Is ‘Dilli door ast’ for non-Kannadiga IAS officers?

M.K. VIDYARANYA writes from Bangalore: Is the “non-Karnataka” IAS officers’ lobby which is ruling the roost in the State, suddenly unhappy with the BJP government of B.S. Yediyurappa?

There is no firm way of knowing but the speculation in the corridors of power in Bangalore is that the “non-Karnataka” officers—officers hailing from outside the State but representing the Karnataka cadre—are miffed with the sudden move to post  former Union Minister V. Dhananjay Kumar as the State’s special representative in New Delhi.

The post, which serves as a liaison of sorts between Bangalore and Delhi, has traditionally been held by IAS officers. The current chief secretary Sudhakar Rao, Subir Hari Singh, Gautam Basu et al have all held the job in recent years.

When Yediyurappa came to power, he namd the former IPS officer Subhash Bharani, who had quit the service to join the BJP and fight the assembly elections. Bharani lost but was accommodated in Delhi till he was named chairman of the Karnataka silk industries corporation (KSIC).

But the appointment of Dhananjay Kumar, a senior BJP leader and former member of Parliament from Mangalore, as Bharani’s replacement has not gone down particularly well, it is said.

Reason: “non-Karnataka” officers,who have for long used the post of special representative to get back into circulation in Delhi and to get more plum postings by working their contacts, feel that the post is slipping away from their grasp with the appointment of a politician.

Gautam Basu, for example, last exactly four months as resident commissioner in Karnataka Bhavan before he moved over to the Union health ministry as joint secretary.

Dhananjay Kumar’s appointment has been facilitated by the simultaneous creation of a new post of additional special representative. The well-regarded Bykere Nagesh, who hails from Sakleshpur and has been working in Delhi for more than two decades, has been named additional special representative.

In theory, the IAS ensures an equitable mix of insider and outsider officers in each State. Half the vacancies go to officers who come from the State, and the other half to officers from other regions.

Among insiders, 33% are promoted from the State civil service. There are thus few home-cadre vacancies for the IAS officers directly recruited through the national examination, which is why most of them are posted to a State different from their native one.

However very few Kannadigas write the IAS examinations to be directly recruited, preferring more paying fields like information technology. The cadre is therefore stuffed full with “non-Karnataka” officers who prefer to use the “Delhi Route” to get out of the State after a few years.

There have been seven such instances since 1993, not counting the two IAS officers who took up the assignment in the specially created post of additional resident commissioner.

These frequent changes, State Government sources say, is a drain on the exchequer. Each time an IAS officer is shifted out of Karnataka to take up the resident commissioner’s post, the State shells out a huge amount, up to Rs 1 lakh, as transfer-related expenses.

While Basu lasted just four months, his predecessor stayed even less, 11 days. Brahm Dutt served probably the longest term, 16 months, before
joining the Ministry of Industries as a joint secretary.

The next IAS officer to travel to Delhi from Karnataka was Sudhakar Rao. After a brief one-and-a-half month stay at Karnataka Bhavan, Rao joined the power ministry. Rao left the ministry to serve as a minister looking after economic affairs in the Indian Embassy in Washington.

Dhirendra Singh fared marginally better by staying for a month more
before moving over to the cabinet secretariat as a joint secretary.

The next in line, Subir Hari Singh, served as resident commissioner for a year and then went over to the Department of Electronics. Anup Pujari took over from him , before relinquishing charge  to join Union Law Minister Ramakant Khalap as personal secretary way back in 1997.

Dhananjay Kumar’s appointment may not mean a full-stop to the dreams of “non-Karnataka” officers, but it certainly marks a semi-colon.