Heightened tension along the LOC is not the only thing on the mind of bureaucrats in Jammu and Kashmir. Observers say that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has given the nod to appoint Iqbal Khanday as the State’s new Chief Secretary. Once confirmed, the 1978-batch IAS officer will become the fifth Kashmiri Chief Secretary of J&K after Vijay Bakaya, Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, Nasrullah and Noor Mohammad.
As in the recent Cabinet reshuffle by Abdullah which has left quite a few netas sulking, sources say, not many babus are happy with Mr Abdullah’s choice. Although Khanday is the senior-most official in the State, there were at least two other claimants for the position, namely Anil Goswami and Pankaj Jai, both of whom are on Central deputation. Khanday, however, is considered close to the Chief Minister, who will need his administrative skills in the run-up to the State assembly elections next year. In fact this factor may have finally tipped the scales in Khanday’s favour.
FM’s New Team
It’s not often that the Finance Ministry brings in new faces in the team busy working on preparing the Union Budget barely a month before the event. But Finance Minister P Chidambaram has done just that. The surprise here is that financial services secretary D.K. Mittal will not be given a month’s extension to complete the Budget work and will retire Jan-end. He was also holding the additional responsibility of the Department of Investment.
The new members of Chidambaram’s Budget ‘A’ Team are Ravi Mathur, as Secretary of Disinvestment and Rajiv Takru as Mittal’s successor. While eyebrows were raised at the timing of this new decision, and the fact that both IAS officers have no previous experience in the Finance Ministry, observers are waiting to see if Chidambaram springs any more pre-Budget surprises!
Babu’s Protest Makes Waves
One does not usually associate bureaucrats with ‘protest’. But in Maharashtra, a senior officer has gone on indefinite ‘protest’ leave after being unceremoniously relieved from his position by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan allegedly at the behest of a senior NCP leader. Former Excise Department head and Additional Chief Secretary Anand Kulkarni took this unprecedented step to protest political interference in the discharge of his duties.
Naturally the episode is an embarrassment for the image-conscious Chief Minister, since Kulkarni’s protest has evoked keen interest and debate among the state’s babus. Though Principal Secretary Sumit Mullick is now holding the fort for Kulkarni, babus are upset at the humiliation of one of the senior most officials. Sources say that the State IAS association is planning to meet Chavan to sort out the issue.