A fierce battle is on to grab the post of Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi). Incumbent chairman UK Sinha’s term comes to an end in mid-February. According to sources, the selection panel headed by Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha has shortlisted candidates who include State Bank of India Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya, former capital markets Joint Secretary Thomas Mathew (now an Additional Secretary in the President’s office), IDFC CEO Vikram Limaye, former Chairman of the Forward Markets Commission (FMC), Ramesh Abhishek, Competition Commission of India member MS Sahoo and current Sebi whole-time member Rajeev Kumar Agarwal. Now, at the last minute, the government has reconstituted a search-cum-selection panel so as to include a representative from the Prime Minister’s Office. While the panel, headed by the Cabinet Secretary, will continue to have the Economic Affairs Secretary, the provision of the Finance Minister nominating up to two persons as members has been done away with. In the earlier set-ups, there was no member from the PMO. It does seem as if Modi is aware of the hobnobbing for the selection for the coveted post. Among the selected candidates, one is politically very influential and has connections with the Congress party and is still working in an important post. Another candidate was allegedly involved in the NSEL scam. It’s learnt that one influential lady in the government is lobbying to install her proxy. Apart from the bureaucratic and political lobbying, big business houses are also working for their own candidates. It’s going to be tough to choose an independent and competent individual.