NEW DELHI:The balance of power is clearly shifting towards Gujarat. It’s not just about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but with the quantum and quality of Gujarat cadre officers moving to the power corridors in the capital. Since Modi has taken over, as many as 20 Gujarat-based officers have shifted their base to Delhi, and all are wielding powerful posts in the government.
If Mallu Babus ruled the roost during the UPA regime, now it is clearly the Gujarat cadre officials, well versed with Modi model of development, are calling the shots. Right from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to the Additional secretary level, the officers from Modi’s states are making their imprints; not just by numbers but also by the clout they wield.
The latest evidence of Gujarati domination was in the list of IAS officers, who have been empanelled as additional secretaries. Of the 51 officers empanelled, four were from the PM’s state, which is the highest. The names include Anil Gopishankar Mukim, Atanu Chakraborty, Anand Mohan Tiwari, Girish C Murmu. These officials, who were holding important positions in the Gujarat administration during Modi’s tenure as the Chief Minister, are learnt to have been hand-picked by the PM himself.
This happened in the last week of June and in the first week of this month; Modi government had appointed Gujarat-cadre officers in powerful posts. Of the 17 secretary-level appointments, two were from Gujarat. The appointments were of Pradeep Kumar Pujari as Power and Rita A. Teaotia as commerce secretary. The two joined the already powerful lot of Gujarat cadre secretaries in Delhi, including Hasmukh Adhiya, who was appointed as Finance Secretary; Gauri Kumar, Secretary Cabinet (co-ordination); and Vijay Laxmi Joshi, who heads rural sanitation.
Earlier in April, three IAS officers from Gujarat—one time trusted aides of Modi in the state—were moved to Delhi and were posted as joint secretaries in crucial posts. They were Murmu, R P Gupta and Rajkumar. While Murmu who was the principal secretary to the Chief Minister, Rajkumar was credited with bringing in bar-coded ration cards and digitising the civil supply system.
In April itself, Modi government had appointed Achal Kumar Joti, a 1975-batch IAS officer, as Election Commissioner. He was the chief secretary in Gujarat from 2010 to 2013 when Modi was the CM. The appointment is important because all crucial Assembly polls which are to take place in the coming months including that of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and Gujarat, will take place during Joti’s term as Election Commissioner. “It is a fact that there have been many cases of Gujarat cadre officers moving to Delhi. But it is not just a case of PM showing affinity to his state cadre officers, but it is all about track record and capabilities. Moreover, all these officials are well versed in Modi school of governance. Every leader would like to have his trusted aides to assist him,’’ a secretary-level officer from the Uttar Pradesh cadre told The Sunday Standard.
Behind all these appointments are a powerful set of Gujarat-cadre officers, who had moved to PMO along with Modi. PMO, in fact, is dominated by officers from Gujarat. The prominent name is that of P K Mishra, additional principal secretary to the Prime Minister. This 1972-batch IAS officer, who reports directly to Modi, is considered among the most powerful in the South Block office. He was principal secretary to Modi during the most crucial phase in Modi’s career as CM.
Another major official is Arvind Kumar Sharma, a 1988-batch IAS officer who was the man behind the successful ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ campaign. Now a joint secretary in the PMO, Sharma is said to be the man behind Modi’s link with industry captains. Yet another name is that of Jagdish Thakkar, public relations officer at the PMO. There also are the four officers on special duty from Gujarat—Hiren Joshi, Pratik Doshi, Hemang Jani and Sanjay R Bhavsar.
His loyalists argue that Modi looks for competence rather than blind loyalty citing the appointment of Gujarat cadre IPS officer Vivek Srivastava as the chief of the Special Protection Group (SPG) that handles security of the VIPs.
According to them, Srivastava was not in the good books of the Gujarat government in the past and had even had opted out of Gujarat. But he apparently won Modi’s confidence when he visited Bihar as PM, where the former was posted as joint director of Intelligence Bureau. Srivastava was learnt to have written a detailed letter to the Bihar Police five days before the blasts, categorically stating that Modi could be targeted. It is another story that the then Bihar CM Nitish Kumar had claimed that his government had no inputs about the blasts.
“Appointment of Srivasatava was a classic case of appreciation of merit. It is rare that a one-time rebellious officer given such crucial postings,’’ said an official.