NEW DELHI: Unlike the UPA, the Narendra Modi Government is in no mood to humour the IAS lobby, which has held sway in the corridors of power for decades. After losing out the position of Central Vigilance Commissioner—earmarked especially for them—to former IRS officer Kosaraju Veeraiah Chowdary, the IAS lobby has now suffered another blow. They have been forced to make way for a non-cadre officer for the post of Principal Secretary of West Bengal. All this while, this was a position held only by the IAS officers.
After changing its approach of appointing only IAS officers for the post of Principal Secretary to the CMs, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has now refused to entertain a petition by the IAS Association against the appointment of a retired Central Secretariat Service (CSS) officer, Gautam Sanyal, as the Principal Secretary to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The IAS Association, which had held a series of official and unofficial meetings over the last two months to discuss the matter of Sanyal being appointed as PS to the CM, had made a representation to the DoPT questioning the move. It said that appointment of non-cadre officers in such top posts is ‘blatant violation’ of the IAS (cadre) Rules, 1954. It also added that it reduces efficiency of the administration.
“IAS officers are specifically trained over their career-span to deal with jobs requiring specific background, experience and understanding,’’ said the representation.
But those arguments couldn’t change DoPT’s decision. The approval for the appointment of Sanyal from the Union government has made him the first CSS officer to get this coveted position. Till now, the post of Principal Secretary was considered a ‘cadre’ post, meant only for senior IAS officers.
With this setback, no wonder the collective ego of the IAS lobby is quite hurt.
“Posting of officers from indifferent backgrounds against en-cadred posts is not only contrary to the statutory rules, but also reduces efficiency in administration,” an IAS officer, who had attended the executive body meeting of the IAS association, told The Sunday Standard.
But it seems that the Union government is not in a mood to give importance to such talks. “Efficiency is the only language this government understands. If a state government feels that an efficient, but non-IAS officer is needed for a particular post, it has every right to suggest his name,’’ a DoPT officer, belonging to the CSS cadre, said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Banerjee had handpicked Sanyal, whom she had met in Delhi during her stint as Railways minister, after becoming the CM. Soon, Sanyal moved to Kolkata and became her secretary.
According to the CSS officer, the IAS lobby ‘played every possible trick’ to stop Sanyal from becoming the Principal Secretary to the West Bengal CM. He said that Banerjee had been trying to appoint Sanyal for the last few years, but successive Chief Secretaries of the state, under the pressure from the IAS lobby, had been opposing Sanyal’s appointment citing various rules and regulations.
“But this time the Bengal CM put her foot down and had a strong word with the current Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra and he had to approve the appointment of Sanyal,’’ revealed the officer.
While it hasn’t gone down well with the IAS Association, the CSS Association is quite happy with this move. “We are very honoured that one among us has become the Principal Secretary of a state like West Bengal. It shows that an officer, regardless of his cadre, can reach the top if he is hard working and sincere. Sanyal is an inspiration to all of us,’’ said a CSS Association office bearer.
But the IAS Association is in no mood to give up. After the DoPT refused to accept its petition, it is now planning to seek a formal explanation from the Bengal Chief Secretary on why he broke the convention. “It is not just an ego issue. We are talking about rule books,’’ said an IAS officer, who is one of the office bearers of the association.
With both sides sticking to their stands, the battle is far from over.