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HomeOPINIONRajnath Singh - the ever smiling & calm politician

Rajnath Singh – the ever smiling & calm politician

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In my capacity as Director Information and Public Relations (DPR) of Uttar Pradesh during 1991-92, I used to brief the Chief Minister, Kalyan Singh every morning about the media coverage at his residence. One day, as I walked into brief him, I saw Rajnath Singh who was then the President of the State unit of Bhartiya Janata Party sitting in the waiting room. I greeted him and then proceeded to the room where Kalyan Singh was sitting. I was sure that Kalyan Singh was aware that the Sate President was waiting for him but I still informed him and asked him whether he would like to meet him before I briefed him. Kalyan Singh chose to be briefed before the meeting. It took me around fifteen minutes to discuss the media coverage and then Rajnath Singh was called in. He didn’t appear irked at all at being asked to wait. Or, if he did have any feelings, they did not get betrayed. He wore his inimitable smile on his face. I did meet Rajnath Singh on my occasions during my tenure as DPR and never once did I find him tense. That smile of his never left him. He was a man of few words but when he spoke, he was eloquent.

Rajnath Singh - the astute politician

I distinctly recall the conversation with him much later in 1997 on a telephone. I had moved on deputation to Delhi and there was political turmoil in Uttar Pradesh. Kalyan Singh was once again the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh but on some count The Governor of the State had sent a report for imposition of President’s Rule in the State. I had not expected a call from the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister of the State in this context. I had a lot of regard for Anurag Goyal, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister both on account of his efficiency and humility. He was a role model for many of us, both as an officer and as a very kind person. After exchanging a few pleasantries, he apprised me of the latest development on the political front. It was not the first time that the incumbent to this august office was indulging in shadow politics. However, this Governor who was an ex-civil servant, knew pretty well how the game of politics was played.

The Principal Secretary informed me that Kalyan Singh and Rajnath Singh who was still State President of the Bharatiya Janata Party were sitting on a ‘dharna’ (a sit-in protest) in front of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President’s House, in Delhi and their party that was still technically the ruling party in the State had given a call for state-wide agitation on the following day. In his view, this would damage the future prospects of the government as the ensuing chances of violence during the agitation could provide a reason for the dismissal of the present government. I agreed with him but wondered why was he telling me all this.

Then came the request that truly surprised me. He gave me the mobile number of Kalyan Singh and asked me to speak to him. The idea was to dissuade him from going ahead with the bandh on the following day. I tried to suggest to him that I had no locus standi to do this, but he requested me to give it a try because he felt that Kalyan Singh would perhaps heed my advice.

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Initially, I wasn’t sure whether I should be getting into all this but as I had worked with Kalyan Singh closely, I decided to call him. I rang up the number given to me. The phone was picked up by his personal security officer. As I introduced myself, he seems to have recognised me and passed on the phone to Kalyan Singh. I came to the point almost immediately after exchanging pleasantries, “Sir, I believe you are at the Rashtrapati Bhavan sitting on a dharna?” He confirmed he was there, agitating against the high-handedness of the Governor. Then I asked him, “You all have called for a state-wide bandh tomorrow?” His answer was a cryptic, “Yes”. I then gave my unsolicited advice, “It is still your government technically. God forbid, if the agitation turns violent, it would provide a ground for dismissal of your government. What purpose then will the bandh serve?”

He pondered for a while and then asked, “You think that we should withdraw the bandh call?” I clarified, “In my considered view, it can only cause damage and not serve any worthwhile purpose”. He seemed to agree with me and then said, “Okay. You have a word with Adhyakshji (referring to the Rajnath Singh)”. Even this tense situation he appeared to be extremely calm. I could visualize the smile on his face. He gave me a patient hearing as I conveyed the same thoughts to him as well. The conversation ended there as he seemed to agree with my views.

I came to know later that the proposed state-wide agitation was called off. What was even more interesting was that it was one of the rare occasions when the President sent back the recommendation of the Cabinet to impose President’s Rule in Uttar Pradesh, the recommendation didn’t return to the President for reconsideration. Kalyan Singh continued as the Chief Minister of the State for some more time.

Rajnath Singh subsequently became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh though I never had the occasion to meet him in this capacity. I did, however, interact with him much later when I became Secretary, Government of India in 2014. He used to be part of the quarterly tea that the Prime Minister hosted for Secretaries for open house discussions with them. Despite being such a senior Minister, he hardly spoke a word during these interactions. I was aware of his reticent attitude but not speaking a word and looking a trifle forlorn in these meetings did surprise me.

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The last time I interacted with Rajnath Singh was in my capacity as School Education Secretary. He was then the Home Minister and I had come up with an idea of using education as a tool for bringing about normalcy in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. He appreciated the idea and we even started a highly successful exchange visit programmes.

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Anil Swarup IAS (Retd)
Anil Swarup IAS (Retd)
Anil Swarup is a former 1981 batch, Uttar Pradesh cadre  IAS officer, and was awarded Director's gold medal for "best officer trainee" at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA). He served the Government of India in various capacities for 38 years and went on to become Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy and the Coal Secretary of India. He also served as Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Additional Secretary, Labour & Empowerment, Export Commissioner in the Ministry of Commerce & Industry of India and as the District Magistrate of Lakhimpur Kheri. He couldn’t make it to the “elite” Indian Administrative Service (IAS) on his first attempt but qualified for the Indian Police Service where he worked for one year before clearing IAS in his next attempt. He is today an author of several looks like 'No More a Civil Servant,' ‘Ethical dilemmas of a civil servant’ and ‘Not just a civilservant’. The views expressed are his own.

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