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Rediff.com  » News » Cabinet secretary race narrows to 3

Cabinet secretary race narrows to 3

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May 22, 2006 16:31 IST

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is looking for a Cabinet secretary to succeed B K Chaturvedi, whose tenure ends on June 10.

Dr Singh interviewed prospective candidates for the nation's top civil servant's job last week.

The Prime Minister's Office is likely to announce the name of an officer-on-duty in the Cabinet secretariat as Chaturvedi's understudy to finally succeed him later this week.

Dr Adarsh Kishore, a Rajasthan cadre officer, who was elevated as finance secretary only a couple of months ago, is believed to have scored over others in the interview.

The only hitch is that he belongs to the 1969 batch of the Indian Administrative Service and the government will have to find suitable positions for at least two officers of the 1968 batch, including Women Development Secretary Reva Nayyar and Dhanendra Kumar, currently an executive director at the World Bank. They were the other two candidates interviewed.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist is pushing for another officer of the 1969 batch, Srikadath Narayan Menon, who served as secretary to then West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu. Menon is now the Union commerce secretary. The prime minister's Principal Secretary T K A Nair is believed to have also put in a word in Menon's favour.

All four civil servants are due for retirement this year and whosoever gets the post gets an automatic extension in service for two years.

Union Home Secretary Vinod Duggal, a 1968 batch IAS officer, opted out of the race after his name featured in the oil-for-food controversy. But he is believed to have conveyed to the PMO that the government will have to look for a new home secretary if a junior officer is made Cabinet secretary. Sources said the prime minister has assured Duggal of a post on the Union Public Service Commission.

The prime minister has half a dozen vacant posts on which the senior bureaucrats may be adjusted. Nayyar is tipped to head the Women's Commission if she does not make it as the country's first woman Cabinet secretary.

Other vacancies to be filled are in the Central Vigilance Commission, the National Human Rights Commission, the proposed Sixth Pay Commission and the Statistical Commission.

The prime minister also has on his agenda appointment of the governors in early June and Chaturvedi is being tipped for one such post. However, sources said Congress party President Sonia Gandhi is opposed to his appointment.

In defence of the IFS

Reva Nayyar could lose out because of her forthright temperament and a seven-year leave from the civil service to be with her husband Vineet Nayyar in Washington, DC.

Among those reportedly lobbying for her is the powerful CPI-M Politburo member Brinda Karat and Suman Dubey, a close family friend of Sonia Gandhi.

In the national interest, Dr Singh

Dhanendra Kumar, affectionately called by his batchmates in the IAS as 'Vitamin M', made three trips to Delhi from Washington recently. He was interviewed last week, though sources close to him say he is not too keen on the post since he is well placed at the World Bank. If appointed, he will take the post as it assures him a two-year extension of service.

In his 15-minute interaction with the prime minister, Dr Adarsh Kishore is believed to have taken credit for resolving the recent State Bank of India strike and clearing 85 projects in 12 states worth Rs 1 trillion (Rs one lakh crore) in just one year. Finance Minister P Chidambaram reportedly recommended his name as have leading industrialists. Dr Kishore has good equations with his fellow secretaries and with many chief secretaries of state governments.

R Prema in New Delhi
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