The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Arjun shows Joshi loyalist the door

New Delhi, June 1: Murli Manohar Joshi loyalists are on their way out of the human resource development ministry.

His successor Arjun Singh has shunted out V.S. Pandey, a Joshi loyalist, signalling he is about to reshuffle a number of people appointed by the previous HRD minister.

Pandey, a joint secretary in charge of technical education, was instrumental in pushing through the IIM fee-cut proposal and increasing acrimony to the point that communication between the ministry and the Indian institutes of management broke down.

The joint secretary quarrelled with IIM Ahmedabad board members at a meeting hosted by them to discuss the fee cut. Pandey turned abrasive and threatened to strip the institute of its autonomy if it did not implement the Centre’s fee-cut order.

Singh has sent Pandey on a “compulsory wait” till he is transferred to another ministry – it is a minister’s prerogative to undertake a reshuffle of bureaucrats in his ministry.

Clearly in a hurry to move Pandey out, the HRD minister did not wait to find a slot for him in another ministry. Instead, the “compulsory wait” means the joint secretary will have to sit out till he finds a post elsewhere.

Singh provided a hint of what was to come when he kept Pandey out of yesterday’s crucial meeting between the HRD ministry and the six IIM directors.

From the day he has assumed office, Singh has said he will have to undo a lot of “damage” and clean the “mess” created by Joshi. He began the process yesterday by talking to the IIM directors and is now focusing on the bureaucracy.

Joshi: Out of favour

Singh is bringing his own “trusted men” to the ministry. Madhya Pradesh, his home state, seems to be replacing Joshi’s home turf of Allahabad in the bureaucratic echelons.

Sunil Kumar, personal secretary to Singh during his earlier tenure as HRD minister, has been brought to the education department as joint secretary. Kumar, from the Madhya Pradesh cadre, is likely to replace Pandey.

Sudeep Bannerjee, another Singh loyalist, who headed the National Literacy Mission during his earlier stint as minister, has returned to the ministry as additional secretary. Bannerjee, also from the Madhya Pradesh cadre, was in the agriculture ministry till now.

HRD ministry officials say Pandey’s exit was inevitable because he was the one who persuaded Joshi to take a hard stance against the IIMs. Many in the ministry believe the Centre-IIM stand-off could have been avoided had Joshi and Pandey begun a dialogue with the institute directors instead of shooting orders at them.

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