gfiles magazine

June 15, 2015

Shivraj’s retinue

Every Chief Minister today has a set of favourite bureaucrats who deliver according to his or her wishes without batting an eyelid. This coterie of bureaucrats not only becomes the eyes and ears of the Chief Minister, but also creates a wall around him or her.

Down memory lane

The plaintive voice of Geeta Dutt wafts through the mind like petals in the wind. At first blush, I don’t recognise some people. And vice versa! The receding hairline; the greying here, the whitening there; the formidable girth, the slouch...the assured poise, the unwavering eye, the confident tone exacerbate the situation.

The Modi milestone

the BJP-led NDA Government’s completion of its first milestone has been termed Modiversary by a leading national daily! Not without reason, perhaps. Maybe it is time we called the Government of India the Modi administration, like in the US where a government is referred to by the name of the directly elected President, like Obama administration, Bush administration, Clinton administration. Such is the awesome centralisation of power and visibility of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the national and international arenas; as if a parliamentary system of government has transitioned into a presidential form, and within a year!

Modi’s endgame

One word is often enough to sum up the entire life and career of a man, whatever his sphere of activity. Just one word, God, is enough to tell us what sort of man Gandhi was, how he must have lived, what beliefs he must have held. His “truth, love, peace, compassion, non-violence” and all such and similar values issued forth from just that one word. The same way Nehru’s entire life and career can be abridged by just uttering the word “science”. His entire political and economic vocabulary—socialism, humanism, reason, research, industry, scientific temper, modernity—flowed from that one core term.

Nagaland CM stumps BJP

For the Bharatiya Janata Party’s young, dynamic, successful and powerful President, Amit Shah, it was a big jolt. Despite his refusal of Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang’s proposal to induct Congress MLAs in his Democratic Nagaland Alliance government, in which the BJP is an ally, the CM unilaterally completed his gameplan to finish the opposition in the state assembly to permanently save his chair.

‘Noida better than Gurgaon’

In February this year when the Akhilesh Yadav Government appointed Nagendra Prashad Singh, a 2005-batch IAS officer, as District Magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar, its primary objective was to pacify the agitating farmers and fast-track the development projects which have been pending in the district adjoining Delhi. Singh (55) was instrumental in settling farmers’ disputes when he was Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO) of the Noida Authority during Mayawati’s rule. This time around, too, he is close to success, having acquired most of the land for the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) and Indian Railways’ regional station.

The Insider

It was at an early stage of his career that Shantonu Sen, a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)-cadre officer recruited in the investigating agency as part of the first batch of directly recruited gazetted officers in 1963, got to know how the premier central investigative agency is used by politicians to fix political opponents and unfriendly corporates.

The return of Rahul

Rahul: Come on, chaps. Don’t keep on discussing ad nauseam and wasting time. Tell me what to do
Jyotir: We told you bluntly. Our advice is very clear. The first stage of introspection is to identify the key questions. And the consensus so far is that the foremost key question is: What is the problem?

Activist Bureaucrats

The Uttar Pradesh bureaucracy is witnessing a rather new phenomenon. Though I can claim to be the harbinger of this new movement, it gained true momentum and caught eyeballs when senior IAS officer Surya Pratap Singh, currently, Principal Secretary (Public Enterprises) came out in the open to participate in people’s movements and started expressing his solidarity with various social causes.

Muted scenario

THE completion of one year of the Modi Government has left the market confused since the analysts I talked to had diametrically opposite views, ranging from extreme disappointment to happiness and optimism about the future. I would like to be in the latter camp and feel that under the given circumstances, the government has already achieved a lot regarding most of the low hanging reforms such as privatising coal and other mines, higher FDI in defence and insurance, quicker project clearances, deregulating diesel prices, raising natural gas prices, enhancing financial inclusion, more flexible labour markets, up to 100 per cent FDI in key areas besides achieving much in fiscal consolidation.

The inward shift

The UN declaration of June 21 as International Yoga Day comes at a crucial moment in human history. The science of yoga is more significant today than ever before. For the first time in the history of humanity, we have the necessary capability to address every issue on the planet—of nourishment, health, education, you name it.

