Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ajit Kumar Seth appointed as next cabinet secretary; what’s in store for Pulok Chatterji?

WHEN all powerful man in PMO Pulok Chatterji dictated terms in Raisina Hills during UPA-I, his batch-mate from the same UP cadre Ajit Kumar Seth was the resident commissioner in New Delhi’s Uttar Pradesh Bhawan. Seth had a higher rank in 1974 batch IAS merit list, but no one even bothered to bet for Seth that this man from UP might one day snap the country’s top bureaucratic job. For six long years, Seth -- known for his honesty and meticulous work -- remained a mere resident commissioner in UP Bhawan. Finally, he got the break when he was appointed as secretary, coordination and public grievances in cabinet secretariat in January, 2009. And the rest is history now.
Ajit Kumar Seth has been appointed as India’s next cabinet secretary from June 14, 2011 replacing his four year senior KM Chandrasekhar. He will be an OSD till he takes up the assignment in mid-June for a period of two years. For the last two years, many veteran bureaucrats like current Member Secretary of Planning Commission Sudha Pillai, her husband and home secretary GK Pillai and their batch-mate M Ramachandran, all from 1972 batch, lost the race for the top job as incumbent Chandrasekhar secured two serial extensions. Now, Seth will have the privilege to become the boss of two of his seniors, home secretary Pillai and defence secretary Pradeep Kumar at least for a month.
A post-graduate in chemistry from St. Stephens college, Seth struck the right chemistry with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh when the former got a chance to interact with the PM several times during his two and half years old stint at the cabinet secretariat. Seth has a master’s degree in development finance from Britain’s University of Birmingham too. As a junior officer, Seth had worked in the ministry of textile, and one of his few important assignments was the First Secretary’s position in Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations at Geneva, Switzerland in 1980s.
The big question now is what Pulok Chatterji would get once he is back from his World Bank stint. Will Chatterji be made the Principal Secretary to PM paving the way of two UP cadre batch-mates, Seth and Chatterji, calling the shots in Delhi’s corridors of power? But that can be a possibility only when master bureaucrat TKA Nair heads for a Raj Bhawan!

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