Dilip Cherian | Sukhu favourite emerges as HPâ€™s new chief secy
Prabodh Saxena has emerged as Himachal Pradesh chief minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu’s choice as the state’s new chief secretary, following the retirement of Ram Dass Dhiman, who has been named as the state chief information commissioner. Mr Saxena, a 1990-cadre HP cadre IAS officer, will have tenure until March 2025.
As it so often happens with top-level appointments, there were several claimants to the post. Sources have informed DKB that several senior babus were trying hard to win the coveted position. These included Ram Subhag Singh and his wife Nisha Singh, 1988-batch IAS officer Sanjay Gupta and Saxena. All these babus had been superseded by Mr Dhiman, the outgoing chief secretary.
Out of these, Mr Saxena was the strongest candidate who had adequate tenure left in service and had an excellent track record. It is this factor apparently that swung the scales in his favour. CM Sukhu, who led the Congress party to a memorable win in the recent state Assembly elections, will require a deft and experienced hand alongside to run his government. Mr Saxena was the one who was the most suitable and acceptable choice.
Ex-babus return to advise Gujarat CM
Though this is not the first time that a chief minister in Gujarat has appointed advisors, the former finance secretary Hasmukh Adhia’s new job as chief advisor to CM Bhupendra Patel has created a stir in babu circles. Mr Adhia’s nomination makes sense when you consider that he was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s principal secretary when the latter was chief minister of the state. Later, Mr Modi brought him to Delhi as revenue and then finance secretary, where Mr Adhia managed the Centre’s implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Mr Adhia went on to hold a string of distinguished roles after retiring in 2018, positions including non-executive chairman of the Bank of Baroda and Chancellor of the Central University of Gujarat. He is also vice-chairman of the boards of Pandit Deendayal Energy University and Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute (GERMI) as well as a member of the Board of Governors, IIM Bangalore. He headed a task force that prepared a report on Gujarat’s road map to make India a five-trillion economy.
Sources have informed DKB that Mr Adhia will assist Mr Patel on matters like finance, economic affairs, education, energy, renewable energy and investment, among others.
Aside from Mr Adhia, the Gujarat government has appointed another ex-babu S.S. Rathore, and Modi faithful, as an advisor to Mr Patel. Mr Rathore is the current managing director of Gujarat Metro Rail Corporation Limited (GMRC) and is well-known for overseeing major state infrastructure projects. Mr Rathore will assist the CM on issues related to roads and buildings, civil aviation, metro rail project, railways, water resources, and Narmada and Kalpasar projects. It is obvious that Mr Modi wants his home state to prioritise finance, investments and infrastructure.
What is less clear is whether regular babus in the Gujarat government will happily accept directions from retired babus. Perhaps the name ‘Modi’ will act as a magic charm.
CCI chief appointment delayed
The appointment of the new chairperson of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has got delayed, sources have informed DKB. Only last month some sections of the media were reporting that the selection process had entered the last leg, with Smita Jingran, Yogender Choudhry and Injeti Srinivas, all babus, emerging as front-runners. This was after some 57 aspirants had been interviewed in October last year and the second round of interviews held in November.
Now it appears that the selection interview has been scrapped and a fresh round of the selection process is being rolled out. Do the powers that be have a particular candidate on their priority list? What else can we infer from the decision to restart the whole selection process? The chairperson’s slot has been vacant since former IAS officer Ashok Kumar Gupta retired in October last year, and Sangeeta Verma is the acting chairperson.
The decision has obviously dampened the hopes of reportedly over 100 applicants, including senior babus (including retired), economists, judges and even some members of the CCI. How long this critical position will remain vacant is anyone’s guess. But whoever is finally announced will undoubtedly be one who has the government’s back.