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Tripura in fix over official

Agartala, July 21: The Tripura government is on the horns of a dilemma over the appointment of the next chief secretary of the state.

The incumbent chief secretary, S.K. Panda, is leaving the state on August 1 to join as additional chief secretary in a central ministry.

He has, however, triggered a controversy by recommending the name of principal secretary Pravin Srivastava as the next chief secretary.

Official sources in the upper echelons of the administration said former commissioner of health and chief electoral officer Yashpal Singh, currently posted in New Delhi, was tipped to be the next chief secretary but Panda has recommended Srivastava’s name because of his seniority.

Though a final decision is yet to be taken, the administration is abuzz with speculation over the issue, as Srivastava was involved in a series of controversies during his tenure in Tripura.

During the counting of ballots for Maszidpur constituency in the 1988 Assembly polls, Srivastava as the district magistrate (West Tripura) and returning officer had allowed an unnecessary recounting of ballots after announcement of the results, bowing to pressure from the Congress leadership.

The ballots were “tampered” with while being recounted and finally CPM candidate Manik Dey (present power minister), who had won the seat by a margin of 463 votes, was shown to have lost it by more than 500 votes.

“This still rankles but he had acted under tremendous pressure from the high-ups in the Congress, so we do not hold him personally responsible for that fiasco,” said Haripada Das, CPM office secretary.

The state government will take an appropriate decision in the matter soon, he added.

But controversies surrounding Srivastava did not end with the poll recounting fiasco. In the nineties, he married a fellow IAS officer’s daughter even before obtaining divorce from his first wife. The matter was about to take an ugly turn but the two families met and sorted it out amicably.

Apart from this while posted as secretary to the governor in Raj Bhavan here, Srivastava had incurred a huge telephone bill, which was officially inquired into.

The probe found that the bill had resulted from Srivastava’s long telephone calls regularly to a lady employee in the postal department.

The matter was finally hushed up.

“This is an unseemly background which is likely to cast a shadow over the administration if Srivasava is finally appointed. How can an officer tainted by allegations be posted in the highest position in the administration?” a source in the state secretariat asked.

The final decision, however, will be taken by chief minister Manik Sarkar.