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Babus on toes, in ‘rehearsal’ mode

New Delhi, May 21: The bureaucracy and the security establishment appear to have modified the way they work even before the new government takes charge.

Cabinet secretary Ajit Kumar Seth today held a “rehearsal” with secretaries of key departments on presentations they will make to the Narendra Modi-led government. Modi will take oath on Monday.

Seth and home secretary Anil Goswami have already met the Prime Minister-designate with a few “talking points”. Today’s presentations were detailed accounts of what was done so far coupled with the “vision” for the next five years. “It was a rehearsal today,” said a senior official.

Former home secretary G.K Pillai had recently said the former Gujarat chief minister was known to “work through the bureaucracy” and that his first act as Prime Minister could be to hold a meeting with secretaries and chief ministers.

Usually, presentations of the kind seen today are made after ministers assume charge of their departments. However, given the BJP’s stunning mandate and Modi’s reputation of being a hard taskmaster, the bureaucracy in the capital appeared to have walked the extra mile.

This afternoon’s presentations included those by the secretaries of the home, telecom, rural development and the HRD ministries, sources said. Their presentations, however, appeared to be for Modi alone as the composition of his cabinet seems known only to the Prime Minister-designate so far.

Home secretary Goswami, for instance, dwelt on security challenges such as “revamping intelligence agencies” and a proposal for the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley.

Another issue was the progress in talks with Northeast insurgent groups like the NSCN and Ulfa. Goswami’s dossier was dressed up with phrases like “zero-tolerance to terrorism” — points mentioned in the BJP manifesto.

The anti-terror National Investigation Agency too seemed to have taken a cue. It made the unusual gesture of calling a news conference to announce the arrest of four suspected Simi operatives over the blasts before Modi’s Patna rally last October. The agency hasn’t held such a media briefing in over two years.

NIA boss Sharad Kumar’s statement that the suspects were plotting to “harm Modiji” indicated why the agency chose to announce the action as a “major success”. But in his enthusiasm, Kumar named one of the accused, a juvenile, on live TV in breach of norms that forbid minors and rape victims from being identified.

The telecom ministry too highlighted themes close to Modi’s party.

Its presentation, titled “Achievements and Action Plan”, had at least two slides dedicated to “items in the (BJP) manifesto”. These included establishing Wi-Fi facilities in public places and commercial centres.

Other issues included boosting mobile telephony in Maoist-infested areas and “accelerated implementation of National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) to create a high-speed digital highway for rural areas”. The network, too, is featured in the BJP manifesto.

The ministry also proposed a spectrum management policy to enable efficient and optimal use of the limited airwaves that drive cellphone services.

Seth is said to have asked the secretaries to prepare the dossiers after his recent meeting with Modi.