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No pretence in pariah order

New Delhi, June 20: The personal staff of UPA ministers are untouchable for ministers in the Narendra Modi government, it is official.

Less than 10 days after putting 18 private secretaries and officers on special duty to UPA ministers on “compulsory wait”, the Modi government last evening issued a circular that leaves no room for doubt.

“It has been decided by the competent authority that any officer/official/private person who has worked earlier in the staff of a minister in any capacity for any duration may not be appointed as personal staff of ministers in the present government,” the circular says.

The order was sent by the department of personnel and training, which reports to the PMO, to the joint secretaries (administration) of all ministries and departments.

It covers not just private secretaries or OSDs, but also telephone operators, assistants or stenographers attached. This is possibly the first time Union ministers have been told they can’t choose their personal staff.

The “competent authority” refers to the cabinet’s appointments committee, which includes the Prime Minister and home minister Rajnath Singh. Essentially, all appointments will be routed through the PMO.

The circular has upset officials, especially those in the middle and lower ranks, who feel that the bureaucracy, the permanent government, has lost faith of its Prime Minister.

Rajnath, who had appointed IPS officer Alok Kumar Singh as his private secretary, will have to let him go. Nitesh Jha, a 2002 Uttarakhand cadre IAS officer will take over.

Rajnath’s deputy Kiren Rijiju’s OSD, IPS officer Abhinav Kumar, will be replaced by Vikas Anand, a 2002 batch IPS officer.

Alok Singh was attached to former external affairs minister Salman Khurshid while Kumar was with former minister of state for HRD Shashi Tharoor.

Since June 10, when the 14 IAS and four IPS officers were put on “compulsory wait”, over 40 civil services officers retained by NDA ministers have been told to wait for another assignment.

However, some ministers had hoped against a blanket ban. Sources said HRD minister Smriti Irani had met Modi to ask if she could retain Vinita Shrivastava, whom she had appointed as OSD. Shrivastava was earlier attached to UPA’s steel minister Beni Prasad Verma.

But Modi has made it clear there won’t be a rethink.