With Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking most of his trusted lieutenants from the Chief Minister’s Office to the PMO, there is a vacuum here in the swanky office taken over by his confidante Anandiben Patel, the first woman Chief Minister of Gujarat.
The ‘transition team’ that has gone to the PMO from the Gujarat CMO includes Jagdish Thakker (70), the Public Relations Officer of the state government; 1988 batch IAS officer Arvind Sharma, and all of Modi’s personal assistants — Om Prakash Singh, Dinesh Thakur and Tanmay Mehta. The three have roots in the RSS.
Thakker has been Modi’s most trusted companion on all his tours ensuring he got good press. Sharma, who is likely to be one of the joint secretaries at the PMO, was posted in the CMO under Modi since 2001. His absence is likely to cast a shadow over the next Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit due in January 2015.
There is also talk of Modi’s Officer on Special Duty Hiren Joshi joining the PMO. This former IT lecturer from a college in Rajasthan was handpicked by Modi to handle his social media network and campaign.
Thakker, whose job brief initially was to handle print media networking, had ended up becoming Modi’s right hand man over the last 12 years and handled all his appointments. Thakker has been the PRO to Gujarat chief ministers right from the time of Amarsinh Chaudhary of the Congress in 1989 to Modi. A Gujarat Information Department Officer, Thakker has worked with Modi right since October 2001 when he took charge as chief minister. The patient, soft-spoken Thakker began his career as a journalist in a language paper and was retained by Modi in the CMO on contract even after his retirement in 2004. For more than a decade now, Thakker has moved with Modi like his shadow.
“On May 22, when Modi was just about to take flight for Delhi, he took Thakker by surprise by asking him to pack his bags. Thakker was not prepared to move yet. But Modi was keen on taking him along,’’ sources in CMO told this
A top official in the Information department said, “Everything is in a limbo right now. We are still not sure which of these incumbents will come back, to enable us to take a decision on the new CMO.”
According to the sources, Thakker, whose family is settled in Gujarat, may prefer to come back once Modi has settled in his new office.
All the personal assistants that Modi has taken have worked with him right since October 2001. Mehta was brought from the RSS by Modi to work with him in 1987 when Modi was general secretary in charge of Gujarat. Modi intends to put him in charge of the Varanasi constituency for which the PM has already announced plans and funds.
At the Swarnim Sankul-1 in Gandhinagar, which houses the CMO on the third floor, Singh, Thakur and Mehta’s nameplates are already off, to make way for the new CM Anandiben Patel’s personal secretaries which include Jignesh Desai and Keyur Sampat who have moved from the revenue and urban development department.
While Singh hails from Rajasthan, Thakur belongs to UP. Both have managed Modi’s meetings and schedules and functioned as link with other leaders and officials for Modi.