Monday, December 01, 2014

5 Most Powerful Bureaucrats, 2014: Top slot remains vacant; Doval and "Mishra Square" play key roles

PM Modi with Australian dancers in Sydney. (File photo)
BoI Power List 2014 is finally out. And after considering the views of about 50 people who understand the nuances of changing equation of corridors of power and incorporating Babus of India’s editorial inputs, here are five most powerful bureaucrats under Narendra Modi regime:
First, there is a surprise. Though a number of bureaucrats, politicians and journalists surveyed, directly recommended National Security Adviser (NSA) and former intelligence bureau director Ajit Doval as the most powerful bureaucrat today, the BoI has decided to go with the majority view: under prime minister Modi’s rule, there can’t be any bureaucrat who could be termed as the most powerful in the corridors. And that has left the BoI with no options but to keep the top slot vacant, a first since 2009 when the annual BoI Power List was published for the first time.
After all, influential bureaucrats have stopped playing golf to make the big boss happy. They are not seen much in Delhi’s Gymkhana club too. Also, GoI secretaries have stopped giving interviews to journalists, and high-profile bureaucrats work hard to shun self-publicity of any form. They can no longer travel abroad beyond four times a year. And secretaries are also advised not to move out of Delhi as far as possible, a rule that was earlier applicable only to cabinet secretary. And many powerful bureaucrats took brooms in hands and cleaned their office premises in support to Modi’s Clean India mission.
Unlike in the past, when Pulok Chatterji called the shots in corridors’ key appointments, no one could now be appointed without the PM’s direct consent. Chatterji, for the record, was principal secretary to the then PM and was the lone babu having direct access to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
Under the Modi regime, there is no Pulok Chatterji. Also, Modi has no equivalent to TKA Nair of the Manmohan Singh era. Nair was the former PM’s principal secretary and then adviser, and enjoyed immense clout in the government, mainly because of his proximity to Singh. In the wake of any crisis, Singh used to call Nair to his cabin for advice even before the former's cabinet colleagues could be consulted, according to people who knew the inside stories of the PMO of the UPA time.
Also, there is no full-time Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) now. Nor has the Lokpal been appointed as yet. And the current CAG is no Vinod Rai. So, where is the chance of getting the most powerful bureaucrat outside Modi’s direct control zone? If you are still convinced that someone could have been termed as India’s most powerful bureaucrat, kindly post your comment and air your views.

4 Other Powerful Bureaucrats
PMO’s Mishra Square is 2nd Most Powerful Bureaucrat
Two of PM’s confidants, principal secretary to PM Nripendra Misra and additional principal secretary to PM PK Mishra are influential bureaucrats today. 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.
Clout of Two Mishras

How “Kaki” is India’s 3rd Most Powerful Bureaucrat
Days before Narendra Modi took charge as the Prime Minister of India, home secretary and 1978 batch IAS officer Anil Goswami had a chance to brief him about internal security. As the meeting proceeded, it appeared, Modi had already known quite a lot about this Jammu and Kashmir cadre officer who was divisional commissioner of Jammu, chief executive officer of Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (first CEO after it was taken over by the government in 1986) and principal secretary to the then chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Why Goswami is influential in corridors?

Sujatha Singh: India’s fourth Most Powerful Bureaucrat
For 1976 batch IFS officer Sujatha Singh, it was not a cakewalk for getting appointed as India’s foreign secretary succeeding Ranjan Mathai in July 2013. A year down the line, with another government at the helm, Mrs Singh has turned a key person behind prime minister Narendra Modi’s highly successful diplomatic venture so far.
What has worked in favour of foreign secretary?

Why Mr Peon is 5th Most Powerful?
“The people in the government are very capable - from the peon to the cabinet secretary, everybody is capable, everybody has a power, they have experience. I want to awaken that power, I want to unite that power and want to accelerate the pace of the welfare of nation through that power...” This is an excerpt from PM’s August 15 speech.
In fact, every file that travels from the section officer to the joint secretary, secretary or minister, depending on the subject, is actually carried by a peon. And once the decision on any file is taken, it moves downward in the same way it went up. As the peon carries the file in the long corridors, he is actually a powerful man. You never know that very file may contain a decision that impacts a company a whopping Rs 1,000 crore!
Why Modi says peons are powerful in government


  1. Infantile reasoning not to name anyone sir. By that logic, you shouldn't have 2-5 also. I think you overestimated the importance of this list - babus are babus. Most powerful babu is, at the end of the day, a babu. Equating babu to power-wielder ala UPA-days is/was a mistake. Doval is a shoo-in, though we know nuke codes are still with the man from Maninagar. Hope you reconsider and look at this after removing your blinkers. :)

  2. Yes. Excellent point, well made. Babus are babus, nothing more nothing less.

  3. You know this list was written on 1 Dec 2014. If not for the then pending Obama's visit, the no. 4 on this list would have become 'former' in the month of December itself. Makes me wonder about the whole list biz.

  4. Your 2014 list has overturned in the first month of 2015: Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary are gone already!

  5. Don't make babus sound like the arbiters of this nation's destiny

  6. List makes no sense at all. The fact remains Modi's bureaucracy is RSS controlled and nothing more to it. Stop this farce and sham of producing Lists.

  7. Red tapism of Indian bureaucracy poses hurdle to red carpet for foreign companies: US
    Source ET/ PTI Aug 23, 2015, 12.39PM IST

    --This is how valuable efforts made by our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi going down the drain -