Rajasthan transfers reveal Gehlot’s frustration with his own incompetence

New Delhi (06.01.2021): Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot has set a new and extraordinary example: in the last six months since July 2020, he has transferred about 150 IAS officers, around 100 IPS officers, and countless officers (some estimates put it at more than 300) from the Indian Forest Service (IFoS) and the Rajasthan administrative service (RAS). He is seen so much freaked on, or enamored by, the idea of frequent transfer and posting as an instrument for stabilizing his shaking control over the administration that he effected another one on Monday night and Tuesday.

In an extraordinary sweep that reminded everyone of similar moves in July and November 2020, in the course of fewer than 24 hours from the night of 04/01/2021 to 05/01/2021, he transferred and posted as many as 21 IAS officers including three district collectors, 56 IPS officers, 28 IFoS officers, and 183 Rajasthan Administrative Services (RAS) officers.

These transfers also reveal his astrological love for number 21. The same number of IAS officers were transferred in November 2020.

That apart, why is Gehlot doing this and what does he aim to achieve? – are the questions being asked by everyone in New Delhi and Jaipur, even though the answer is written on the Secretariat walls of Jaipur and wafting through the cold winds blowing from Rajasthan to New Delhi.

Open-source intelligence (OSINT) reports indicate that the CM is no longer his old confident self since receiving the blow from Sachin Pilot in June-July 2020. And whatever little confidence was left in him after recuperating from the blow by way of retaining his CM’s chair was drained out from his system from the decisive and definitive blows he received from the voters who trounced his hand-picked candidates in December 2020 in the elections of Panchayat Samiti constituencies and Zila Parishads.

As Gehlot’s political popularity started spiraling down from mid-2020, he sought to consolidate himself through administrative shakeups. Obsessed and driven by a destructive sense of ‘exaggerated self-importance’, he first compromised his old and much-admired political and administrative reputation by appointing Rajeeva Swarup as the new chief secretary in July 2020 replacing D B Gupta, happily overlooking the fact that Gupta was in any case due to retire in September and Swarup in October. He topped this self-injurious and grievous adventure by transferring and posting over 100 officers, adding to the brewing discontent and disenchantment against his emergent cavalier attitude towards governance.

Despite being fully aware that the opposition BJP was watching him and looking for gaps to outflank him and hit him hard where it will immeasurably hurt his pride and politics, he galloped into BJP’s trap when he sought and was refused, rather insultingly by keeping him in suspense till the last moment, the extension of service for Swarup as CS beyond the latter’s tenure. And yet, the CM, in another reckless move that further lowered his dignity and respect among officers, hastily moved to make a far junior IAS officer, Niranjan Kumar Arya, as the new CS, superseding a large number of deserving and competent officers including Veenu Gupta, Subodh Agarwal, and Rajeshwar Singh.

Even though Arya’s appointment as CS in November 2020 was celebrated by retired SC officers and walls of Jaipur were plastered with congratulatory posters and messages from SC power brokers and hoodlums expressing gratitude to Gehlot for having appointed the first CS from their community, the CM was hounded by defeat and losing whatever reputation he was left with when the Congress Party, barely a month later in December 2020, suffered a punishing blow from voters in the elections to Panchayat Samiti constituencies and Zila Parishads.

And yet again, he has done what even an amateur politician, in the given situation, would have shunned to do. So Gehlot’s large-scale latest round of transfer and posting has compelled officials and politicians alike to conclude that he has reached his wit’s end because he keeps repeating the same process hoping to get a different result.

(By M K Shukla & Rakesh Ranjan)

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