IN Uttar Pradesh political circles rife recently with allegations around transfers and disgruntled ministers, it was a meeting that raised eyebrows for reasons more than one.
Governor Anandiben Patel, who has been content taking the backseat in a government under the tight control of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, on Wednesday evening held a four-hour meeting with his Cabinet where ministers gave individual feedback about their work, and she gave tips and advice to them from her time as CM of Gujarat and now in the Raj Bhavan.
This was quite a departure for Patel, who has never engaged in any confrontation with the Adityanath government, unlike predecessors known to express their displeasure by reminding the government of the day about its “responsibilities”, or raising objections to appointments or Bills.
While Governors are known to give high tea – the official explanation for the meeting held by Patel was that it was a “get together” – it is on special occasions, and rarely ever involves discussions like the one held on Wednesday. The entire 52-member Council of Ministers, led by Adityanath, was present, including Cabinet ministers and all Ministers of State.
The surprise meeting followed recent episodes where Adityanath’s ministers directly approached the central leadership with their grievances. The most notable case was of Minister of State, Jal Shakti, Dinesh Khatik, who having expressed his resentment once earlier, this time sent his resignation to Union Home Minister Amit Shah – a letter that went public on social media. Khatik alleged irregularities in transfers in his department and accused his principal secretaries of ignoring him as he was a Dalit. A resignation letter arrived at Governor House too, but it was much later.
Later, Khatik was “persuaded” to stay on.
Another case was of PWD Minister Jitin Prasada, a high-profile inductee from the Congress, who joined the BJP in the presence of top leaders in Delhi. The BJP courted him as a prominent face belonging to the Brahmin community, which was seen as disenchanted with the party over a perceived pro-Thakur bias. After Prasad’s OSD and other officials from his department were shifted following allegations around transfers, the Minister too headed straight to Delhi and sought to meet Shah and BJP chief J P Nadda.
Incidentally, both Khatik and Prasada could not get the desired meetings with the top brass, and were instead told to go back and resume duties.
Patel’s meeting with the Adityanath Cabinet came barely days after these developments. Observers also noted that the meeting was called soon after both the Governor and the CM had made trips to Delhi.
As per sources, Wednesday’s meeting saw Patel in constant conversation with the ministers, including advising them on how to work within the government hierarchy. Senior ministers were urged to coordinate with their juniors, and told that only if they worked together could they achieve better outputs. With several ministers facing issues with bureaucrats, that was also a topic on the agenda, including keeping the CM’s Office in the loop on key developments.
Sources said the Governor also urged ministers to feel free about sharing problems if any with her or the CM, so that there was no lack of communication. The ministers were told that the top leadership has to look after bigger tasks and should not be bothered with petty issues, which could be resolved with the intervention of the Governor or CM.
Sources said the meeting with Patel was meant to convey that the Governor functioned as a “guardian” of the government and a platform for those who want to vent their grievances.