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Chaturvedi ahead in finance secretary race

New Delhi, May 4: Petroleum secretary B. K. Chaturvedi is tipped to succeed S. Narayan as finance secretary when he retires this June.

Sources said Cabinet secretary Kamal Pande has been in touch with finance minister Jaswant Singh with a list of possible candidates. Chaturvedi has emerged as the most likely choice. Others in the race are commerce secretary Dipak Chatterjee, company affairs secretary Vinod Dhall and industry secretary N. Narad.

Chatterjee is the senior-most among all the aspirants and is highly regarded by the Prime Minister’s Office, but he may not find favour with Singh as the two have different styles of functioning. Dhall has piloted the Company’s Act amendments successfully but top ministry sources said he, too, may fail to make the grade. Narad is considered too junior to be a serious contender.

Chaturvedi has served in the finance ministry earlier, looking after banking and insurance and is believed to have handled the non-performing assets and weak banks’ restructuring effectively. However, whoever is finally selected is unlikely to be allowed to also hold the post of secretary, economic affairs, a position that Narayan concurrently held.

Jaswant Singh has already appointed a favourite, Ashok Lahiri, as chief economic advisor with the rank of secretary and is unlikely to let anyone who comes in to be his departmental boss. He is believed to favour taking on a finance secretary whose job will be to oversee the secretaries or secretary-level officers heading the main departments — revenue, expenditure and economic affairs — and not one who will try to direct the running of each department in detail.

Narayan, the current finance secretary, is tipped to either take over as head of the yet-to-be-set up Pension Development Regulatory Authority or as India’s ambassador to the European Union. The current incumbent P. K. Singh is likely to return in the third quarter of this year. Earlier, the government has posted people with finance and economic backgrounds as India’s ambassador to the EU.

Revenue secretary C. S. Rao is retiring and the officers tipped to succeed him are current banking secretary Vineeta Rai and expenditure secretary D. C. Gupta.

Singh is now in the midst of a restructuring of the finance ministry, where several departments, such as insurance and banking, are likely to be axed and reduced in size even as he takes on other divisions handling such issues as foreign direct investment promotion, WTO negotiations and economic and financial publicity and advertisement (both for domestic and foreign audience).

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