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Have babus begun to sense political shift in India as farmers agitate across the country?

By Rajiv Shah/ As farmers’ agitation gripped the country on September 25, a retired IAS bureaucrat, whom I have known for nearly two decades, phoned me us to get a feel of what I felt would be its impact. I said, I don’t know, as it is too early to assess, but I wondered whether the fact that it shook the entire country would mean that tables have begun turning against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This bureaucrat, who has been a keen watcher of the Indian political scene and has been in direct touch with those in the top positions of power, said, “Indeed, this is what many of the bureaucrats across India have begun to discuss... After all, we in the administration have always had access to know what the mood of the political masters is...”
This bureaucrat, who has mostly served in Gujarat, suggested that the agricultural bills, passed in Parliament, show that Modi was ill-advised, or “to be more precise, there is nobody left around whom to whom he would listen.” The bureaucrat agreed, there was time when Arun Jaitley, whom Modi would listen, was around. He was a sobering impact on Modi.
“What I see is, people have begun rising... In India, they rise slowly, but when they do, it would be a major flare-up, which may have begun taking shape now. Modi doesn’t seem to realise this”, he said. I asked whether anybody among the bureaucrats advise Modi that the type of agriculture bills he has got passed in Parliament actually would be politically harmful.
“Indian bureaucrats don’t work that way. They look up to their political masters, sense their pulse, and react accordingly”, he said, adding, “While majority of them are very capable administrators and know solutions, they wouldn’t like to push the government in the desired direction. They would leave the guidance part to the ruling politicians, and just follow them.”
“Not that they cannot deliver”, he claimed. “Most of them can. But there very few who wouldn’t care for what their political masters say, and go ahead and administer without caring for what would happen to themif they act in a way that may not be to the liking of ruling politicians. Such bureaucrats often resign, or find themselves out of the power structure.”
I wondered whether Modi’s right-hand Amit Shah would be of any help, considering his ill health. “There is no health bulletin about him any more. Nobody knows about his health. But if he unable to carry out what Modi tells him what to do, then things may begin to fall apart. The first test would be Bihar elections, where Amit Shah was the main campaigner. He is unable to campaign because of his ill health.”

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