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New Delhi: Weeks after it gained the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to retain energy, the Narendra Modi authorities took an unprecedented choice to accord cabinet rank to a few prime officers near the PM — then-principal secretary Nripendra Misra, extra principal secretary P.Ok. Mishra, and Nationwide Safety Advisor Ajit Doval.
The federal government additionally created a brand new place within the Prime Minister’s Workplace (PMO) — that of the principal advisor to the PM — to accommodate one among Modi’s most trusted IAS officers, P.Ok. Sinha, who had already bought three extensions to grow to be the longest-serving cupboard secretary, however wasn’t given cupboard rank.
Minimize to 2021. Two of those 4 officers have stop the PMO citing private causes — Misra in August 2019 and Sinha earlier this month.
Whereas Doval’s energy and affect over nationwide safety stays intact, it’s P.Ok. Mishra, now the principal secretary to the PM, who has emerged as the principle energy centre within the PMO throughout domains. His affect can also be seen in the way in which officers from his house cadre — Gujarat — and his house state — Odisha — occupy many prime positions within the authorities.
Mishra, who has been principal secretary to PM Modi for nearly all of his authorities’s second time period barring the primary couple of months, has overseen a number of reshuffles, exits and adjustments within the energy construction inside the PMO.
ThePrint reached the PMO spokesperson for a remark via calls and a WhatsApp message, and to P.Ok. Mishra’s workplace via calls and an electronic mail, however there was no response from both till the time of publishing this report.
Gujarat and Odisha cadre officers in key positions
Gujarat cadre officers have held a number of key positions on the Centre since 2014, as reported by ThePrint last year, however the development has solely strengthened within the Modi authorities’s second time period. In bureaucratic circles, that is seen as a consolidation of energy by Mishra, a Gujarat cadre officer, because the exit of Nripendra Misra, who was from the UP cadre.
Contemplate a few of these examples: Guruprasad Mohapatra, Secretary, Division for Promotion of Business and Inner Commerce (DPIIT); Defence Manufacturing Secretary Raj Kumar; Setting Secretary R.P. Gupta; Chemical substances and Fertilisers Secretary S. Aparna; B.B. Swain, Particular Secretary, Commerce; College Schooling Secretary Anita Karwal; and Srinivas Katikithala, Institution Officer within the Division of Personnel and Coaching (DoPT), are all secretary degree officers of the Gujarat cadre in key positions within the Authorities of India.
It’s not a development restricted to secretaries — Gujarat cadre officers additionally fill many different key posts like officers on particular obligation; non-public secretary to the PM and director within the PMO; director-level officers within the Ministry of Dwelling Affairs and Division of Financial Affairs (DEA); and personal secretaries in prime ministries just like the exterior affairs.
Nevertheless, authorities insiders instructed ThePrint that the surest signal of P.Ok. Mishra’s clout is the multitude of officers from Odisha who are actually occupying essential positions.
Even among the many secretary-level Gujarat cadre officers, at the very least two belong to Odisha — Mohapatra and Swain. Additional, the textile secretary, company affairs secretary, and secretary to the Division of Funding and Public Asset Administration are all Odisha cadre officers appointed within the final yr and a half.
A number of essential extra and joint secretary positions like these within the ministries of authorized affairs, well being, defence, civil aviation, meals and public distribution, and many others. are additionally occupied by Odisha cadre officers, as is the chair of the Central Board of Secondary Schooling.
“There isn’t a doubt about who’s essentially the most highly effective bureaucrat within the nation right this moment… (P.Ok. Mishra’s) place has continued to consolidate through the years, however a number of the current adjustments which have taken place within the forms when it comes to appointments, transfers and many others. have made that amply clear,” mentioned a senior official within the central authorities who didn’t want to be recognized.
“In Modi’s first time period as nicely, the PMO was extremely centralised, however there have been at the very least two energy centres inside the PMO — Nripendra Misra and P.Ok. Mishra,” mentioned the official. “Between the 2, the strains have been very nicely demarcated, with Nripendra Misra taking care of all of coverage, and P.Ok. Mishra dealing with appointments.”
The official added: “Although Nripendra Misra was the extra senior official, each when it comes to designation and when it comes to what he did, he was extra like Brajesh Mishra was for Vajpayee. Appointments, one of the essential devices of energy within the authorities, rested completely with P.Ok. Mishra. Each of them had a direct line to the PM.”
Nevertheless, with Misra’s exit from the PMO, the division of labor considerably blurred, with principal advisor Sinha (who belonged to the identical cadre as Nripendra Misra, UP) having to report back to P.Ok. Mishra, and controlling solely these areas that have been explicitly not allotted to Mishra.
A second official identified: “With Nripendra Misra out of the PMO, there was simply P.Ok. Mishra who had a line to the PM. P.Ok. Sinha didn’t fairly take up that house. Over the past one yr, what you see is huge consolidation of energy round P.Ok. Mishra.”
Adjustments within the PMO
Yet another shock, high-profile exit from the federal government has been that of A.Ok. Sharma, one other shut aide of PM Modi since his days as Gujarat CM. Sharma had been a part of the PMO since 2014, however stop in January this yr.
“A.Ok. Sharma is without doubt one of the closest officers to the PM,” one of many two officers the second official quoted above mentioned.
“He was first moved out of the PMO and made MSME secretary, which isn’t a high-profile publish as such. However that might nonetheless be seen within the context of the pandemic and that the ministry is headed by Nitin Gadkari. However he was additionally very near Nripendra Misra, so his exit will also be seen in that context,” the official added.
When Sharma was moved out from the place of extra secretary within the PMO, his fellow extra secretary, Tarun Bajaj was as nicely, and made secretary, financial affairs. Bajaj has now been given the extra cost of the income division.
In June 2020, the federal government additionally appointed two members of the PMO, senior IAS officers Rajiv Topno and Brajendra Navnit, to the World Financial institution and the World Commerce Organisation (WTO), respectively.
“These have been some very important adjustments within the PMO within the final one yr… Nearly the whole core of the PMO has been modified over the previous couple of months,” an official who was on central deputation till final yr mentioned.
‘Commonplace, a matter of belief’
Shakti Sinha, who served as a joint secretary in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s PMO, instructed ThePrint that it’s common for a principal secretary to the PM to wield nice affect on appointments. In truth, mentioned Sinha, now a distinguished fellow on the India Basis and the honorary director of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Coverage Analysis and Worldwide Research, MS College, Vadodara, it’s a part of a historic governance development.
“That is a part of a historic development which began throughout Lal Bahadur Shastri’s time, the place energy shifted from the cupboard secretary’s workplace to the principal secretary within the PMO. Since then, even when India has had ‘weak’ PMs, the PMO has continued to be essential,” the previous IAS officer mentioned.
“With appointments and many others., a restricted diploma of bias is alright, as a result of it’s also a perform of belief. The one factor that’s totally different about this PMO is that it takes lengthy to make appointments due to a number of checks and consultations,” he added.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)
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