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Political race over, babus’ turn now

delhi Updated: May 21, 2009 01:26 IST
Aloke Tikku
Aloke Tikku
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The Congress’ stellar show has decisively ended the month-long political battle. But in the bureaucratic circles, the race has just begun.

The babus are jostling for nearly half-a-dozen top posts, including the post of cabinet secretary and secretaries in the ministries of home and defence. All three posts come with a two-year fixed tenure.

Commerce secretary Gopal Krishna Pillai is considered the top contender for the cabinet secretary’s post. Incumbent K.M. Chandrasekhar completes his two-year term in mid-June.

Pillai’s toughest competition is not from just another batch-mate but from within his family: his wife and labour secretary Sudha Pillai — the only one in the civil list ranked a notch higher.

The rules stipulate that the four senior-most officers have to be considered for the job but give the government discretion to appoint any of them, explained a senior official.

Till now, no woman has ever been appointed cabinet secretary. If selected ahead of her husband, Sudha Pillai would be the first to break the glass ceiling. However if the PM decides on her husband instead, he would have let pass this opportunity as he had done three years ago.

Gopal Krishna Pillai was earlier named for the home secretary’s post two months ago. But that post did not fall vacant as the government decided to continue with the incumbent, Madhukar Gupta, till June-end.

With Gopal Krishna Pillai expected to move up, speculation is also rife over the next home secretary. Petroleum secretary R.S. Pandey has joined the other contender, revenue secretary P.V. Bhide in the race. Bhide had earlier had a long stint in the home ministry, handling the politically sensitive Centre-State Relations.

Sushma Singh, information and broadcasting secretary, and information technology secretary Jainder Singh will retire this month-end. Defence secretary Vijay Singh is due to retire July-end.

For his second term in office, Manmohan Singh too would reconstitute his team at the Prime Minister’s Office around the same time. Singh is expected to largely hold on to the existing team that he implicitly trusts but could have an important assignment for former US ambassador Ronen Sen.