From being out in the cold to the hot seat of power Sarvesh Kaushal’s appointment as Chief Secretary highlights the dilemma of the Parkash Singh Badal Government in Punjab, which has been buffeted by accusations of “non-performance”. Appointing Kaushal to replace Rakesh Singh, who has proceeded on leave, it is hoped will send the right signal that the Government is keen to shed that image. Kaushal, a 1982-batch IAS officer, is considered a tough administrator and until recently was considered out of contention for the big posts. Sources say that his rehabilitation began when Badal appointed him Principal Secretary for irrigation, and where he was quite successful. However, Kaushal’s elevation to the top posts has shattered the hopes of many other contenders. Also he superseded officers like Sujata Dass, Kusumjit Sandhu, Himmat Singh and Anjuly Chob Duggal. How much of a game-changer he will be remains to be seen, but many hopes are resting on him to put the State administration back on track.
The Axe Effect
The purge continues. Having been battered first by the devastating Lok Sabha poll results in which the Samajwadi Party was routed and now buffeted by the stinging criticism of his administration over the alarming crime rate, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is trying to set things right. This, almost by default, means sacking or transferring bureaucrats. The first major change was appointing trusted aide Alok Ranjan as the State Chief Secretary replacing Jawed Usmani. Then came another round of mass transfers of cops and officials. But what has virtually shocked observers is the recent sacking of senior IAS officer Deepak Singhal from the post of Principal Secretary (Home) which he had been assigned just two weeks ago.
The CM’s axe has fallen on the top officer not because of the outcry over the failing law and order in UP but reportedly due to the babu’s alleged proximity to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Singhal has been replaced by Rakesh Bahadur, a tainted officer named as accused in the Noida plot allotment scam. Bahadur is the fifth Home Secretary in the little over two-year tenure of the Akhilesh regime. In Uttar Pradesh, the more things change the more they stay the same.
Politics Plays Spoiler
J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah may have issues with Dilli over the Modi Government’s policy on bureaucratic appointments but he may need to consider the long-pending vacancies in his own administration first. Sources say that at least six posts of administrative secretaries have been unoccupied for several months. They blame the lack of consensus among the ruling coalition partners, the National Conference and the Congress party. Key departments like rural development, school education and finance, among others, are functioning without full-time heads. Consequently, many secretary-level babus in J&K find themselves handling several departments. Higher Education Secretary S.M. Ahmad, who retires later this year, is also in-charge of Rural Development. Similarly, Principal Home Secretary Suresh Kumar is also looking after School Education. Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, B.B. Vyas, is holding charge of two departments. Sources point out many such examples. Surprisingly, while the State cabinet met thrice after the Lok Sabha elections, the Government has still not announced a single appointment, despite the urgency.