The Budget Team
The appointment of Arvind Subramanian as chief economic advisor finally put an end to the speculation in Delhi. The Government has also made many changes, including appointing reform engine, Rajasthan IAS officer Rajiv Mehrishi as economic affairs secretary, among nine other secretary-level changes. The intent, say observers, is to push for major economic reforms. The changes have put in place an entirely new team of babus at the Finance Ministry, who will be in charge of preparing next year’s Union Budget. This happened even though his former boss, the pugnacious Vasundhara Scindia, Chief Minister of Rajasthan, was not quite willing to relinquish his services.
Mayaram’s exit was expected since he was seen as being identified with the UPA Government though the new FM was agreeable enough. Modi has shown that he is not keen on holding on to the detritus of his predecessor’s regime. And on the plus side, it is said, that Mehrishi enjoys a comfort with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, with whom he’s worked in the previous NDA Government. Now at least three of the five secretaries and the chief economic advisor are Modi appointees. They will have to deliver the dreams that Modi has been promising.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh has been showing signs of a new assertiveness of late. Recently, Singh surprised babu-watchers by transferring 10 joint secretaries in one fell swoop. While it’s not clear whether the reshuffle was effected with the approval of the mighty Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), sources say that it is rare for a Home Minister to order a reshuffle of this scale. Rajnath, sources say, has reassigned positions which were held by IAS officers to IPS officers, a move that has naturally caused much heartburn among the IAS officers. A 1986-batch IPS officer M.A. Ganapathy, who has worked with Singh before as officer on special duty, will now head the Internal Security-1 division, which monitors terror organisations and drug trafficking. The IAS officer “ousted” by Ganapathy is Rakesh Singh, who will now look after the union territories. Curiously, one of the “unhappy” joint secretaries transferred by Singh, has a votary in secretary, border management, Sneh Lata Kumar, who is lobbying hard to retain the officer, described as “Man Friday”. Will Singh bend?
Babu vs Babu
Public spats between senior bureaucrats have become distressingly frequent in Karnataka, causing much embarrassment to Chief Minister Siddaramiah’s Government. The most recent episode, and by all accounts still ongoing, is the one involving 1996-batch IAS officer Rashmi V Mahesh, director-general of Administrative Training Institute in Mysore, and her predecessor Amita Prasad. The media has been going to town ever since Rashmi was attacked by some former employees of the institute. She has demanded a CBI probe into alleged financial irregularities at the institute during Ms Prasad’s tenure.
Sources also report that a spat between babus took place in the midst of a high-level meeting at the Chief Minister’s residence between additional chief secretary for commerce and industry, K. Ratna Prabha and the Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda and the CM’s additional chief secretary D.N. Narasimha Raju. An embarrased Siddaramiah later had to pacify the enraged babus! Clearly, such incidents don’t do the State Government any credit.