The race for Uttarakhand's top bureaucratic post has turned into an intense cyber battle between supporters and detractors of the frontrunners, resulting in a flood of 'likes' and counter comments on the social networking site, Facebook.This is perhaps the first time in the history of the 15-year-old state, that a debate has erupted on a public forum, to decide the next chief secretary (CS).
Additional chief secretary (ACS) Rakesh Sharma, a 1981 batch IAS officer, is widely tipped to succeed the present incumbent Ravi Shankar, who will retire on July 31.
A few days ago, a group of activists and political leaders began a campaign on Facebook against Sharma, citing alleged instances of impropriety by him, while holding posts earlier in his career.
The group that calls itself 'campaign against Rakesh Sharma', has 228 members including activists and leaders from fringe political parties like the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal.
Within days of Hindustan Times reporting the campaign, a new Facebook page was created by unknown people in support of Sharma.
The page is called 'Rakesh Sharma for Uttarakhand' which was created last week and garnered more than 2,300 likes. Facebook data suggested that the five-day-old page has nearly 15,000% more 'likes' than last week.
The description of the page reads, "This page is dedicated to the profound career of Shri Rakesh Sharma, 1981 batch IAS officer, currently serving as additional chief secretary for Uttarakhand".
According to government sources, another 1981 official Amrinder Sinha, serving currently in Delhi, is being considered for the top post.
The ruling Congress and BJP have maintained silence on the issue. Chief minister Harish Rawat too has not given any hints on his choice for the next CS.
Dehradun-based political analyst Jay Singh Rawat said people usually go by the general perception and Sharma is facing the same predicament.
"Rakesh Sharma is an official who has always hogged limelight due to his working style, whether someone likes or not. It will be interesting to see whether the chief minister will elevate him to the position of CS," Jay told HT.
Former chief secretary NS Napalchiyal said that there was nothing new in the debate. "Every time a new CS has to be appointed such speculative debate takes place. This is nothing new….. Everything becomes normal after the new CS is appointed," he added.