From bureaucracy to politics: the “secret ballot” to public life

Job opportunities do not close to civil servants even after retirement.

Either the for-profit private sector comes calling or the government often seeks their services in various roles. Over the years, however, a significant number of retired civil servants have tried their luck in politics with varying degrees of success.

The fact that many of their fraternity have tasted defeat is no deterrent.

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Speculation is rife that Additional Chief Secretary (Public Works) BH Anil Kumar, a 1987 officer, will take the political step after retiring this month.

It is said that Kumar may contest the 2023 Assembly election against former Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara.

When contacted, Kumar said he would take a call after his retirement. As to whether a political party approached him, he replied in the negative.

There is also speculation that Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai’s principal secretary, N Manjunath Prasad, belongs to the 1994 group. However, he categorically denies having any political ambitions and rejects such talks.

“I’m not comfortable with politics. These are just rumours. I am the last person to think about entering politics,” he said.

Then there is M Lakshminarayana who retired as Additional Chief Secretary in 2018 and currently heads the Karnataka Panchayat Raj Boundary Commission.

He acknowledged that he was eyeing a political future in the 2023 parliamentary elections.

Karnataka has a long list of officials joining politics. One of the first was DT Jayakumar, who became the MP for Nanjangud in 1985 on a Janata Dal ticket after voluntarily retiring as a sub-inspector of police. Many have since followed suit.

Former Police Director General H Veerabhadraiah would be the first of the IPS to enter politics contesting, unsuccessfully, the 1989 Assembly election in Krishnaraja constituency in Mysuru.

Later, former IPS officers P Kodandaramaiah and HT Sangliana were elected members of Lok Sabha.

BC Agriculture Minister Patil was a policeman, who later became an actor. Kudachi BJP MLA P Rajeev was also a cop.

Madhugiri JD (S) MLA MV Veerabhadraiah was an IAS officer. Former Bengaluru Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao has resigned from the IPS to join the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Rao is said to be planning to compete from Jayanagar, Padmanabhanagar or Basavanagudi.

Young K Annamalai (IPS) and Sasikanth Senthil (IAS) resigned from the services to join the BJP and Congress respectively.

In the 2018 Assembly elections, former IAS officers Siddaiah and Syed Zameer Pasha stood as Congress candidates from Sakleshpur and Kolar, respectively. They lost.

The list is long

Once in the fray, little time was wasted by many of these former government officials to hone their political acumen and even switch party loyalties as soon as possible.

Civil servants who have dabbled in politics have varied views on the appeal of a life as a public figure.

“It’s hard to please anyone once you’re in politics,” says Veerabhadraiah, the JD(S) legislator who points out that his entry into politics was to extend social service to people.

“The public service is better at helping people because any problem can be taken to its logical end.”

Decorated IPS officer Shankar Bidari, who has worked in both Congress and the BJP, said he decided to keep his distance from politics.

“The field is plagued by corruption, lies and false assurances,” he laments.

“I can’t adapt to the lifestyles of modern politics because you have to say one thing and do the opposite,” he says, promising to continue social service.