Behind the curtain

Camil Parkhe
Sunday, 17 December 2017

Name: Life in the IAS: My encounters with the Three Lals of Haryana
Author: Ram Varma
Publisher: Rupa
Pages: 320
Price:  Rs 595

Three veteran politicians from Haryana — Bansi Lal, Devi Lal and Bhajan Lal had occupied important slots in national politics since the state came into existence in 1966. They attracted nationwide attention on account of their actions or when they held key positions in New Delhi.

Name: Life in the IAS: My encounters with the Three Lals of Haryana
Author: Ram Varma
Publisher: Rupa
Pages: 320
Price:  Rs 595

Three veteran politicians from Haryana — Bansi Lal, Devi Lal and Bhajan Lal had occupied important slots in national politics since the state came into existence in 1966. They attracted nationwide attention on account of their actions or when they held key positions in New Delhi.

IAS officer Ram Varma, who had the opportunity to serve as a key aide to all these three chief ministers, in a span of over three decades has profiled these three politicians in the book, Life in the IAS: My encounters with the three Lals of Haryana.

Haryana state was carved out of Punjab state on November 1, 1966. The author had joined IAS two years earlier, and was appointed to the new state. Starting as a sub-divisional magistrate, Varma rose to the position of state’s chief secretary and during this three decades career, came in close contact with the three Lals.

The book provides the readers an inside look into the functioning of the bureaucracy and how they deal with their political masters. The author has explained how Bansi Lal, who became the chief minister in 1968, came to be known as Indira Gandhi loyalist after he supported her against the old guards in the Congress. It is said that Bansi Lal was among Indira’s closest confidants, who was aware of her decision to impose Emergency on the country.

Varma points out that it was Bansi Lal who was among the top scorer among the country’s chief minister in achieving sterilisation target during the emergency, a campaign which spelled the doom for the Congress in nine northern states in the post-emergency election.

Incidentally, the author also narrates that he too, father of two daughters, had undergone vasectomy operation as per the Haryana government’s orders relating to top government servants.

After the 1977 polls, Devi Lal was elected as Haryana’s chief minister. But his term ended abruptly when Bhajan Lal staged a coup when he took 45 dissident MLAs on a Bharat Darshan tour to prevent their poaching by Bansi Lal. This was a first of its ploy which has been repeatedly followed by various political parties and leaders to guard their supporters against temptations offered by their rivals.

Bhajan Lal, referred to as a master turncoat, played to his dubious title one more time, when he, along with Haryana’s Janata Party’s legislators and ministers joined the Congress after Gandhi returned to power in 1980. Consequently, Haryana government led by him was left untouched when Gandhi dismissed nine state governments, which were ruled by the non-Congress parties.

The book provides interesting insights into what goes behind the curtain when major political decisions are taken and the predicament of the IAS officers in such situations. For example, the author himself was charged for ordering arrests of some political leaders when the Emergency was imposed.

While writing on the personalities of the three Lals, the author has also dwelt on the developments in Punjab, the rise of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and Operation Blue Star. As a government officer, Varma was not on the best terms with all the three Lals, nevertheless he has tried to write about each of them as objectively as possible, highlighting their strong as well as weak points.

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