‘Kalyan stood by ideals, never let down officers who acted in public interest’ | India News – Times of India

I never met Kalyan Singh except at official gatherings. During most of his first term as chief minister of UP that began in 1991, I was district magistrate (DM) at Sitapur. This meant there were few opportunities for face-to-face interactions with the CM.
My first direct experience of his style of functioning came early in my tenure. The new government’s pro-farmer agenda was running aground due to mounting cane dues to farmers as sugar mills were lax in paying them. Consequently, the government authorised coercive means and, acting with alacrity, I attached two private sugar mills and impounded their assets. All hell broke loose as this had not happened before and powerful interests were involved. Some mandarins in Lucknow ticked me off for my ‘immaturity’. But the CM, I learnt later, was firm in his support for action taken in public interest. Weeks later, the CM spoke to me and said, “ Aapne jo bhi kiya bahut achha kiya.” (Whatever you did was fine). Imagine how it boosted my morale for the rest of my tenure in the district and beyond.
Kalyan Singh’s fairness and sense of justice and the extent to which he supported sincere officers was evident on another occasion. In one tehsil, there was a huge racket of land belonging to marginalised sections being appropriated through forged documents in collusion with revenue officers. Criminal cases were filed, scores of Pradhans and Lekhpals (Patwaris) terminated, and efforts initiated to restore the land. As expected, there was a strong pushback from vested interests. In an unprecedented move, the local MLA, who belonged to the ruling party, threatened a fast to death till the DM was sacked. But the CM stood firm. Rajendra Gupta, finance minister, who hailed from Sitapur, and was also state BJP chief, later told me that the CM had told a delegation that the MLA was free to resort to a hunger strike, but “yadi koi anhonee ho jai to main zimmedar nahin hoon.” (if there is a mishap I would not be responsible). Such was the mettle of the man.
Kalyan Singh was a big picture person who was willing to take the toughest decisions and go to great lengths to do what he believed was good for the state. His anti-mafia operation was one such initiative and reforming education was another. He, along with education minister Rajnath Singh, ran a statewide campaign to curb mass copying which was rampant in UP. It had an immediate salutary impact on quality of graduating classes even though average marks obtained and pass percentages fell. Many years later, as district magistrate Varanasi, when recruiting clerks on the basis of graduation marks, some candidates said : “Main Kalyan Singh ke zamane ka graduate hoon”, (I am a graduate of the Kalyan Singh era) — protesting being compared with scores of those who had passed when cheating was rampant.
Many have not forgiven Kalyan Singh for the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992 on his watch. The jury is still out on whether he could have done more to prevent the demolition. But there can be no doubt that he was one of the tallest CMs UP has had. A man of iron integrity with a strong sense of fair play and justice who did not hesitate in taking the flak. In 1993, I was posted as staff officer to the adviser to the governor, during President’s Rule, imposed after his government was dismissed. Records related to decision making on the fateful day the mosque fell clearly showed how he had completely and unequivocally owned up entire responsibility for all that had happened while a lesser person may have been tempted to pass the buck to the local administration and the police.
Today, Kalyan Singh is no more. UP and India have lost an icon of good governance. But his legacy as an administrator and statesmen live on and many will cherish his leadership. RIP Sir.
(J S Deepak is a retired IAS officer from UP who worked as secretary telecom & IT, government of India and was ambassador of India to the WTO)

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