Punjab's cooperative bank managing director (MD) Kamaldeep Singh Sangha has emerged as the frontrunner to get the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) tag as the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) on Monday completed the mandatory process of filling the lone IAS vacancy in the border state through the nomination route, it is learnt.
A high-powered panel of officers, including seniormost members of the UPSC, on Saturday interviewed five candidates who were shortlisted by the Punjab government on the basis of a rigorous criteria followed by an interview to ensure that a well-deserving candidate gets this prestigious position and not politically influential candidates, as has been the case in the past.
Apart from the UPSC member and senior IAS officers from the union government, the interviewing panel comprised Punjab chief secretary Rakesh Singh, Sujata Dass (second seniormost IAS officer of Punjab) and secretary (personnel) Anirudh Tewari.
Earlier, the state government had constituted a screening committee headed by the chief secretary and comprising principal secretary (home) DS Bains and principal secretary-rank officer Jagpal Singh Sandhu to shortlist five candidates, ostensibly on merit.
This panel had shortlisted five non-Punjab Civil Service (PCS) officers, namely Kamaldeep Singh Sangha; ML Sharma (economic adviser to Punjab government); Mohan Veer Singh (additional director, technical education); Dr Preneet Girdhar; and Dr Shiv Karan Singh Kahlon, son of former Punjab Vidhan Sabha speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon.
Had the UPSC not conducted the interview by December 31 to fill the post in question and select the final candidate, the shortlisted panel would have become null and void. From 2014, the present method of promoting state civil services officers (PCS in case of Punjab) or selecting non-PCS officers to the elite IAS cadre on the basis of their service record (annual confidential reports etc.) will cease. Instead, the UPSC will hold written examinations for selecting such officers to the IAS.
Government sources said that during the interview, Sangha reportedly emerged as the unanimous choice of the panel. Now, the recommendation of the interviewing panel will be approved by the UPSC chairman, after which the file will be sent to the Punjab government for necessary formalities and then to the union personnel department.
There were more than 26 candidates who were angling for this sole IAS post, to be filled through nomination and without appearing in the written examination.
Initially, apart from Dr Kahlon, another political heavyweight, additional director general of school education Parampal Kaur, daughter-in-law of education minister Sikander Singh Maluka, was also in the race, which she lost at the screening level.
In view of the tug-of-war between Kahlon and Maluka, the government had prepared a foolproof specific criteria to ensure that merit is not compromised.