The PM’s babus
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hugely successful “Presidential” style poll campaign is likely to translate into a Presidential style of Government, which in turn makes the Prime Minister’s Office even more important in the scheme of things. So, Modi’s new handpicked principal secretary Nripendra Misra will be the most powerful bureaucrat in the new regime, despite the fact that he has no Gujarat connection, which surprised some observers. The legal “hitch” in his appointment may turn out to be a mere trifle, but one fanned no doubt by hopefuls left out in the cold. Mishra, a UP cadre officer of the 1967 batch, is highly experienced and honest babu who retired as Chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) in 2009. He was Telecom Secretary in UPA-1 and a crucial witness in the 2G scam case.
Observers have been right that Modi will choose former Intelligence Bureau Chief Ajit Doval as his National Security Advisor. From the backrooms of intelligence work to the limelight has been a long journey for the former Kerala cadre IPS officer. The fact that both have been handpicked by Modi and vetted by his Delhi-understanding mantri, say insiders, indicate that power will continue to stem from the PMO and all major policy decisions will emanate from there, in future.
The BJP Government was off to a running start from the flawless swearing-in ceremony itself. It was a diplomatic challenge to host SAARC leaders invited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but the MEA rose to the occasion and pulled off a grand event that was virtually of the scale of a summit. Interestingly, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh roped in former Chief of Protocol Ruchira Kamboj from Paris to oversee protocol duties and micro-manage the event. The suave and graceful Ms Kamboj is a topper of the 1987 IFS batch, and had just moved to Paris as India’s Permanent Representative to UNESCO. Between her gruelling schedule she still found time to update her Twitter handle regularly with photos and activities about the event. In crusty babu form, Sujatha Singh followed up the flawless performance. She singed a few sensitive media feathers during her rare press conference post Modi’s meetings — brooking no silly queries and giving away very little. All in all, a great start for the IFS under new boss Sushma Swaraj.This impressive feat does however disguise the fact that the Indian Foreign Service often gets short shrift in the bureaucratic scheme. The MEA is hamstrung by a severe shortage of diplomats, to fully serve India’s global ambitions. India has only 800 foreign service officers when even smaller nations have many times that number. This was a good occasion for the IFS to remind the new Government about the issues they face.