The late Chief Minister N.T. Rama Rao used to be very formal and respectful with his bureaucrats: “Good morning SP garu...” is how he would start his conversation with the district Superintendent of Police (SP) or with senior officers. Similarly, former Chief Ministers Kotla Vijayabhaskara Reddy and N. Janardhana Reddy were also formal and respectful in their interactions with their administrative and police heads.
Old-timers close to them recollect that unless the CMs knew an IAS or IPS officer personally, they would maintain formal respectfulness in their conversations. When meeting known babus in private, however, they would address them by their names.
This was the case with the late Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) and former AP chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, and is also so with the current Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR). While YSR and Naidu have always been noted to be respectful in their interactions in the public-using the word garu or ji after the name or designation of the official they’d be interacting with. KCR has been known to affectionately call officers and trusted aides much younger to him by their first names. With seniors and those close to him, he would, however, also make it a point to add the respectful garu or ji without fail.
Unlike those above, however, and as if creating a legacy of his own, the AP Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, the youngest of all chief ministers since the united AP, seems to have ushered in a new trend as he publicly and privately addresses his team of bureaucrats with an anna (elder brother) after the name, following it up with a gentle smile.
Ever since he has taken oath, Jagan has been super busy conducting endless review meetings, in which he refers to all his bureaucrats as anna. For instance, Chief Secretary L.V. Subrahmanyam is Subrahmanyam anna, and DGP Gautam Sawang is Gautam anna. The development had initially come as a surprise to many babus.
Many in the bureaucracy believe that this is Jagan anna’s style of according respect to the bureaucrats and building a family-like bond and camaraderie between him and his babus. But some others think that it is Jagan’s lack of experience and age — he is a first-time Chief Minister and younger to many in the bureaucracy — which makes him address them as anna.
Checking on man-management skills
However, some have plainly discounted this tradition, stating how a chief minister is allowed to refer to his bureaucrats simply by the person’s name, or by adding a ‘Mr’ or ‘Ms’ — which makes it sound more official and professional. “The Chief Minister has every right to call his bureaucrats by name. In fact, bureaucrats are provided to a chief minister to carryout the priorities, as fixed by the CM in the public interest. Building rapport or camaraderie may not be necessary as the roles are well-defined,” shares former IAS officer Dinesh Kumar.
Another senior official who had worked with Jagan’s father (YSR), but wishes to remain anonymous, remembers how the late CM used to address all bureaucrats with a garu following their name. “Some officials he knew since his younger days, he’d call them by their name, but that in private. I think Jagan addresses his officials as anna as his top bureaucrats are obviously several years older to him. He is, after all, the youngest CM in all of the unite AP. That being said, he can simply use garu or ‘Mr’ to their names. There’s no need to call them anna as that becomes way too informal and may not augur well for the state administration. I’ve never come across a single instance when his father had referred to any bureaucrat as anna,” says the official.
The bureaucratic afterthought
Adding to the thought is former IPS officer from the Andhra Pradesh cadre of the 1981 batch, Vivek Dube. “Frankly speaking, in day-to-day administration, officers should be nameless. For example, if someone’s occupying the post of a Collector, he should be addressed only as ‘Mr Collector’. In fact, ‘Mr SP’, ‘Mr DGP’, or ‘Mr Chief Secretary’ is the appropriate way to refer to the bureaucrats,” says Vivek.