The Narendra Modi government’s teething troubles with bureaucratic appointments continue. The government has put on hold the appointment of a senior bureaucrat to the Prime Minister’s Office days after it issued the order.
Further, orders of private secretaries to most ministers are yet to be cleared. Specifically, orders of those officers who were on the personal staff of UPA ministers, and have now been picked as private secretaries by some of the ministers in this regime, are under review.
Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth is learnt to have sent such a list to the PMO. There are at least six such PS cases. The prominent ministers affected are: Home Minister Rajnath Singh, whose PS worked with Salman Khurshid, HRD Minister Smriti Irani, whose PS was attached to Beni Prasad Verma’s office, Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad, whose candidate had worked with Tariq Anwar, and Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla, who was to continue with her predecessor’s PS.
In the PMO’s case, it was found that R N Choubey, who was appointed as Additional Secretary in the PMO, was due to become Secretary in a few months. While the one Secretary’s post in the PMO also falls vacant soon, there is concern over the prospect of the office becoming too top heavy. The PM has already picked P K Mishra as Additional Principal Secretary, a new position in the PMO hierarchy.
Additionally, Bharat Lal, the PM’s choice as his own PS, is still to be formally appointed, although he occupies the office and has been discharging its duties. Having been just empaneled as a joint secretary, this 1998-batch Indian Forest Service officer will be junior to nearly all other officials of the same level from the IAS or the Indian Foreign Service.
As a result, sources said, the government is considering various models, including one in which Lal may be the only PS having officials from other services to assist him in carrying out his duties. But a final call is yet to be taken.
The other complication is that the PM is yet to constitute the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, which usually comprises the Prime Minister, Home Minister and the minister of the concerned department to which the selected official is to be posted. The concurrence of the three on file has been essential practice for any bureaucratic appointment.
With the ACC is yet to be constituted, all appointments by the new government so far have directly been done by the PM in consultation with the concerned minister. The understanding is that ACC approval would be taken later.