PC’s new team
It’s the first major overhaul at the Finance Ministry after P. Chidambaram took over as Finance Minister (FM), and sources say, it won’t be the last. Already the new FM has junked many of his predecessor’s policies. So some re-arrangement of responsibilities of senior finance babus was only to be expected.
Following his return to his favourite turf, Chidambaram made the brilliant and whistle-clean Expenditure Secretary Sumit Bose and Finance Secretary R.S. Gujral swap roles. Gujral had also looked after the Revenue Department, which now has been assigned to Bose. There is a lot of significance being attached to this move, since Gujral had presided over some controversial tax decisions.
Then there are other significant changes. Arvind Mayaram has replaced R. Gopalan as the new Economic Affairs Secretary. The Central Board of Direct Taxes is likely to be headed by Poonam Kishore Saxena while Praveen Mahajan is tipped to take over as Chairman of the Central Board of Excise and Customs. Meanwhile observers are betting on the Prime Minister’s confidante Raghuram Rajan to be the new Chief Economic Advisor replacing Kaushik Basu.
The government didn’t waste too much time in filling the Election Commissioner’s post after the elevation of V.S. Sampath as Chief Election Commissioner. Former Civil Aviation Ministry Secretary and 1976 batch UP cadre IAS officer. Syed Nasim Ahmad Zaidi. has been chosen to fill the vacant slot at Nirvachan Sadan.
Zaidi is not the only member of the UPA sarkar’s ‘post-retirement plan’. Former Home Secretary V.K. Duggal was recently appointed as member of the National Disaster Management Authority. This is his fourth assignment since retiring in March 2007. Former Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar is now heading the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) since May. Observers point out many more such examples. In Zaidi’s case, however, this does mean that he will have to give up his plan to campaign to get elected as Chairman of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Relief for babu
Pranab Mukherjee’s legacy is being erased rather quickly after the former Finance Minister moved to Rashtrapati Bhavan. And it’s not just his policies. Last year Pranabda’s babus had recommended action against former Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) member, K.M. Abraham, who had alleged that the then Advisor to the Finance Minister Ms. Omita Paul had tried to influence SEBI Chief. Abraham’s letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had naturally created a stir.
But there is relief for Abraham, a Kerala cadre IAS officer, since the Prime Minister has rejected the charges levelled by the Ministry against him. Curiously, Abraham’s file was returned to the Finance Ministry a day before the Presidential Elections when Pranab Mukherjee was no longer Finance Minister. Some may be tempted to speculate about this, but as far as Abraham is concerned, it was perfect timing!