Dilli Ka Babu: Succession games

The guessing game has just begun, and will only get more interesting as the day grows nearer.

Seniormost babu in the country Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha’s tenure ends in June and there is a scramble among senior babus to replace the UP cadre 1977-batch officer. Though it is a fixed tenure position of two years, this is not always followed. Mr Sinha’s predecessor Ajit Seth served for four years. There’s no indication from the PMO or babu corridors that Mr Sinha is likely to get an extension. If seniority plays a hand, Madhya Pradesh cadre 1980-batch Indian Administrative Service officer P.D. Meena will be seniormost serving secretary in the Government of India and the first in the pecking order. But that isn’t always the case. Punters are placing bets on finance secretary Ashok Lavasa, also a 1980-batch officer of the Haryana cadre, and slated to retire in November. Other contenders, as of now, seem to be petroleum secretary K.D. Tripathi of the 1981 batch, banking secretary and 1981-batch officer of the Punjab cadre Anjuly Chib Duggal. Personnel secretary B.P. Sharma is also said to be in the running, as is education secretary Anil Swarup. The guessing game has just begun, and will only get more interesting as the day grows nearer.

IAS losing

Is the IAS lobby losing its clout with the Modi sarkar? Some observers claim that since many IAS officers have been reluctant to join the Centre, the PMO has happily appointed non-IAS officers to positions earlier held only by the “heaven-born”. Apparently out of nearly 300 appointment orders issued for joint secretary posts so far, more than one-third were bagged by non-IAS officers, who for long have been considered the poor cousins of the elite IAS. Key ministries like home, petroleum, defence, mines, road transport and power have seen multiple non-IAS appointments as joint secretaries — the key policymaking position in the bureaucracy hierarchy at the Centre. Therefore, when the Centre gave its nod to appoint 16 new joint secretary-ranked officers, the highlight was that 10 out of 16 officers were handpicked from non-IAS services. The break-up of those 10 non-IAS officers are as follows: two each from IFS, Indian Audit and Accounts Service and Central Secretariat Service officers and one each from IRS-IT, Indian Information Service, IPS and IRAS. The message here is that the Modi sarkar does not necessarily choose talent only from among IAS officers for senior posts in key ministries. It’s however unlikely to please the IAS babus in the medium term. But then perhaps it is not meant to?

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