THE serial extension of India’s top bureaucrat KM Chandrasekhar for one more year as cabinet secretary could surprise some analysts in Delhi’s babudom, but the 1970 batch Kerala cadre IAS played his card so well during the last one and half years in particular that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh preferred to give him a four-year term though cabinet secretary’s post like those of home and defence secretaries have a two-year fixed term.
But the big question is what prompted the PM to give Mr Chandrasekhar yet another extension till June 13, 2011 ignoring the younger aspirants like urban development secretary M Ramachandran of 1972 batch and finance secretary Ashok Chawla of 1973 batch. Babus of India (BoI) which speculated such a scenario three months ago, lists here three key reasons that probably helped Mr Chandrasekhar remaining PM’s favourite for the top bureaucrat’s post.
1) KM Chandrasekhar’s biggest advantage to remain on top is his simple way of doing things ensuring that his continuation as cabinet secretary does not really upset power equations India’s Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Cabinet secretary’s position is important, but Mr Chandrasekhar has not made any attempt to diminish clouts that principal secretary to PM TKA Nair enjoys. After all, when corporate honchos like Mukesh Ambani visit power corridors, they don’t seek appointments with Mr Chandrasekhar but invariably meet TKA Nair.
2) Secondly, Prime Minister was impressed with Mr Chandrasekhar when the latter asked all secretaries to prepare a 100-day target plan of various ministries even before the election results were out in May last year. In June, 2009, PM rewarded the proactive Chandrasekhar with one-year extension dashing the hope of Sudha Pillai, 1972 batch IAS, to move to the top position. In fact, Mr Chandrasekhar brought in a World Bank old-hand Dr Prajapati Trivedi to begin a major exercise to map bureaucrats’ performance in every ministry --- a step PM has reportedly liked the most about Mr Chandrasekhar.
3) Finally, Mr Chandrasekhar who works closely with the PM has an advantage compared to other cabinet secretary contenders who get a chance to meet the PM once in blue moon. Even Dr Singh did not want to take risk in choosing a new person for the job and instead extended the tenure of his trusted man. Also, if the spurt of extensions in PMO during the last one year is any indication, Dr Singh definitely prefers to bank on his trusted war-horses than experimenting with a new recruit.
Action and Appointments
Ms Rita Sharma, a 1974 batch UP cadre retired IAS has been appointed as secretary, National Advisory Council, in the rank and pay of secretary to the Government of India, on contract basis, until further orders. Ms Sharma, former secretary of drinking water in rural development ministry, would now be a key player in UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi-led NAC’s social sector initiative.