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Shuffle kicks off at the top with Pande exit

New Delhi, June 11: The Manmohan Singh government today appointed petroleum secretary B.K. Chaturvedi as cabinet secretary in place of Kamal Pande, who has been unceremoniously shown the door five months before he was due to retire.

The change of guard at the top of the bureaucratic heap is likely to be followed by a major reshuffle of secretaries.

Sources said home secretary Anil Baijal, who had taken charge towards the fag end of the NDA regime, may also be shunted out. Former finance secretary Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who is likely to visit Delhi soon, could be offered the job of finance adviser, currently held by Vijay Kelkar.

Chaturvedi, a 1966 batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre who was due to retire next month, has been appointed for a two-year term. He will take up the new assignment on Monday.

An official press release said the Prime Minister met several secretaries to the government of India before picking Chaturvedi.

With Chaturvedi’s elevation, the chances of Bengal chief secretary Ashok Gupta — who the Left was believed to be pushing — have come to a naught. Rajiv Ratan Shah, the secretary of the Planning Commission, has also missed the bus.

Gupta had met Manmohan recently, along with Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Sixty-one-year-old Pande was appointed cabinet secretary for two years on November 1, 2002, by the Vajpayee government.

But like his brother-in-law Vinod Pande — cabinet secretary during the V.P. Singh regime whose tenure was also cut short by a government change — before him, it seems he would be shunted to the Inter-State Council.

Chaturvedi had taken over the petroleum ministry two years ago. He was earlier banking secretary in the finance ministry and also served in the human resource development and commerce ministries.

A post-graduate in physics, Chaturvedi had a long stint as chairman of the State Trading Corporation as well.

A new round robin will now start on who will take over from Chaturvedi as the new petroleum secretary, considered a plum post.

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