Should IAS, IPS officers play politics on the side?

Sixteen years ago, a tsunami broke out in chai cups when the columnist Praful Bidwai revealed that celebrations had broken out among IAS candidates undergoing training at the National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie, when news came in from Ayodhya that the Babri masjid had been felled.

The implications of such ideologically inclined candidates eventually laying their hands on the levers of power across the length and breadth were debated before, as usual, it was business as usual.

But there was no such debate when Vijaya Karnataka carried a front-page story late last year, at the height of the political tragicomedy, that Dalit IAS and IPS officers had held a “secret” meeting where they had decided to “lobby” for Mallikarjuna Kharge, a Dalit, as chief minister.

There were hints of the officers deciding to raise money to make this possible. How they planned to do all this was of course left to the imagination.

Probably it is a reflection of the intellectual vacuum in the State or probably an indication of the political correctness that has gripped the intelligentsia, but given the tone and tenor of the VK report, not to speak of the ideological motivations of those behind it, it did not proceed further from there.

There was even a question mark about the “truthiness” of the meeting and the report.

But now, Subhash Bharani, the 1975-batch IPS officer who left the service to join the Congress and then left the Congress to join the BJP in the space of a few days, has laid bare the details. There was, indeed, he confirms, such meetings (meaning, there was more than the one VK reported).

“What is wrong if Dalit officials favour a person belonging to their community for the Chief Minister’s post? Are IPS officials and Government officers belonging to Dalit community not entitled to hold political views? As far as I know, there is no clause in the Service Rules that prohibits government servants from [doing] this”, the BJP’s candidate from T. Narasipur said at a media conference yesterday.

“There is nothing wrong if Dalits hold such meetings. It may not be appropriate for other communities to hold such meetings.”

Nothing wrong if serving and aspiring officers have such covert and overt political and ideological ambitions? Nothing wrong if serving and aspiring officers openly or even secretly show their leanings? Nothing wrong if serving and aspiring officers gravitate to each other on the basis of caste, region, religion, language?

Nothing wrong if Dalits do it?