Uttarakhand on Monday complied with the central government’s order to replace its chief secretary but carved out a parallel post for the outgoing officer in a step that could deepen a persisting confrontation between the Congress-ruled state and the Centre.
IAS officer Shatrughna Singh took over as chief secretary from bureaucrat Rakesh Sharma who would now be chief principal secretary to the chief minister, a position that critics said was “extra-constitutional” and could unhinge the state’s administrative machinery.
“We are certainly going to face problems as we now have one chief secretary and one ‘super’ chief secretary,” a senior government official said.
The move comes on the heels of a bitter showdown between the state and the BJP-led Centre after the Harish Rawat government reappointed Sharma as chief secretary following his retirement on October 31 but the decision was rejected by the central government.
Rival parties have questioned this attempt by the Congress government to accommodate the 1981-batch IAS officer by stretching the rules.
“Is Rakesh Sharma the only official in the state decorated with numerous merits,” CPI(ML) leader Indresh Maikhuri wrote in a letter to governor KK Paul. “If it is so then the government should give retirement to all other bureaucrats.”
Sharma has been appointed for a year on contract and will continue to enjoy the perks and facilities that he was entitled to in his previous post.
Sources say while the Centre’s department of personnel and training (DoPT) rejected the state’s request to extend Sharma’s tenure as chief secretary by three months, the Harish Rawat government created the new post.
On November 3, the DoPT strongly objected to the state’s move on technical grounds and sought an explanation. Following this, chief minister Rawat had told HT his government would find a way to avoid confrontation.
Senior BJP leader Ravindra Jugran who wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) against Sharma’s reappointment as chief secretary said all the decisions taken over the past 15 days by the outgoing officer were illegal.
“Technically, there was no chief secretary after 31st Oct,” he said in the letter. “The government should explain what will happen to all the administrative and financial sanctions granted during this duration.”
Shatrughna Singh, a 1983-batch IAS officer, had joined Uttarakhand as additional chief secretary after a deputation at the Centre.
He has served in the PMO as well as several central ministries and reportedly shares a good rapport with the BJP.