Punjab governor Shivraj Patil on Monday cleared the name of Lt Gen Manjinder Singh Buttar (retd) for the coveted post of Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) chairman.
The search committee headed by chief secretary Rakesh Singh had shortlisted Lt Gen Buttar (retd), Lt Gen Kuldip Singh (retd) and Punjab-cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Gurinderjit Singh Sandhu, who retired as financial commissioner (development) in March, for the post of PPSC chairman.
But in this hot race, Lt Gen Buttar, who was commissioned in the army in December 1972 in the artillery regiment, has emerged as the frontrunner and will succeed Lt Gen RS Sujlana (retd), who demitted office recently after an 18-month-long tenure.
"The governor cleared the file on Monday evening and approved the name of Lt Gen MS Buttar (retd)," a top government source said.
Lt Gen Buttar, who retired from the army in May 2012, held various prestigious instructional, staff and command appointments, apart from the Chief of Staff, Western Command, and director general (weapons and equipment). He will have a tenure of less than nine months, it is learnt.
The chairman and members of the commission hold office for a fixed term of six years or until the age of 62 years.
The PPSC chairman's tag seems to have become so tempting that three Lieutenant Generals MS Buttar, Kuldip Singh and Karan Amol Singh Bhullar had sent in their applications, apart from Major Gen BS Grewal (retd) and Brig Raj Kumar (retd). Lt Gen Kuldip Singh was in service when he applied for the post, government sources said.
Sources say while Lt Gen Buttar will turn 62 in about nine months, Lt Gen Kuldip Singh and Sandhu have just completed 60 years.
During shortlisting of the candidates, the new-found penchant of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal for installing army officers as the PPSC chairman was reportedly discussed. At one of the meetings, the rationale behind appointing only a Lt Gen as the chairman was debated, particularly in view of the fact that a Lt-Gen rank officer usually retires at the age of 60. Thus, such an officer is left with a very short span to function as the PPSC chairman, forcing the government to launch a hunt for this post frequently.
The search committee comprising chief secretary Rakesh Singh, financial commissioner (revenue) NS Kang and Lt Gen BS Dhaliwal (retd), who is the adviser (technical) to the CM, prepared the panel last week and sent the file to the chief minister, who heads the high-powered committee including assembly speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal and Leader of the Opposition Sunil Jakhar.
After seeking the consent of the speaker and the Leader of the Opposition, the government sent the file to the governor on Monday for the final nod.
Besides the army officers, a 'Class-6 passout' was among 37 candidates who had sent in their applications for the top post.
The state government began the practice of inviting applications for the post of PPSC chairman and members from eminent persons of impeccable integrity and administrative experience from all walks of life after the Punjab and Haryana high court had in 2011 set the guidelines while setting aside Akali leader Harish Rai Dhanda's appointment as the chairman.