IRS OFFICER TRAINEES: Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu with the 71st batch of Indian Revenue Service officer trainees from National Academy of Direct Taxes, in New Delhi, on March 20

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Monday, November 17, 2014

PMO’s Mishra Square: India’s second most powerful bureaucrat, 2014

PK Mishra (July 2008 photo)
THE PMO under Narendra Modi has a Mishra Square, quite literally. Two of Modi’s confidants, principal secretary to PM Nripendra Misra and additional principal secretary to PM PK Mishra are calling the shots in South Block, though many in the corridor are convinced by now that between the two, PK is more influential. In BoI Power List 2014, Mishra Square is the second most powerful bureaucrat. When Gujarat cadre retired IAS…
PK Mishra was appointed in the PMO on June 9, 2014, former UP cadre IAS Nripendra Misra was already made principal secretary to PM, thereby allowing two influential babus to complement and compete at the top. For Modi, PK Mishra has been an old aide, as the latter worked as principal secretary to Gujarat CM till 2004 when Modi was at the helm of Gujarat. Those were early days of Modi as chief minister and one must factor in 2002 riots which jolted the entire state administration. In many ways, PK was a guide to Modi those days.
PK then moved to the Centre joining as union agriculture secretary. But after his retirement on 2008, Modi brought him back to Gujarat, appointing him as the head of Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission (GERC), demonstrating Modi’s trust on PK. Later, he was made director-general of Gujarat Institute of Disaster Management (GIDM).
In the PMO, PK handles key bureaucratic appointments, making him more powerful than any other bureaucrat. It’s believed that union home minister Rajnath Singh does not have a major say in appointing officers in the rank of joint secretaries and above though he is technically a member of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), chaired by PM. In fact, PK takes major decisions in appointments and transfers of officers, after taking PM on board.
As Nripendra Misra is quite a humble officer, any dispute between the two at the top has been averted so far. But the real test for both the Mishras is to identify the suitable officer as the next cabinet secretary who will be appointed in mid-December when incumbent Ajit K Seth’s extended tenure ends. After all, PMO’s Mishra moment will continue only if the next cabinet secretary is both efficient, yet loyal to Mishras.
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