Presidential chaos

trouble brews with assocham funds’ diversion

Rana Kapoor is not an unknown name in Mumbai circles. His phenomenal rise in the banking sector took him to the post of Chairman of Yes Bank. Kapoor is the de jure boss of the bank but it is reported that the de facto boss is a powerful politician of Maharashtra. Kapoor has been the President of Assocham for the last two-and-a-half years. Assocham is a very prestigious industry body which interacts with the government on behalf of its members. Sunil Kanoria is the Senior Vice President of Assocham while the Vice President is Sandeep Jajodia. The immediate past President is Rajkumar Dhoot and a well-established name, DS Rawat, is the Secretary General of the body. According to sources, the reports of Kapoor’s dominance are not very encouraging. The time has come for a new President of Assocham but Kapoor is reportedly reluctant to announce an election and relinquish charge. Moreover, members are aghast to learn that Kapoor reportedly transferred fixed deposits worth  Rs. 200 crore to Yes Bank. This money had been kept by Rawat for contingency purposes. According to sources, Rawat and members of the body are disenchanted with the working style of Kapoor who is allegedly on a spending spree with the hard-earned money of Assocham members. It is difficult to stop Kapoor as he has the support of bhau (big brother), the Maharashtrian leader. g

An incorruptible PM

manmohan was left unmoved by lucre

My family and I did not benefit from the corruption in my government,”  former PM Manmohan Singh stated the other day while commenting on the explosive book by Pradip Baijal, former TRAI Chairman. “That does seem to be true,” says veteran journalist BN Uniyal, who has, incidentally, contributed an article in this issue. Speaking to gfiles over the phone, the journalist said, “I trust my friend, Rashpal Malhotra, for that, who once during a conversation at the IIC, New Delhi, had said, ‘Uniyal, the Sardar is absolutely incorruptible. All his must-do orders come from No. 10 (Janpath) and whatever comes in return goes there directly. My Sardar hasn’t the vaguest idea of any quid pro quo. He doesn’t sign on the dotted line; he only reads out the dotted text to his officers’. Rashpal should know, for he has been a close friend of the former PM for nearly five decades and it was because of his relationship of great trust with Rashpal that Singh appointed his son-in-law as his OSD. Although detractors at IIC wove many stories about how Rashpal had benefitted from his proximity to Singh, I can stand witness for him. He certainly drew no favours from the then Prime Minister other than a temporary directorship on the board of the State Bank of India. Tell me, what is a director’s post on the SBI Board worth for such a close friend of a PM?” g

PM Hour

meetings with modi have strict time limits

Narendra Modi works and meets people by the clock. One fine day, Modi met a very senior leader and Member of Parliament of the BJP. It was a long meeting with the prominent leader of the party—the first since Modi took over as the Prime Minister. In the meeting, many issues were discussed—China, US, internal and other important economic issues—and the learned senior BJP leader kept on discussing these pertinent and important problems with the Prime Minister. Whenever a senior leader of the party visits a Prime Minister, time is never a constraint. It is generally a heart-to-heart talk. Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee followed the rule when he was Prime Minister; whenever the seniormost members of the party would meet him, they would feel at home as Vajpayee displayed the patience and time. But this is not the case with Modi. He is stricter about time. As per reports from the PMO, Modi does not like it if somebody crosses the time limit. So, after the meeting with the senior political leader, Modi said, “Sir, I welcome all your suggestions and will try to follow them through and I will be grateful if you keep meeting and enlightening me but there is a request, please keep the time limit in mind.” The senior leader was aghast as nobody had spoken to him in such a manner in such a long career. Clearly, times have changed! g

