With the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet empanelling Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta for holding posts of Director General or DG equivalent at the Centre, the focus back home has shifted to the Chief Secretary’s post, with incumbent Karan Avtar Singh retiring on August 31.
Gupta’s empanelment at Centre holds importance, as his wife Vini Mahajan, a 1987-batch IAS officer of Punjab cadre, is considered to be in the reckoning for the top bureaucratic post in state.
The corridors of government have already been speculating that she could be the next chief secretary given the confidence posed by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh in the officer-couple. Amarinder was backing Gupta for appointment as the state police chief after retirement of Suresh Arora.
In the process, another IPS officer Mohd Mustafa, considered close to the CM, was annoyed and legally challenged Gupta’s appointment. Mustafa’s wife Razia Sultana is state Transport Minister.
Mahajan is Additional Chief Secretary and wears many hats – from heading the key industries department to heading the committee for purchase related to equipment for battling Covid-19 in the state besides other departments.
While Mahajan has several seniors in the pecking order but Gupta’s empanelment has added fuel to the speculation rife about her elevation as senior most bureaucrat. While functionaries in the government argue that Gupta did not need to leave his post in Punjab so as to make way for his wife as both are professionals, but many claim that the CM would like to avoid a controversy and heartburn that the power was resting with a couple in the state.
While the Karan Avtar Singh still still three months before he retires, it remains to be seen as to who succeeds him. Mahajan will retire in October 2024.
KBS Sidhu of 1984-batch, who is Financial Commissioner Revenue, is the senior-most officer in Punjab now. Retiring in July 2021, he would be a strong contender for the post of chief secretary.
A 1985-batch officer, Arun Goel, who retires in December 2022, is on a Central deputation. Another officer C Roul is also on central deputation.
Yet another 1985-batch officer, Satish Chandra, who is currently Home Secretary but retires in September 2020, would only have a month’s time if he is appointed the chief secretary.
Kalpana Mittal Baruah, another 1985-batch officer also retires in November 2020.
Viswajeet Khanna, Financial Commissioner Development, a 1987-batch officer, who retires in June 2021 is also a strong contender for the post. In coming days, Punjab government will witness a battle for elevation among three IAS officers including Mahajan, Sidhu and Khanna.
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