Tuesday, August 23, 2011

BoI Power List: Ajit Kumar Seth ranked India's 4th most powerful bureaucrat

DURING the Baba Ramdev stand-off in June, 2011, Ajit Kumar Seth, then appointed as OSD in cabinet secretariat in the run-up to his elevation to the top bureaucrat’s job, was seen in Delhi airport’s Terminal-I. For Seth, a 1974 batch UP cadre IAS, it was a challenge, and also an opportunity. The UPA government took an unprecedented move to send four cabinet ministers, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, telecom minister Kapil Sibal, parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay, to the Delhi airport to persuade the Yoga Guru not to go for his proposed fast. The move back-fired and was severely criticized by many including some from the ruling party itself. Seth had his first on-the-job experience of mighty decisions and their faulty execution!
Those who know Seth from close quarters say he is not a power hungry bureaucrat, and in many ways represents the same culture that his predecessor KM Chandrasekhar inculcated. He is cool and down-to-earth and does not enter into the other person’s domain. But Seth’s woos may come from the fact that it’s not a honeymoon time for the government. The anti-graft crusade is at its peak, and the government is under fire for its decision, or rather lack of it. In BoI (babusofindia.com) list of 5 Most Powerful Indian Bureaucrats, 2011, Ajit Kumar Seth is ranked fourth.
When Seth’s appointment as India’s cabinet secretary was announced in May 2011, BoI wrote: “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 on 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…” And that sums up the rise of Seth in Delhi’s corridors of power. Seth’s success now lies in his ability to make concerted efforts with his batch-mate Pulok Chatterji who is joining as principal secretary to PM on October 3, 2011.
But before you think more about the unprecedented challenge that India's most powerful bureaucrats including Ajit Kumar Seth are facing today, you need to loudly recite this poem by Tennyson:
Forward, the Light Brigade!
Was there a man dismayed?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blundered;
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.

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