The UPA may have revoked its decision to appoint a Lokpal panel and new Army chief as the Opposition cried foul, but that has not stopped the Congress-led government from rushing through some major appointments at the eleventh hour. Interestingly, most vacancies filled have been lying unattended for several years.
One such case is the appointment of Narendra Kothari as Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC). The post had been lying vacant since 2011 and it was the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) headed by the PM, which cleared the appointment last month. Another post which has been filled up in the late hour is that of the Chairman of Housing and Urban Development Corporation Limited (HUDCO). Dr Medithi Ravi Kanth, a 1986 batch IAS officer, was put in the chair towards the end of April.
Similarly, another crucial post which the UPA is trying to fill in the last minute with its favourites is that of minister (economic) in the Indian High Commission in London. Though the post had been vacant since last July, the DoPT is on a head hunting mission. “It would not be wrong to say that the government in general and the DoPT in particular had been overactive in the last one month,” an official with the DoPT said. The ministry also empanelled 45 IAS officers as additional secretaries in the last month and this action has been dubbed “unusual” for a government about to leave office.
“The empanelment of IAS officers is not that big a decision that it needs Cabinet clearance. But when a government does it in the last minute, it is suspicious,” said an additional secretary level official.
But he added that the scenario is the same during the last month of every government, especially when there is a strong possibility of a regime change. “Ideally all these posts should have been filled by the next government. But any government would try to secure the future of its loyalists and the UPA is no different,” he said. A classic case would be the last minute extension given to ISRO chairperson Dr K Radhakrishnan whose tenure was to be over by August this year. The government has extended the tenure to the end of this year.
The PM headed ACC issued an order on April 22 where it said that Radhakrishnan’s tenure would now continue till December 31, 2014, and that was done “on functional grounds and in public interest.”
The UPA Government’s plan to make some major appointments, including the Lokpal, during the fag end of its tenure had invited hue and cry from the Opposition. The BJP had moved the Election Commission (EC) last month, asking for a halt in the appointments of Vice Army Chief Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh as Army Chief and other appointments in the
Lokpal as the Election Commission’s model code of conduct has been enforced already.