Maken advises Kejriwal to be tactful, shares personal experience
Former union minister Ajay Maken, also a former Delhi cabinet minister under Sheila Dikshit, advised Delhi chief minister Kejriwal to deal with bureaucrats more respectfully
Stop summoning bureaucrats at odd hours and stop using harsh language while talking to them—this is the advice former Union minister and Delhi cabinet minister Ajay Maken to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Harassment by the Delhi government and its ministers is one of the justifications the Union government is believed to have offered to justify its ordinance nullifying the decision of a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court allowing control of bureaucrats to the ‘elected government’.
It took the Union government eight days to bring in the ordinance and overturn the Supreme Court's decision. The Supreme Court in its verdict in the dispute between the Delhi government and the lieutenant governor had held that unless the elected government had control and power of supervision over bureaucrats, the bureaucracy would become unaccountable. While the Union government promulgated the ordinance and filed a review petition in the court, the Delhi government is also moving the court to challenge the Union government's decision to restore the earlier status quo.
The government, as published on the NDTV website on Sunday, has justified its decision to retain control of the bureaucracy in Delhi on grounds of national security, politicisation of the bureaucracy, the global parallels of administering national capitals and complaints of harassment made by the bureaucrats in Delhi.
Maken took to Twitter on Sunday to recall his own personal experience. This is what he wrote:
"In the early 2000s, a historic shift was underway in Delhi. I was serving as the Transport, Power, and Tourism Minister under Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit Ji. We were spearheading a series of initiatives, from transitioning public transport to CNG, launching the Metro, to reforming the power department.
"Our day began early. '7:30 a.m., a phone call would come from Sheila Ji for me,' I remember. We exchanged thoughts, addressed issues, and strategised the day based on news headlines…
"Then, one morning, I read about the replacement of my Transport Commissioner, Sindhushree Khullar... 'In the midst of CNG conversion, her absence could be a roadblock. What if the new officer was a Diesel lobbyist?'
"I voiced my concerns to Sheila Ji, 'Madam, you've changed my Transport Commissioner. This could jeopardise our CNG conversion project.' She brushed it off initially, saying, 'Why get disturbed on the basis of rumours?'
"But soon, the rumours turned out to be real. 'You were right,' she admitted, 'I was not aware of this decision either. But don't worry, we'll challenge it. How can the LG make such a decision amidst our CNG conversion initiative?'
"Fired up, we decided to meet the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi. I remember her strategic advice. She told me, 'Be as forceful as possible, argue for the interest of Delhi. As I deal with the LG daily, you can be the forceful one, I will be the supportive referee.'
"Despite our passionate appeal, the LG was unwavering. 'I have my orders. I can't reverse this,' he responded firmly.
"Sheila Ji called several senior Union Government officials, trying to influence the decision. She sought their intervention, hoping the matter would be resolved. Frustrated, I proposed a press conference to expose this politically driven obstruction. Sheila Ji, however, had a different strategy.
"With a gentle wave of her fingers, she advised, 'No, no, no… Don't tell anyone about our failed attempt. Officers shouldn't know that we tried and couldn't succeed. If they find out, they might stop taking us seriously.'
"Her wisdom was profound. She continued, 'Call the new officer. Tell him the CM is delighted with his appointment. Explain the importance of CNG conversion, and invite him for tea and pakoras. These officers are with no one. Tackle them skilfully.'
"Following her astute counsel, I found myself sharing tea and pakoras with the newly appointed officer, despite my initial reservations. 'I told him, "The Supreme Court is strictly monitoring our efforts to reduce air pollution. We need to implement CNG in Delhi."
"The turn of events was remarkable. 'The new officer understood the gravity of the situation. We stood united against various lobbies and earned accolades from the Supreme Court and even the US Government,' I say with pride. 'We became the first city globally to fully convert its public transport system to CNG.'
"I believe Sheila Dikshit Ji's government's first six years were the most productive. Power privatisation, CNG conversion, Metro launch, construction of flyovers, hospitals, schools—they all happened because she fought tirelessly for Delhi. She taught me to offer tea and pakodas when needed, and to stand firm when required.
"I hope the current Chief Minister takes note of this journey and learns from it.
"Engage with officers respectfully, hold dialogues, and persuade them for Delhi's advancement. They will certainly align with your vision if it's sincere."
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