New Delhi, Oct. 4: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is known to be patient to provocation but he was forced to pull out the baton after the nation’s topmost bureaucrats created fish-market clamour while the cabinet met on Thursday evening.
Singh’s council was seized of grave matters of state like Telangana and the Jet-Etihad deal in the meeting halls of 7 Race Course Road.
Outside, the big babus of the land waited but not quietly. Tea, coffee and savouries mixed with jokes and anecdotes.
Soon enough, their merry decibel spiralled high and began to interfere with the cabinet’s proceedings.
During a cabinet meeting, other than the cabinet ministers, only special invitees like ministers of state or Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia are allowed in. Bureaucrats from the Prime Minister’s Office and the cabinet secretariat sit in the wings to record minutes of meetings and keep notes.
The bureaucrats of ministries whose topics are being debated sit outside the room with reams of documents to settle any last-minute query.
Home secretary Anil Goswami, civil aviation secretary K.N. Srivastava, economic affairs secretary Arvind Mayaram, renewable energy secretary Ratan P. Watal, agriculture secretary Ashish Bahuguna, environment secretary V. Rajagopalan and Press Information Bureau director-general Neelam Kapur were present along with other high-ranking officials.
Telangana on the table, the cabinet sat for nearly two-and-a-half hours. Inside while Pallam Raju was making an impassioned plea to keep Andhra undivided, outside the bureaucrats were discussing the US shutdown among other things.
The joke doing the rounds was that at least here in India, the government is working with no shutdown in sight. “It would have been so nice if we could also shut down for 10 days or so,” a source quoted a bureaucrat as saying.
What kept the party going were the crisp samosas served at the Prime Minister’s residence during the cabinet meeting. “One thing led to the other and before we knew, a joint secretary from the Prime Minister’s Office came out of the meeting asking us to keep it low,” said a senior official.
In a coincidence, all the leading secretaries — Goswami, Mayaram, Srivastava, Bahuguna and Rajagopalan — are 1978 batchmates.
When buddies meet, reprimand from the teacher is useless. The babus remained sombre for a while but the noise levels were again up, according to the sources.
But the Prime Minister, once a teacher, may have been thankful it was not Rahul Gandhi who was causing the commotion this time.