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‘Daredevil’ in dock again
- suspension looms over ias officer who sheltered sushil

Ahmedabad, Nov. 4: IAS officer D.K. Rao must be ruing the day he gave shelter to Sushil Sharma, who has been found guilty of killing his wife and roasting her body in a tandoor.

But the tide had already turned for the blue-eyed boy of chief minister Narendra Modi long before additional sessions judge G.P. Thareja brought the gavel down on the murder case yesterday and also ordered his prosecution.

The 1980-batch Gujarat cadre officer, considered close to Modi till the other day, was recently removed from his post of managing director of the state tourism development corporation.

But controversies are not new to Rao, who was resident commissioner in Delhi in 1995 when Sharma took shelter in Gujarat Bhavan after killing his wife Naina Sahni.

If Rao’s brush with notoriety began in 1995, the succeeding years saw him lurch from one controversy to another. In 1996, he was suspended for alleged involvement in an embezzlement case in Visakhapatnam port trust. The probe is still on.

When Suresh Mehta became Gujarat chief minister, he reinstated Rao and appointed him deputy municipal commissioner of Surat. Not many were pleased. Although dynamic and efficient, many saw Rao as an officer who lacked honesty.

When Keshubhai Patel returned to power in 1998, Rao was transferred to an insignificant post as editor of the district gazetteer. After Modi dislodged Patel, Rao was back in favour. He was made managing director of the state handloom development corporation and then of the export corporation.

Sources said till recently, Modi thought highly of the “daredevil” officer. Rao was made in-charge of relief camps in minority-dominated areas of Ahmedabad. What impressed the chief minister most was Rao’s persuasive skills that he used to the hilt to make relief camp organisers wind them up so that the state government could claim that normality had been restored — a pre-condition set by the Election Commission for holding Assembly polls.

A grateful Modi gave him additional charge of MD, tourism corporation. Rao, whose brief was to seek investment during the just-concluded Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit, hogged the limelight as the most approachable officer.

His luck turned soon after. His immediate boss, D. Rajagopalan, principal secretary (industry), complained against Rao following serious differences. Sources said it was merely an ego clash, but chief secretary P.K. Lahari sided with Rajagopalan. Rao was stripped of not only the additional charge of tourism, but was also removed from the export corporation.

He was awaiting a new posting, when the court’s order came. He now faces imminent suspension. A senior official in Modi’s office said “appropriate action” would be taken after studying the order.

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