differences of opinion in the last three years of working together. Let’s now analyze what does Seth’s extension of tennure actually mean?
1. First, with Seth remaining as cabinet secretary, two UP cadre IAS, the other being principal secretary to PM Nripendra Misra will call the shots once more. The domination of UP IAS in bureaucracy has been quite evident for many decades now except for the first seven years of UPA rule when the Kerala lobby managed to grab key posts.
2. With Seth’s continuation for the next six months, senior most IAS officers of 1976 batch, and some of 1977 batch too, will disqualify for cabinet secretary’s position, as all of them will turn 60 by then. If the government sticks to seniority in December, it has to pick someone from the following IAS officers of 1977 batch: Alok Rawat (water resources secretary, Sikkim cadre), PK Sinha (power secretary, UP cadre), Naved Masood (Manipur-Tripura cadre) and Madhav Lal (MSME secretary, Jammu and Kashmir cadre). According to rules, a bureaucrat has to be below 60 to get appointed as cabinet secretary, but once appointed, he or she gets a fixed two years term. Even in the past, former cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar’s serial extensions denied the top bureaucrat’s post to IAS like Sudha Pillai and M Ramachandran.
3. Thirdly, Seth will bring in some amount of continuity to the system when the new government is expected to experiment a lot with bureaucracy. It’s Seth, not Nripendra Misra, who knows the strength and weaknesses of each of the current union secretary. And prime minister Modi may ask for Seth’s frank assessment of each of the secretary before undertaking a bureaucratic reshuffle at the Centre.
4. Fourthly, it has almost become an unwritten norm now that cabinet secretary gets three to four years tenure, though on paper it’s two years, thereby denying this coveted post to many a brilliant officer of the subsequent batches. Whereas BK Chaturvedi got a three years term, his successor KM Chandrasekhar had an unusually long tenure of four years.
5. Finally, Seth knows inside out of the UPA’s mismanagement, policy paralysis and firefighting in cases such as 2G, Commonwealth Games, Coalgate and also PMO-10 Janpath communications. It remains to be seen whether Seth becomes an activist and gives any insight to the new regime.