The UPA government seems to be in a quandary this winter, due to wrangles over bureaucratic appointments. At least this is the sense that emerges from the peripheral decisions that the Manmohan Singh government has taken to clear way for a special director as successor to the former director of Intelligence Bureau (IB), Nehchal Sandhu.
While India’s premier central intelligence agencies, the IB and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), have finally got successors to replace present chiefs who retire in December, the appointments were not as smooth as it appears.
According to sources, the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC), headed by Manmohan Singh, cleared the name of Alok Joshi, a 1976 batch IPS officer of Haryana cadre, as the next chief of the RAW, only after another strong contender, Amitabh Mathur, was moved to the Aviation Research Centre (ARC), the agency’s technical arm.
“Amitabh Mathur is a year junior to Joshi in service and government did not want to create a tussle within the agency over the selection of its chief. The committee insisted on giving the position of the ARC chief to Mathur, who recently returned from a foreign assignment,” sources said.
Joshi, who had earlier conducted key operations for the IB and Haryana police, has extensive experience managing crucial intelligence operations abroad. Given his expertise, the centre had extended Joshi’s deputation, in March 2010, by three years. As the RAW’s chief, Joshi’s tenure would be for two years. He will replace Sanjeev Tripathi who retires on December 31.
While the government preferred seniority over expertise for the selections of the CBI director and the the RAW chief, the criteria for selecting the new IB Director seems to be competence.
The appointment of S Asif Ibrahim, a 1977 batch IPS officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre, as the IB director, surprised many, sources said. Ibrahim, undoubtedly the best intelligence officer in the country, superseded three senior IPS officers. Before his name was cleared by the ACC, all three senior officers in the agency, viz. R N Gupta, V Rajagopal and Yashovardhan Azad, were transferred out of the IB.
Gupta, a 1976 batch IPS officer of the Himachal Cadre, and a strong contender for the post, was recently shifted to the cabinet secretariat, as officer on special duty.
Similarly, Rajagopal, of the 1976 batch of the UT Cadre, was transferred to the Joint Intelligence Committee. Frontrunner for the top position, Yashovardhan Azad, a year senior to Ibrahim in service, was appointed as secretary (security) in the Cabinet Secretariat.
Ibrahim, who has wide experience in handling crucial operations, is widely perceived as the ‘best brain’ in the intelligence agency. He had earlier occupied some key positions in the agency, in India and abroad, and has handled domestic issues, including the crucial Kashmir imbroglio, with finesse.