HYDERABAD: Speculation is rife about the new Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh, with the three-month extended term of incumbent Adityanath Das ending on September 30.
Contrary to expectations, Das may not press for another three months and may instead take up an advisory role in the irrigation department.
According to sources, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy was of the view that Das, with his vast experience in the irrigation department, where he worked for almost a decade, could be immensely resourceful in the crucial phase of inter-state river dispute with Telangana state.
This will leave the field open for senior bureaucrats and the surprising entry into the race is that of Ajay Sawhney, who is currently secretary, IT, at the Centre.
His wife Nilam Sawhney has served as Chief Secretary earlier; post-retirement she was the State Election Commissioner. Ajay joined then Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s CMO in 2014 with great fanfare but left within no time for Central deputation.
Sources said the senior bureaucrat evinced an interest to return to the state and take up the coveted post. A powerful bureaucrat in the present dispensation, who earlier lobbied for another blue-eyed official of Naidu — Satish Chandra — is said to have switched the choice.
In case Ajay Sawhney misses the bus, those in contention would be Chief Commissioner of Land Administration Neerab Kumar Prasad and Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) executive officer K.S. Jawahar Reddy. While a lobby in the ruling party tried to push the candidature of special Chief Secretary, municipal administration, Y. Srilakshmi, sources said that the Chief Minister was not keen as she had five more years in service and could be accommodated sometime later.
Sources also said that the powerful bureaucrat moved a novel idea of replacing chief secretaries every six months so as to keep most aspirants in good humour. “As such the role of CS has shrunk,” he is said to have commented before some officials.
Neerab Kumar has maintained a low profile all through his career and maintains an equidistance with all dispensations. Another senior bureaucrat, Poonam Malakondaiah, may not be considered at all due to allegations of large-scale corruption during her stint in the health department. A proposal to initiate an Anti-Corruption Bureau inquiry against her is pending with the Chief Minister.
Jawahar Reddy held several important positions and was picked by the Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy for the CMO at the beginning of his second term. Rajasekhar Reddy died before formally issuing the orders. Jawahar Reddy got into CMO within a few months and remained there till 2014.
Jawahar Reddy left his mark by effectively handling Covid-19 containment operations and was called by the Chief Minister to deal with the second wave containment even after he had moved out of the health department to the TTD. He will be in service till the end of Jagan Mohan Reddy’s tenure in 2024.