Civil Servants are veins and nerves of public administration. Whatever government or whichever political party remains in seat of power, it is the civil servants who implement all the policies. In that sense the civil servants convert political mandate of the government into reality.
While acting as agents and managers of progress and happiness or upholding the constitution of the country and rule of law, at times they might face conflict and confrontation with the political masters whose prime aim is to cajole their constituencies. But for the civil servants the national interest and the public interest are supreme. They are brain and eyes, legs and hands of public administration. They are obliged to follow the government instructions, but no government and political party is greater than the constitution of India and people of the country are the ultimate sovereigns. The civil servants are obliged to maintain their allegiance to the constitution of India and they are answerable to the people for what they do, in howsoever indirect manner.
Politicians, who enjoy people's mandate, form the government. They are generally expected to represent people's aspirations, who are the ultimate sovereigns. In as much as the civil servants have to act according to instructions of their political masters who supposedly represent people's aspirations, the civil servants convert political mandate into reality. The governments are formed on the basis of mandate which they get from the people through voting. People vote on the basis of election manifestos of the political parties. The manifestos give a reflection what the political party would do for development, welfare and happiness of the people, if they are returned to power. When a political party forms a government, it endeavours to implement the policies which would achieve the goals mentioned by it in its manifesto. The civil servants are instructed accordingly and they frame and implement these policies. Thus it is the civil servants who convert the political mandate into reality. But their freedom is not absolute and at times they are constrained by their political masters, financial constraints and even lack of trust of people.
However, the role of civil servants is not just implementing the political mandate of the ruling party. Civil servants should be obedient and compliant to their political bosses. But their role does not end there. They are the custodians of public interest and national interest. They are experienced, knowledgeable, trained and educated for administration. As compared to voters and politicians, the civil servants are more aware of the priorities and challenges of the country and ways and means to achieve the priorities by overcoming challenges. It is true that political mandate may not be as educated and enlightened as the civil servants are about the society, history, geography and priorities of the country and provisions of constitution and laws of the country. The Civil servants have to put forth the constitutional provision and legal-institutional framework before their political masters, gauge possibilities and constraints in framing and implementing the policies and suggest ways and means to realize the goals and overcome the constraints.
If there is any deviation from established norms and standards, public interest and national interest etc., the civil servants have to act as whistle blowers or vigilance officers. They can use their powers driven from the constitution of India and legal-institutional framework to control the damage if political masters deviate from public interest and national interest. It is because of this reason that civil servants have to be taken into confidence according to the existing provisions for implementing development and welfare policies at district level so far as MPs local area development fund or programmes implemented by the Panchayati Raj institutions is concerned.
Civil servants act as the think tanks of the government. They also have the power to call experts to the service of government if required. If the government in place and the political masters are not able to frame development and welfare policies on their own, the civil servants give the right advice or call experts for the same. In no case, the civil servants are supposed to allow their political bosses to do anything and everything on whims and temper, simply because they have political mandate.
It must, however, be emphasized that the civil servants have to remain neutral to politics and political parties. Governments and political parties come and go, but the civil servants have a well-defined and stable tenure. The civil servants signify continuity and immortality of government as an institution. They implement government policies immaterial of who is in the seat of power. But they ensure that the medium and long term programmes and policies started even during the regime of the earlier governments are completed and reach fruition. The agreements, treaties with foreign governments, arrangement with state governments and welfare and development programmes are continued in an uninterrupted manner as long as there is no change done by an executive order or a legislative change. The civil servants are masters behind the curtain so far as policy formation is concerned. They are like soldiers of the army as far as implementation of development and welfare policies are concerned. They are on the striker's end in implementation of the policies. But decisions are taken by the political masters- the executive and the legislature. It can be said that the civil servants change the political mandate in reality without being part of any political party.