New Delhi, May 23: Narendra Modi is understood to have asked his former chief principal secretary, K. Kailasanathan, to shortlist 12 IAS officers the Prime Minister-elect might wish to appoint in “critical” posts at the Centre.
A parallel exercise to sift and pick bureaucrats has kicked in along with the “consultations” Modi has been holding with BJP leaders Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Nitin Gadkari to put in place his council of ministers.
The need to fortify the Centre’s steel frame of bureaucracy acquired a sense of urgency because of a perception that the erstwhile UPA government had accommodated its alleged favourites in key posts in its last days. “In the process, the former dispensation has put a question mark on the neutrality of these officers,” an official said.
Whether the UPA did so or not, a regime change invariably brings with it a bureaucratic makeover. If Atal Bihari Vajpayee went out of his way to pack the bureaucracy with officers from the Uttar Pradesh cadre, indications are Modi might initially go in for those from Gujarat because of the familiarity factor.
Arvind Sharma, who has been Modi’s additional principal secretary since 2001, is already in Delhi and is expected to function as his principal secretary.
Official sources in Gandhinagar described Sharma as Modi’s “ideal” officer. “One who is in sync with his boss’s ideas and has the drive to execute them,” an officer said, recalling that as the CEO of the Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board, Sharma had implemented Modi’s special investment zones.
Possibly winging their way into the PMO from Gandhinagar are Girish Chandra Murmu and Hasmukh Adhia, IAS officers of the 1985 and 1981 batches. Adhia, who has five years before he retires, reportedly sought a clear job profile before considering relocation.
It seems some officers Modi was personally keen on were not sure how they would cope with the “demands” of Delhi or function in its power-packed corridors.
But, the sources pointed out, Bharat Lal, an officer of the Indian Forest Service, should have no such reservations. He has been the Gujarat government’s resident commissioner since 2010 and worked as Modi’s point person in the capital, interacting with power centres and diplomats.
Lal had also worked in the UPA’s first regime with Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, the former rural development minister, on implementing MGNREGA, the rural job programme. He is expected to move into Modi’s PMO.
In assembling a core team of officials known to him in the administration, Modi has signalled that his PMO would be the nodal point of governance just like his CMO in Gandhinagar was. In Gujarat, this did not mean overt centralisation or micro-management; rather the team of officials tried to ensure that systems were followed at each stage without interference or impediments.
Sources in the bureaucracy in Delhi claimed that the much-needed “trust” quotient Modi would need to function effectively might take longer to settle in than he would expect. “Ten years of the UPA rule have created a strong block of partisans in the bureaucracy, who discreetly profess allegiance to the Congress. Weaning away their loyalties might take a long time,” a source said.
Shortly before the election results were announced, some appointments were made. They include A.B. Pandya, who was appointed as chairman of the Central Water Commission; Bhagwati Prasad Pandey, additional secretary and financial adviser, commerce and industry; Lov Verma, secretary, health and family welfare; and Shankar Agarwal, secretary, women and child development.