The last occasion I was in a meeting with a Chief Minister was sometime back in the year 2013. In this post that I am holding at the Secretariat I get to sit in meetings held at the level of the Chief Minister though not regularly. It is only when some kind of a disaster happens that we have such meetings. I even attended a meeting of the Uttarakhand Chief Minister in Dehra Dun where I was sent after the floods in Kedarnath. However, after formation of Telangana I hadn’t had the opportunity to attend any meeting with the Chief Minister. A couple of weeks ago I missed a meeting on the drought because I was stuck in traffic. However last week I managed to be a meeting with the Chief Minister in his official chamber in the Secretariat where only a select few are allowed.
One gets a feeling of dread as well as a feeling of excitement when meeting the Chief Minister. One gets to see the top man in action and also see how capable he is. One CM during a meeting after one particularly ghastly road accident involving a Volvo bus had us dumbfounded with a question he asked. He had asked, ‘What is the velocity of the injuries?’ Some quick thinking by a senior officer present spared the CM from embarrassment. On an earlier occasion the same CM had asked what IMD stood for. (India Meteorological Department)
Anyway, a little more than a fortnight ago a team of officials from the Centre had visited the State to tour the drought affected areas. After their visits to the districts they had to make a courtesy call on the CM. I had wondered if I could tag along the team for the meeting with the CM. I was waiting for such an opportunity to come face to face with the CM. Here I must confess that I am more than a bit overawed by the Chief Minister (Sri K. Chandrasekhara Rao) not because he is the CM because he happens to be a self-confessed voracious reader among other things. That and the fact that he has single handedly achieved the state of Telangana. I wanted to see him in person and listen to him talk. On an earlier occasion I had wished him when he passed a few feet away from where I was standing.
On the chosen day we were told that the appointment with the CM was at five in the evening. I almost did not make it when the security person at the door of the CM’s chamber did not let me inside. Everyone had gone inside and I was stopped. As luck would have it a senior official came out. There is one habit that I have that came in good use then. I always make it a point to wish senior officials I know by name though they may have no idea who I was. I guess this officer recognized me and told the security person to let me in. When I stepped inside the CM’s chamber I saw that everyone was already seated. The CM lifted up his head when he saw me enter. I greeted him with folded palms and after he acknowledged my greeting with a nod I noiselessly took my seat at the very back.
In the nearly half hour meeting I got the chance to confirm for myself some of the things I had heard about the Chief Minister. I had heard that the CM studies everything about an issue in great depth before speaking on it. So when he explained some of the strategies (Short term and long term) for managing the drought in the country I was surprised how clear he was about what he was talking about. During my five years in this Department I hadn’t met anyone who had such a clear idea regarding tackling drought.
What happened next revealed that the CM indeed is a well-read person. Of course, there were books on the table before him. Someone talked about cloud seeding and another person said that potassium nitrate was used in Cloud seeding. I thought something was wrong about the discussion. Before I could realize what it was the CM in a calm voice corrected the person saying that it was ‘silver iodide’ that was used in cloud seeding and not potassium nitrate. There was embarrassed silence among the officers present. I could count at least two officers who were IIT grads.
I had also heard that the CM was a gracious host and I had also seen on TV how he receives his guests. In earlier such meetings of other Chief Ministers even as the meeting was going on uniformed waiters with trays piled high with snacks and beverages would enter the hall and start putting the plates on the table before each participant. There was no choice and you had to eat and drink whatever was offered.
But that day the CM asked the leader of the Government of India team, ‘Aap kya lenge? Tea, Coffee, buttermilk or coconut water?’ Only after knowing what each guest wanted did he ring the bell to call his personal attendant and tell him what the guests wanted. That’s how I ended up having coffee with the Chief Minister. However I couldn’t help noticing that there weren’t any bookshelves in the CM’s room that had a simple décor save a wall sized TV screen.
It was a rare treat watching the CM brief the visiting officers about the power, irrigation, drinking water situation in the state. He also told them what the Government was doing for the citizens of the newest state of the country. I could see that the guests were impressed with the CM’s knowledge and his speech. I was also very pleased that I got the opportunity to sit in the meeting. I was more pleased when I saw myself in a photo of the meeting that appeared the next day on the front page of almost all the vernacular papers.