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Dharmendra’s Jibe Snowballs Into Face-off

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KalingaTV News Network

By Soumyajit Pattnaik

Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan’s jibe against senior IAS officer Ashok Meena has snowballed into a face-off between the political masters and permanent executive. Instead of sweeping this pertinent issue affecting the entire gamut of relationship between the ministers and bureaucrats under the carpet, the Odisha IAS Association has stepped forward to vent its ire.  The IAS community along with the OAS and OFS Associations today sought Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s intervention to take up the matter at the appropriate level so that such incidents are not repeated in future.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks at the Cuttack rally on May 26 were issue-based and graceful, the Petroleum Minister’s remarks were perceived to be personal, intimidating and tasteless. The language certainly does not behove a Union Cabinet Minister. To make the matter worse, Pradhan’s snide remarks sparked off bouts of laughter from the audience which must be quite insulting to the Odisha IT Secretary sitting in the audience as an invited guest.

The jury may differ whether a Union Minister has chosen the correct path in targeting an IAS officer at a public function. Perhaps, the Union Minister was playing to the gallery by making fun of Mr Meena on his operational freedom. The Minister is known for his obsession with the “top floor” while addressing press meets at BJP HQs and old habits were perhaps unwittingly smuggled to the inauguration function of the National Data Centre. The presence of Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and his State counterpart CS Behera at the function provided the perfect ambience for a collaborative Centre-State programme, but the Minister could hardly check his acerbic tongue from playing spoilsport.

It’s intriguing why the Union Minister trained his guns at the IT Secretary when the State IT Minister was also present on the dais. If the IT department, in Pradhan’s opinion, has failed to yield the desired results, then he could have easily targeted the IT Minister CS Behera. It’s therefore inexplicable why the IAS officer was dragged into this avoidable face-off. This lends credence to the observation of the Odisha IAS Association that such actions are meant to demoralise them.

On the demoralising effect, the memorandum submitted by the Odisha IAS Association to the CM mentioned, “…Hon’ble Union Minister, Petroleum and Natural Gas, personally targeted a senior IAS officer of the State Government who was attending the function on invitation. Several such incidents have also been reported by the field functionaries. This has vitiated the working atmosphere and has a demoralising effect on the officers and employees of the State Government”.

That the IAS Association has condemned the incident along with the OAS and OFS Associations must be a setback for the Petroleum Minister who has set his sights to enter the “Top Floor” with all guns blazing. A leader who aspires to occupy the top post of the state government must tread cautiously to build a harmonious relationship with the Permanent Executive. As the Odisha IAS Association stated in their memorandum submitted to the CM today, “In a democratic polity, division of powers between the political executive and permanent executive is the bedrock of the administrative framework. Both the organs have to work in tandem to achieve the objective of creating maximum good for the maximum people”.

The Union Minister was perhaps peeved because the BJD had kicked off its protests against the steep hike in oil prices in all the districts yesterday and the livid Minister perhaps tried to return the compliments in equal measure. And in the process, he didn’t fritter away the opportunity to question the operational style of the Odisha Government at the inauguration ceremony.

The Union Minister may have erred in thinking that it was a light-hearted banter. But a Union Minister can hardly lower his guard while speaking at a Government function. By naming a serving bureaucrat and making derisive remarks in public is certainly contrary to the principles of co-operative federalism.

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