A Big Vacuum
The quiet exit of the brilliant Nehchal Sandhu, Deputy National Security Advisor, “for personal reasons” more than 20 months ahead of his scheduled departure, took many by surprise. While it is being seen as part of Modi sarkar’s ongoing purge of UPA appointees in the uppermost echelons of the Government, whispers suggest that Sandhu quit because in a rare display of esprit de corps — out of loyalty to two other colleagues (who incidentally were UPA appointees) who retired from the National Security Council Secretariat — Ajit Lal, Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Council (JIC) and Lt General (retired) Prakash Menon, military adviser to the NSA.
Apparently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was rather keen to retain Sandhu’s services, especially as Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor, was also keen but Sandhu had clearly made up his mind to put in his papers. Reportedly, Modi even gave him a commendation letter, praising the former Intelligence Bureau director. Clearly, Sandhu’s successor and former IFS officer Arvind Gupta has some big shoes to fill.
A Comeback Tale
It’s a remarkable comeback from the being out in the cold to becoming Chief Secretary. And all in a matter of four years! When Prithviraj Chavan became Chief Minister of Maharashtra four years ago, among his first steps was to remove 1980-batch IAS officer Swadheen Kshatriya from the post of Municipal Commissioner, a decision that shocked many at the time, since Kshatriya was known as a good administrator. Observers believed that his career was as good as over. But the babu belied expectations by impressing his political masters as Revenue Secretary, where he reportedly ushered in many innovative citizen-friendly schemes. Still, many are surprised that Chavan ignored the seniority principle in selection of the new Chief Secretary after the retirement of G.S. Saharia, and chose to name a babu who he had once removed rather unceremoniously four years ago. It’s a comeback that will probably be remembered a long time in Maharashtra’s babu corridors.
Days Gone By
It is turning out to be a season for washing dirty linen, going by the spate of memoirs about the goings on in high places. And even before these fade from the public glare, there are rumours of more “set-the-record-straight” and “tell-all” accounts to come. But there is another recently released memoir, which largely escaped public attention, but promises to enjoy a longer shelf-life than today’s “best-sellers”. Former civil servant and a giant of the sprawling public sector, V. Krishnamurthy’s book “At the Helm: A Memoir” is not just the account of a professional public sector manager’s life but a veritable ringside view of the growth of the public sector and Krishnamurthy’s ascent to become the nation’s most powerful technocrat in the Indira and Rajiv Gandhi era. Krishnamurthy successfully steered public sector giants like BHEL, SAIL and Maruti (he was the first chairman of India’s largest car company). His tale should be essential reading for not just babus and all those who want to understand times before we awoke to economic liberalisation.