It’s a serious exercise to choose a successor to a serving Chairman of Public Sector Undertaking Banks. The way SBI Chief Arundhati Bhattacharya’s term was extended, it appears the Department of Financial Services does not have a well laid-down plan to appoint the Chairman of a country’s only prime bank. As per the official brief extending her tenure, this will provide continuity at a time when the process of consolidation of SBI subsidiary banks is going on. Earlier this year, the Cabinet gave its nod to the merger of the State Bank of India (SBI), its associate lenders and the Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) that would make the State-owned lender a global-sized bank. But, the reason given for extension of tenure is a misrepresentation of facts. The merger of banks is procedural work; it’s not rocket science which can’t be performed by any other seasoned banker. What was the compulsion of the Department of Financial Services? Arundhati has been very soft to the industrialists who are very close to the present dispensation. She came to the fame in the case of Vijay Mallaya, who owed Rs 9,000 crore to the banks. She was furious and issued statement after statement for the recovery from Mallaya. SBI tops the chart among the banks as far as NPAs are concerned. But, who cares! It’s reported in the banking circles that the extension was an award to Arundhati for keeping quite on Rs 21000-crore loan to absconder Ananda Krishna, the Malaysian-based promoter of Maxis group, who owns the Aircel Telecommunication network in India. The Aircel business is in pipeline to be transferred to a Mumbai-based Industrialist. It’s a business transfer and not a company take over. So the business will move to another owner and company will remain as a skeleton. The assest of the company is spectrum, which is pledged with the bank and the said industrialist is purchasing spectrum only without paying to SBI. Only Arundhati knows how to recover the loan from a skeleton. Keeping quiet and not uttering a word definitely ‘deserves’ an extension!