Seth stays on
Those who expected Narendra Modi to name a new Cabinet Secretary were clearly not ready for this entirely. Ajit Seth, who was retiring this month, has been given a six-month extension, though the local cognoscenti had expected only three. His term will now end on December 13, 2014. Babu-watchers were busy trying to guess Seth’s probably successor from among a slew of contenders for the bureaucracy’s topmost position.
The extension to Seth certainly rules out the Himachal Pradesh cadre IAS officer and current Secretary of heavy industries Sutanu Behuria who was next in seniority to Seth. However, now with Seth staying firmly in saddle, Behuria will retire in the natural course next month. As to those now furiously trying to fathom why Seth was given yet another extension (he was already given a year’s extension by the previous Manmohan Singh Government), it does appear that Modi is keen to ensure continuity in the policy-making process and expects the Cabinet Secretariat to work in tandem with the Prime Minister’s Office. That’s clearly something many babus in the running for Seth’s kursi could not have foreseen coming, and an entire batch’s hopes get dashed.
With Narendra Modi moving to Race Course Road and widely expected to replicate the much-lauded “Gujarat model” across the country, it is inevitable that many bureaucrats in his State are going to be heading for the Capital on new assignments to assist him in the formidable task. As anticipated, it’s confirmed that two bureaucrats are going to join Modi’s team in the Prime Minister’s Office. While A.K. Sharma, a 1988-batch IAS officer of the Gujarat cadre, will be Joint Secretary, Hiren Joshi is the new Officer on Special Duty in the PMO.
Both babus worked closely with Modi in Ahmedabad during his Chief Ministership and are expected to play a major role in Modi’s new avatar. But babu observers say that Sharma and Joshi will soon be joined by other bureaucrats from the State. While speculation has been doing the rounds even before Modi was sworn in, most agree that the Prime Minister will continue to rely heavily on the team of bureaucrats he worked with for more than a decade in Gujarat.
Among others who are expected to move to the PMO are K Kailashnathan, a 1979 batch officer, who is Principal Chief Secretary to the Chief Minister; G.C. Murmu, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, and Vijay Nehra, a 2001-batch officer, who is Additional Secretary in the CMO. This, of course, unless Modi wants to leave some good hands to keep his Gujarat model running smoothly.