The prime minister’s office (PMO) will acquire a new look before the year-end with as many as eight senior officials in Manmohan Singh’s team headed for new assignments.
The overhaul is triggered by the seven-year-tenure ceiling the PM has mandated for officials on deputation. It comes close to his promise of an "expansive" reshuffle of his council of ministers before Parliament’s monsoon session.
The changes will at once make room for new arrivals that will possibly include 1974-batch UP cadre IAS Pulok Chatterjee, who left the PMO in early 2009 to join the World Bank as executive director.
Chatterjee had a long meeting with the PM and his principal secretary TKA Nair in Delhi on Wednesday. His return is expected to streamline communication between the PM's office and the Congress party, given his equal proximity to Singh and Sonia Gandhi, whom he served as private secretary when she was Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
A batch-mate of the new cabinet secretary AK Seth, Chatterjee will retire from the civil service in August this year though his three-year stint in the World Bank ends in early 2012.
He will hold key portfolios in the PM’s team with the rank of a full secretary. That could bring MN Prasad, another secretary-level official on a post-retirement contract with the PMO, within the ambit of the proposed changes. But Singh hasn't taken a call yet on Prasad's continuation or otherwise.
Others likely to be repatriated to their parent cadres or assigned tasks abroad include additional secretary R Gopalakrishnan, three joint secretaries and four director-level officials. Most of them joined the PMO when Singh assumed office in 2004.
The joint secretaries on the exit list are: Pankaj Saran of the Indian Foreign Service and Sanjay Mitra and Vini Mahajan, both IAS. Mitra is tipped to revert to his parent West Bengal cadre in the first half of July as principal secretary to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. He’ll be followed by Saran and Mahajan who are on a six-month extension.
Mahajan looks after telecom in the PMO. She was retained on extension for the sake of continuity in the face of multiple probes into the 2G scam.
The four directors on their last leg in the PMO are DPS Sandhu of Indian Railway Service and Sudhakar Dalela (IFS) besides IITians Ashish Gupta (IPS) and Amit Aggarwal (IAS). The PM's office is reportedly pushing Sandhu's case for a World Bank assignment.
Sources said field experience and diverse regional background will be key criteria for filling up emerging vacancies without compromising homogeneity. Principal secretary Nair and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon hold the rank of ministers of state in the PM's office.