Kejriwal’s BJP allies

delhi cm bolstered by rajnath support

Everybody is wondering about the reason behind the new-found confidence of Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi. He is alone. His party is new and all his political colleagues are novices in understanding the nuances of politics and governance. Kejriwal roars against the Centre on one pretext or the other every day. It is very clear, given the recent developments, that Kejriwal cannot move without support from some force within the central government. Even in the Delhi Assembly elections, the top BJP and Congress leadership supported him wholeheartedly. Every day he is on a war path with the Lt. Governor of Delhi, Najeeb Jung. The manner in which the confrontation is building, it appears that Kejriwal has a tacit understanding with the Home Ministry. It is an open secret in the media as well as in the Delhi Secretariat that Home Minister Rajnath Singh has a soft corner for the Delhi Chief Minister. Even in the BJP, one of the prominent sections which is not cordial with the present dispensation is supporting Kejriwal. Insiders report that Kejriwal is also amused by the tacit support from within the BJP. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has many reasons to stir up Delhi politics and observe the circus of the Aam Aadmi Party. Indications are clear as to what Kejriwal and Rajnath Singh desire. g

Rule of the Brahmins

Who says that Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav does not take care of Brahmin officers in Uttar Pradesh? In Akhilesh Yadav’s government, from the top to district level, Brahmins are ruling everywhere. Retired Brahmins have also been roped in to run the government smoothly. Navin Chandra Bajpai, Chief Secretary in the Mulayam Singh Yadav government, is now the Vice Chairman of the State Planning Commission. Anand Mishra, who created obstacles in Akhilesh’s government, has been appointed Commissioner (Agriculture). Debashish Panda is posted as Principal Secretary (Home), Parthsarthi Sen Sharma, who is Akhilesh’s right-hand man, is working as Secretary to the Chief Minister. Renuka Mishra, who is Principal Secretary (Women’s Welfare), has also been assigned other departments. She is known to be  the choice of Dimple Yadav, Akhilesh’s wife. Sadakant Shukla is the Principal Secretary (Housing), Chanchal Tiwari is Principal Secretary (Panchayati Raj) and Kalpana Awasthi is Principal Secretary (Higher Education).

DAW’s the way

Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi, seems to be in a mood to fight not only with the central government but also its system of governance. He is not making any noise about monitoring officials within the Delhi government and instead seems fascinated by spying agencies. The Delhi government is governed by many minds and none is aware of what another is doing. So Kejriwal is perturbed by the way the government is functioning. He wants a mechanism within the government by which he can come to know about the day’s performance of every government servant with a simple click of his mouse. It has been reported that Kejriwal has ordered a R&AW (Research & Analysis Wing)-like body to be set up, tentatively called DAW (Daily Analysis Wing). The Wing will be an internal surveillance agency. Kejriwal has instructed officials to draft the agency’s working pattern and monitoring mechanism. The idea is to launch DAW to keep tabs on all the employees of the Delhi government and take swift and effective action, if needed, against them. We shall wait and watch to see how DAW promotes good governance, as promised by Kejriwal. g

PK Sinha is the top boss

Finally, the mist has risen. Pradeep Kumar Sinha, a 1977-batch IAS officer from the Uttar Pradesh cadre, is the new Cabinet Secretary for India. Nobody was clear about who would succeed Ajit Kumar Seth. There were three candidates from the 1977 batch and Sinha appeared to be the best choice. As per reports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally opted for the seniormost civil servant for the post. Sinha will take over the prestigious post on June 13. He would have retired on July 31 if he had not been appointed Cabinet Secretary, now his term will end on June 13, 2017. If he gets extensions like his predecessors, BK Chaturvedi, KM Chandrasekhar and Seth, he may be here for four years. Sinha, a postgraduate in Economics, MPhil in social sciences and a certificate holder of the French language, is the third Cabinet Secretary in continuation, like his predecessors and is also an alumnus of St. Stephen’s College. Before moving to the Power Ministry as Secretary in 2013, he also served as Secretary, Shipping, for a short while. It is to be noted that when the Congress was in power, he served in the Petroleum Ministry as a Joint Secretary, Additional Secretary and Special Secretary from 2004 to 2012.  Being a Cabinet Secretary, he will soon shift to a designated house (32, Prithviraj Road) which has neighbours like LK Advani, Jindals, Punjs, Dalmias and Goenkas. g