Dilip Cherian | Will waterways boss be next MP chief secy?

The abrupt recall of senior IAS officer Sanjay Bandopadhyay from his role as chairman of the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has sparked speculation among observers and babus about the underlying reasons for this unforeseen move. Mr Bandopadhyay, previously occupying a secretary-equivalent position at the Centre, has been swiftly reassigned to his parent cadre in Madhya Pradesh, effective immediately.

Within MP’s babu circles, murmurs suggest that his recall may be tied to a potential appointment as the next chief secretary of the state. However, uncertainties arise given the impending retirement of the current chief secretary Veera Rana in March of this year, with the prospect of her tenure extension remaining uncertain.

Adding complexity to the situation is the recent change in leadership with a new chief minister in Madhya Pradesh and a fresh electoral mandate, all transpiring under the Centre’s watchful eyes. The circumstances surrounding Ms Rana’s appointment before the Assembly polls further contribute to the uncertainty surrounding her continued role as chief secretary.

An alternative perspective posits that the consecutive placement of Mr Bandopadhyay under shipping secretaries junior to him might have played a role in this decision. Despite this, as one of the senior-most officers in the cadre, and with a service tenure extending until August 31, 2024, Mr Bandopadhyay remains a potential contender for the chief secretary post in Madhya Pradesh.

Outsider babu’s strategic return to J&K

The Centre has reaffirmed its faith in retired IAS officer Satish Chandra by appointing him as the chairperson of the Jammu and Kashmir Real Estate Regulatory Authority (J&K RERA). Mr Chandra, who concluded his term as chairman of the J&K Public Service Commission initiated in June 2021, steps into a significant role that has remained vacant since September 2022, following the abrupt resignation of the first RERA chairperson, Parimal Rai, within 50 days of his appointment.

The decision to bring back an outsider babu — Mr Chandra is from the Andhra Pradesh cadre — into another pivotal position indicates the Centre’s endorsement of Mr Chandra’s abilities, utility and effectiveness in this sensitive region. Sources have informed DKB that appointing an outsider can enhance an administrator’s efficacy. Mr Chandra’s consecutive appointments, first as chairperson of the J&K PCS and now as RERA chairperson signal a deliberate effort to infuse fresh perspectives and administrative expertise to address the unique challenges facing the J&K region.

As the Centre grapples with the intricate governance issues in Jammu & Kashmir, not the least of which is to possibly hold assembly elections a few months after the Lok Sabha polls, Mr Chandra’s appointment reflects a need to leverage experience, competence and an outsider’s viewpoint to steer the administration.

Centre hunts for new UT adviser in Chandigarh

The Centre is reportedly taking a fresh approach to providing the Chandigarh administrator with a regular adviser. Departing from its initial proposal to transfer Puducherry chief secretary Rajeev Verma to Chandigarh, the focus has now shifted to considering another IAS officer for this post.

Sources have informed DKB that Manish Kumar Gupta, a 1991-batch UT cadre officer, the former DDA vice-chairperson and the current additional chief secretary of industries in the Delhi government, has emerged as the frontrunner for the Chandigarh assignment. The position of UT adviser has been under ad hoc arrangements since the retirement of Dharam Pal in October last year.

There are some insiders, however, who are sceptical about the feasibility of this new approach. Some argue that the additional charge arrangement is working fine for the administration, with administrator and Punjab governor Banwarilal Purohit reportedly expressing satisfaction with Nitin Kumar Yadav, the incumbent principal secretary, home, who is also serving as the interim adviser.

The emergence of this point of view raises questions about the strategic considerations behind the potential appointment and the nuances involved in selecting the right candidate. Of course, it is for the Centre to take the final call, but until then babus will continue to speculate.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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