Wednesday, Aug 10, 2022

As Uddhav Thackeray Exits As CM, Bureaucrats Remember A Mild Shiv Sena

The bureaucracy at the state secretariat is in a flux. The political turmoil in Maharashtra has affected its functioning. They applauded Uddhav Thackeray’s style of functioning, calling him a 'gentleman CM'.

Uddhav Thackeray with son Aditya Thackeray.
Uddhav Thackeray with son Aditya Thackeray. Getty Images

The tense silence in Mantralaya, the Maharashtra state secretariat, speaks volumes about the government that ran out of fuel last night. There is not much work that has taken place since the political crisis overpowered the state secretariat. From bureaucrats to the office staff across departments, uncertainty is the dominant emotion. Many of them lined up on the staircase on Wednesday, to watch Uddhav Thackeray enter the secretariat, for the last time as chief minister. Many were unanimous that his gentlemanly style of functioning did more for the state than the aggression of the previous governments his party was in coalition with. There is mass unease in the bureaucracy as they feel that transfers are imminent.

Before walking out of Mantralaya, with folded hands, Thackeray thanked everyone in the secretariat for the cooperation they extended to the MVA Government. He sought forgiveness for any high-handedness he or his Cabinet may have shown to the staff at the secretariat.

“He is a thorough gentleman. There was respect for bureaucrats. They treated us with dignity and did not blame us for their mistakes. The ministers did not talk down to us, some agreed, some disagreed but it was in a gentlemanly way,” a senior bureaucrat told Outlook. “The ministers respected our output,” he said. Some months after the Maha Vikas Aghadi government was formed in 2019, Maharashtra has faced the brunt of Covid-19. Since 2020 until the beginning of 2022, Maharashtra has been amongst the top states affected by the disease. However, the coordinated efforts between the bureaucrats, ministers and the civic bodies had ensured that the government machinery functioned smoothly even during the worst phase of the disease.

Many of the bureaucrats applauded the organizational skills of Thackeray, saying that he is meticulous to the last detail. “The instructions are clear. If he does not know something, he would ask us,” said another bureaucrat. “The entire Cabinet was respectful to us,” said yet another bureaucrat. A number of them have worked with previous governments too. Narrating an experience working with a minister from the previous BJP-Shiv Sena government, the bureaucrat said: “There was this minister who would sign the files and throw them on the floor. He would ask the secretary to pick up the files.”

When the party chief took over as the chief minister, it made all the difference. When the Shiv Sena ruled with the BJP, Sena’s ministers were often arrogant. According to these bureaucrats, when the MVA government came to power, the Shiv Sena due to its alliance with their ideological opposites, the Congress and the NCP, toned down its aggression.