Yogi’s ‘Na Sounga, Na Soney Doonga’ Approach Troubles UP Ministers

The UP CM has been working at a blistering pace, which most officials and ministers are not able to keep up with.

While PM Narendra Modi's statement "Na khaaonga, na khaane doonga" is one of his best-known, for UP CM Yogi Adityanath, the credo seems to be "Na soounga, na soney doonga" (neither will I sleep, nor will I allow anyone to). A bachelor and a workaholic, Yogi is working long hours every day, say his aides.

Ever since he was sworn in as Chief Minister, he has been working at a blistering pace, something which most officials and even ministers in his Cabinet are not able to keep up with.

Since 3 April, the "maharaj ji" as he is called by the faithful, has been taking long review meetings and seeing presentations of various departments that go on past midnight.

The last four days have given nightmares to several top bureaucrats, used to a good night’s sleep over the last many years. Now, not only are they reporting for duty at 9 am every day, the closing hours of the office are not fixed.

Lights can be spotted in many offices at Bapu Bhawan, Indira Bhawan, Jawahar Bhawan and the Secretariat Annexe as officials prepare for their rendezvous with Yogi.

A senior Cabinet minister who attended a late night meeting on Thursday said: "Matching the CM’s energy is almost impossible."

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A five-time MP from Gorakhpur, Yogi Adityanath has learnt the ropes pretty fast, said a senior bureaucrat, adding that the Chief Minister is not only “very sharp” but has “surprising knowledge” of departments, schemes and projects.

The Chief Minister had, at the start of his regime, made it clear that officials and ministers should brace up to work for 16-18 hours and if they do not, their options were wide open.

The fifth-floor office of the Chief Minister, referred to as 'Pancham Tal' in the corridors of power, now invariably remains open till well after midnight, with peons, lift operators, security staff, ministerial staff and officials remaining on extended duty hours.

With most cabinet ministers initially naming their juniors to attend these meetings, Yogi has now sent word to them to ensure their personal presence at review meetings. The CM has also cancelled all leaves and any trips outside the state capital for all his ministers till 20 April, when the final presentation is to be made before him.

On a given day, or rather night, the Chief Minister reviews at least four departments in one go and the meetings go on for more that four-five hours, say insiders. He is quick to point out lapses, he seeks files in a jiffy and has a sharp eye for detail, says an official, admitting that for them, the new work culture was indeed a "painful exercise in learning".

The diminutive Rahul Bhatnagar, the Chief Secretary, seems to be the biggest sufferer. So far lording over the bureaucracy of the state, Bhatnagar is omnipresent and is now bearing most of the brunt of the long meetings and the much-quickened pace of government functioning.

Officers and employees in the state information and public relations department too are a harassed lot. With meetings going on past midnight, their work starts thereafter, preparing press releases for the media.

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Even media houses have to extend their printing deadlines and journalists have to wait for long as news from the Chief Minister's office now only comes after midnight.

Those in the Chief Minister's close group point out that Yogi was not one to axe officials picked by the previous government in a hurry but instead believes in making them work.

Not surprisingly, so far no major rejig of the bureaucracy has taken place. Only Avanish Awasthi, hitherto Joint Secretary with the Ministry of Social Justice at the Centre, has been named Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, and Rigzin Samphel, Special Secretary to former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, has been retained.

Yogi has, according to aides, so far taken presentations of the sugar, agriculture, industries, small industry, khadi, mandi parishad, animal husbandry, fisheries, dairy development, horticulture, energy, MSME and infrastructure departments.

Later, he is likely to begin touring the districts and take a look for himself how the government works at the ground level. He is also rumoured to be planning to hold cabinet meets in different cities, the first being Allahabad.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

(This article has been published in an arrangement with IANS.)