge of state departments.
Many see Zagade’s shifting as indicative of what the ministers, both from the BJP and Shiv Sena, expect Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to do when they have a problem with the officers they work with on a daily basis.
Mahesh Zagade will now head the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority. Many see his transfer as indicative of what ministers expect CM Devendra Fadnavis to do when they have a problem with the officers they work with on a daily basis. File Pic
The BJP-led government’s six-month rule has had several examples of ministers complaining against senior bureaucrats. Zagade’s boss, Transport Minister Diwakar Raote, was upset over many decisions that the commissioner had taken. The minister had made his displeasure public and had also made it known to Fadnavis. At times, Raote and Zagade would take contradictory stands on the same issue. Sources said Raote had been pursuing a demand for Zagade’s removal with the CM for long.
However, knowing that Zagade is a good officer, Fadnavis has made him the chief of the Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority, which was formed recently to change the face of the expanding city.
Ministers Girish Bapat, Prakash Mehta and Eknath Khadse have complained to the chief minister about senior IAS officers of their respective departments. File pics
Food Supplies Minister Girish Bapat, who wanted his departmental secretary and revenue secretary to issue suspension orders of some officers, also complained to the CM at this week’s Cabinet meeting that the IAS officers were not cooperating, though he had announced the decision in the legislature, and, hence, it would be binding on him to implement it. Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse, who wanted his secretary Manukumar Shrivastava shifted, supported Bapat with strong words against the bureaucrats’ alleged high-handedness.
A couple of weeks ago, Housing And Labour Minister Prakash Mehta had lambasted Housing Secretary Satish Gavai for not meeting him even once. Mehta said that he did not need any secretary and he would run the department on his own if the IAS officer was not willing to cooperate. The minister has taken up the matter with the CM.
Takes two to tango
Sources said that the discontent was simmering on both the sides. “Ministers are not happy because the bureaucrats do not necessarily toe the line. The bureaucrats are equally upset because their opinion is taken as anti-public by the ministers. This happens because the IAS officers tend to take decisions within the rules,” said a senior bureaucrat, requesting anonymity.
Another bureaucrat said that the IAS officers have collectively decided to not do anything beyond the purview of the law, because of the inquiries in the past in which their political bosses were let off, but the entire mess was blamed on them.
“One such case was the Adarsh Housing Society scam, for which both the politicians (the then CMs and ministers) and bureaucrats were responsible. While the politicians were allowed to go scot-free, some of the officers had to end their careers on a very bad note,” said a serving officer.
Sources told mid-day that the IAS officers, led by Chief Secretary Swadheen Kshatriya, are not in a mood to change their non-compromising stand. Kshatriya is reported to have told the Cabinet last Tuesday that if ministers expected IAS officers to cooperate, they must consult departmental secretaries before taking big decisions.
In response to this friction at the Cabinet meeting, Fadnavis asked both sides to respect each other’s dignity and positions, so that the process of policymaking and implementation does not get affected.