Giving extensions or re-employing retiring babus has been one of the hallmarks of the UPA regime. While the ‘loyalists’ are understandably happy to stick around, the practice causes much heartburn in babu circles, especially among those who are eligible and are angling for senior positions. This situation has raised its head at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) these days, after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reportedly allowed extension to at least six senior IFS officers.
Among the beneficiaries of the PMO’s decision are S. Jaishankar, Indian ambassador to China, who will now move to Washington DC in the same role; Ranjan Mathai, former Foreign Secretary who is likely to move as High Commissioner to UK; Ashok Kantha, currently Secretary East who is due to retire in 2015 but has been given an year’s extension; P.S. Raghavan, Additional Secretary, who was to retire in 2015 but is being sent as ambassador to Russia for a two-year term from the date he joins.
Naturally other IFS officers are peeved, since some of them now could end up being denied becoming ambassadors in top diplomatic missions. But keeping a stiff upper lip is probably the best they can do at the moment.
A Tough Call
The selection of a Chief Secretary of a State is usually a careful exercise, since the top babu has to enjoy the complete confidence of the Chief Minister. But sometimes the activity becomes particularly taxing, as Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has learnt. The current Chief Secretary S.V. Ranganath is on the verge of retiring, and most people expected 1979-batch IAS officer L.V. Nagarajan to succeed him. Nagarajan is chairman of the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation, but surprisingly opted out of the race for “personal reasons”. While this has thrown open the race to other babus, Nagarajan’s decision has made the going more difficult for the Chief Minister. Among those who are now eligible for the top post are Kaushik Mukherjee, Aravind Jadhav, Anup K. Poojari and Upendra Tripathi, among others, but sources say that some of these officers are not keen on the post. Also, it is being said that Mr Siddaramaiah wants to consider only those babus who are not seen to be close to the previous BJP Government, which of course, many of those eligible anyway are not.
Eyebrows are being raised at the Home Ministry’s reported decision to repatriate Loknath Behera, Inspector General in the National Investigating Agency (NIA) to his parent cadre, Kerala, just when the officer is in the midst of the crucial interrogation of Indian Mujahideen founder Yasin Bhatkal who was nabbed recently. In the fraught political climate that prevails today, the removal of a key senior officer from an important investigation is obviously going to raise awkward questions.
Interestingly the Director General of NIA Sharad Kumar claims he has not received any news of this development. But sources say that Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde reportedly approved Behera’s repatriation following ‘complaints’ from other investigation agencies about the officer’s supposed ‘indiscretions’. One can only hope this is not another move that could backfire on the Government.