| Anjani Kumar Singh and Deepak Kumar. Pictures by Deepak Kumar
Patna, June 26: The appointment of Anjani Kumar Singh as the next chief secretary of Bihar has the clear stamp of Nitish Kumar’s continued grip on the government of Jitan Ram Manjhi.
Singh, an IAS officer of the 1981 batch, was previously principal secretary to the chief minister from August 2012 onwards. Singh served Nitish until he resigned as chief minister on May 17.
Singh will take over the reins as chief secretary from July 1 after the incumbent, Ashok Kumar Sinha, retires.
Deepak Kumar, an officer of the 1984 batch who was officer on special duty in the chief minister’s office under Nitish, will be the principal secretary to chief minister Manjhi. “The message is that Nitish Kumar still wields power and Manjhi is a figurehead,” said a senior IAS officer, who spoke under cover of anonymity.
Manjhi has had to face the barb of being a “remote-controlled CM” hurled by the BJP. The attacks sharpened after Abhayanand was removed as director-general of police a few days ago, ostensibly because he doesn’t enjoy the trust of Lalu Prasad, with whose party Nitish is mulling a “grand alliance” against the BJP.
BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi has already alleged that Abhayanand was moved at the behest of Lalu. He even alleged that officials belonging to a particular caste were being targeted and shunted out from their posts.
The bureaucratic shuffle has been welcomed by some sections of the intelligentsia, among them economist Shaibal Gupta.
“It seems civil service nightmare in Bihar will be over now. For a long period, the state was subjected to anti-poor, anti-Dalit, and anti-backward caste diabolical rampage by coterie of civil servants both in the all-India and state services. It is ironic that while the ruling political dispensation in Bihar was not only future driven, but also extremely sensitive towards the trials and tribulations of the marginals, in contrast, the powerful coterie always tried to nullify the agenda of inclusion. Any government that is not mindful in the selection of socially sensitive civil servants will go into electoral and political oblivion. That aside, this refreshing change is most welcome, and we hope that this will mark a new chapter in Bihar's resurgence,” said Gupta, member-secretary Asian Development Research Institute.
However, it is the elevation of Anjani Singh which is causing heartburn in the top echelons of the bureaucracy. “Anjani has bypassed eight to nine IAS officials who were senior to him. It sends a wrong message to the officials that only those who are close to power can become chief secretary. The seniormost IAS officer has to enjoy the respect of all officials, civil and police. Anjani Singh’s elevation has eroded the authority of the chief secretary’s office,” said a retired IAS officer, who too didn’t want to be named.
The elevation of Singh as chief secretary coincides with other senior IAS officers being shunted to “lesser posts”. Development commissioner Alok Kumar Sinha, a 1979 batch officer who was tipped to be the chief secretary, has been made the chief advisor in the state planning board — a body seen as a shunting yard for unwanted IAS officers. Narendra Kumar Sinha of the 1980 batch, who was principal secretary, IT, has been made advisor in the same department. Another senior IAS officer of the 1980 batch, Manoj Kumar Srivastava, has been kept as departmental enquiry advisor.
“The keyword for posts like that of the chief secretary is that the occupant should be competent and a performer. Anjani Kumar Singh’s competence has never been questioned. However, there are a couple of senior IAS officers who are as competent as he is,” said another IAS officer.
Even during the Lalu-Rabri era, Mukund Prasad, a powerful official who remained principal secretary to the chief minister for a long period, was elevated to the post of chief secretary. “But even Prasad waited for his seniors to become chief secretary and became chief secretary when he became the seniormost officer. It is another matter that he called the shots even when he was principal secretary to the chief minister,” the IAS officer said.