“He is no saint; he is a politician, he can be cold and cunning, he is ruthless in using power to advance his agenda and he has been mostly successful,” says a close associate of the UP chief minister, who completed three years of his term on Thursday.
There is ironically little in the last three years of his term to support the claim that Ajay Singh Bisht graduated from college from the science stream and that he dropped out of a M.Sc. course only because he was chosen as his successor by Mahanth Advaidyanath. A biography of his, however, claims that he lost his certificates and is not inclined to talk about his ‘past life’, now that he is a monk.
People who have known him do not say much about his spiritual side but he is clearly more at home taking a dip in the confluence of rivers Ganga and Yamuna in Allahabad, which he has renamed Prayagraj, attending Deepotsav in Ayodhya and attending Ganga Aarti in Varanasi.
Like most godmen, he has not tired of sycophancy. He expects his visitors to touch his feet reverentially or praise him for his work. Those who miss out on this protocol are dismissed quickly and sometimes rudely.
In contrast, words of praise makes him launch into monologues. Even at a cabinet meeting last week, where the ordinance to confiscate the property of people who damage public property was passed, ministers felt compelled to tell him that his hard stand on anti-CAA protestors had been appreciated across the state.
A bureaucrat present at the meeting recalled that the chief minister, who was about to leave, became animated and spoke for a long time on how he planned to bring the protestors to book. “Mere shashan mein inko sir uthane nahi dunga (In my tenure I will not allow them to raise their head,” the CM said with satisfaction.
A delegation of retired bureaucrats had a similar experience when it called on him to invite him to a public function. The delegation had been allotted 10 minutes but for half an hour the chief minister spoke on the Citizenship Amendment Act and how he planned to deal with anti-CAA protestors. The captive audience finally left after the chief minister agreed to accept their invitation to attend the function.
Bureaucrats say that the chief minister has little patience to listen to objections or views that contradict his own. It is safer to say, “Yes, sir”, a bureaucrat said.
A senior IAS officer said that the CM believes that calling meetings and conveying decisions are enough to kickstart projects.
“The CM often calls meetings at very short notice; he would summon officials to discuss a new project within 48 hours and expects us to produce a detailed project report . Most such meetings are largely unproductive and then more time is given and another meeting is called…,” confessed a bureaucrat.
Another IAS officer admitted that the CM indeed is in the habit of calling meetings after 7 pm.
“They continue till 9 pm or 10pm. And then the CM asks the Director Information to ensure that meetings get wide publicity. This is done with the only purpose that people get the impression that the Chief Minister is hard working and works till late hours,” he said with a hearty laugh.
Realising that CM has a penchant for good publicity the Information department has found an easy way out. The officers have started jotting down the details of CM’s programmes being aired live in local news channels. The same is passed on to the CM’s office for Chief Minister’s perusal.