CHENNAI: Making a transition from films to politics is often discussed a lot in South India. However, the transition of a person from a bureaucrat to a politician, though not discussed much, has deeper roots in the country.
The precedent for former IPS officer K Annamalai or former IAS officer Sashikanth Senthil joining political parties was arguably set by Subhash Chandra Bose, who tossed aside a career in civil services to join the Indian National Congress and the freedom struggle.
Annamalai, who was named the State vice-president of the BJP, and Senthil who joined the Congress, are only the latest high-profile figures to make the transition, sparking a question among cadres of both parties: how do they help the political party, or how do they increase its vote share?
Observers say the parties gain from the administrative experience of the former civil servants, especially in framing policy and adding credibility. However, for bureaucrats, especially those making the transition after retirement, a political career could be another way to retain their grip on power.
Those who have made the transition from one branch of the government, in Tamil Nadu, include K Narayanasamy Mudaliyar, who joined the AIADMK and served as law minister after his term as judge of the Madras High Court from 1974 to 77. Similarly, Mani Shankar Aiyar, part of the Indian Foreign Service from 1963 to 1989, later resigned and joined the Congress, serving as a three-time Lok Sabha MP and Union Minister.
VS Chandralekha, an IAS officer who served in Tamil Nadu in various positions, resigned following a dispute with the then regime and joined the Subramanian Swamy-led Janata party. P Sivagami, a former additional chief secretary, took voluntary retirement and joined the BSP before floating a political outfit called Samooga Samathuva Padai. She contested in the Perambalur Assembly constituency as part of the DMK-led alliance and lost.
Former IPS officer R Natraj joined the AIADMK after retirement and is the current Mylapore MLA.
In political analyst Tharasu Shyam’s view, there is little benefit to political parties when civil servants join them. “Mostly it is of no use in drawing votes. They will enjoy power after leaving service,” he said.
But veteran journalist T Koodalarasan has different opinion. “They might not help in increasing the party’s vote share, but might help leaders in creating and implementing schemes. They can also be of help in administration. Political parties recognise this and encourage them,” he said.
Koodalarasan recalled how Narayanaswamy Mudaliar’s induction into MGR’s Cabinet as law minister helped burnish the AIADMK founder’s image among the educated section. “Without them offering any benefit, the leaders wouldn’t encourage them,” he pointed out. PMK’s R Velu, a (conferred) IAS, said his experience in bureaucracy helped him perform his duties when he was Union Minister in 2004. “We improved productivity of the Railways... and my 39 years of experience in civil services helped me immensely in prioritising and making decisions,” said Velu, who is part of the party’s political advisory committee.
However, Ashokan, headquarters secretary of the TMC, was dismissive of the jump from civil services to politics made by those who had years left to serve. “We can accept people who enter politics after retirement. But, people who have years of service quitting to join politics and saying it’s for public service doesn’t make sense,” he opined.
“They can do a lot of things in service since ultimately officers are those who execute the government schemes and policies. If they were not able to serve the people in that role, how can they serve them from political parties,” he asked, terming their transition as a pursuit of power and nothing else.