Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda sprung a surprise Friday and reappointed his present principal secretary Chhatar Singh for three more years. The decision defied the hopes of atleast four top bureaucrats who had been lobbying round the clock for the coveted seat. Chhatar Singh was heading for superannuation on March 31.
As per sources,Virbhadra had tried to get Singh an extension and had taken up the issue with the Centre but to no avail. Singhs extension was however approved by Virbhadra under Section 9 (i) of the all India Cadres rules that permits a non-cadre officer to hold a cadre posting for three months.
The decision was apparently provoked by the fierce infight among top babus to grab the post. Sources said Hooda was irked at the way senior officers openly staked their claim for the post.
The sudden development is set to infuriate a few in bureaucracy. Initially,Hooda was known to respect seniority in matters of top level postings but this tradition was broken after he brought in present Chief Secretary Pradeep Kumar Chaudhery ignoring the claims of other senior officers. Moreover,for this post seniority has never been a criteria and the main qualities are considered to be the proximity and pliability.
Chhatar Singh was brought back to Chandigarh from Delhi to join as additional principal secretary in CMO in 2005. Later,after Murari Lal Tayal retired,Chhatar Singh was elevated to principal secretary by Hooda.
If this tradition had been followed then Krishan Kumar Khandelwal,a 1985 batch IAS officer,had the best chance to land the coveted post. Khandelwal has been the main player in Hoodas strategy formation besides handling public relations and liaison.
Khandewals claim was closely followed by Yudhvir Singh Malik (1983) and Sudeep Singh Dhillon (1984). Malik is posted as principal secretary Industries while Dhillon has always been very near to the Chief Minister and was given the directors post of Town and Country Planning Department and then placed as its Financial Commissioner.