CM Jayalalithaa in hospital, her adviser is in Tamil Nadu hot seat | india-news | Hindustan Times
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CM Jayalalithaa in hospital, her adviser is in Tamil Nadu hot seat

Retired IAS officer, Sheela Balakrishnan, 62, is credited with running the state administration while the chief minister is battling her illness.

Jaya unwell Updated: Oct 08, 2016 10:52 IST
KV Lakshmana
J Jayalalithaa
Retired IAS office Sheela Balakrishnan is being credited with running the Tamil state government while chief minister J Jayalalithaa remains hospitalised.(Handout photo)

It isn’t Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa alone who is the centre of attention at the city’s Apollo Hospital. Somewhere on the second floor where the ailing chief minister is being treated by a team of top doctors, another lady holds court these days with top officials queuing up for instructions.

Retired IAS officer, Sheela Balakrishnan, 62, is credited with running the state administration while the chief minister is battling her illness. “Even ministers are taking instructions from her,” pointed out a top official who did not wish to be named.

“Jayalalithaa has implicit trust in Sheela Balakrishnan, both for her abilities and attitude, which is why she has become the most important person in the state today. Nothing moves without her consent,” he added.

Read | Even from hospital bed, CM Jayalalithaa keeps reins firmly in hand

Few in Tamil Nadu are willing to come on record on how the administration is being run in absence of Jayalalithaa who has been hospitalised for more than 10 days. There has always been an element of secrecy shrouding both the chief minister and the top-rung of her AIADMK party and no one is willing to invite her wrath by sharing details.

Even her illness and the current state of her health have been the subject of speculation. On Tuesday, the Madras high court ordered the state government to inform the court about her health within two days after an activist filed a petition seeking clarity.

Top officials visiting the Apollo hospital say their visits are for twin purposes: To check on the chief minister’s health and to also seek guidance from the bespectacled Balakrishnan.

Babus who call the shots in the states
As Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha remains hospitalized for close to two weeks, it’s her adviser Sheela Balakrishnan, a former bureaucrat, who calls the shots in state administration. HT takes a look at some other babus who are the real power behind the throne in the states:
ODISHA
Name: V K Pandiyan, 2000 batch IAS officer.
Designation: Private Secretary to CM
Power-point: Known to pull strings in the CM’s office, the low profile bureaucrat has been instrumental in launching some of the most successful schemes. Wields enormous power not only in the government but also in Biju Janata Dal, as he controls access to the CM. He has been listed as most powerful bureaucrat by surveys done by Odisha television channel.
UTTAR PRADESH
Name: Anita Singh, 1990 batch IAS
Designation: Principal Secretary to CM
Power-point: Singh is the boss of the secretariat that houses CM Akhilesh Yadav’s office. Also, having worked under Akhilesh’s father Mulayam Singh during the earlier SP regime, she enjoys the complete trust of the powers that be. Singh’s command is considered the final order of the political bosses in UP..
RAJASTHAN
Name: Tanmay Kumar, 1993 batch IAS
Designation: Secreatry to CM Vasundhara Raje
Power-point: Is the most powerful bureaucrat in state as he controls access to CM and his opinion matters on all major decisions. He has the last word on all decisions and is the final authority in transfers and postings. Plus, he enjoys Raje’s complete trust.
PUNJAB
Name: Gaggandip Singh Brar, 1990 batch PCS
Designation: Special Principal Secretary to CM
Power-point: Brar is the eyes and ears for the ageing but agile Parkash Singh Badal. The entire Badal clan trusts this low-profile bureaucrat unquestioningly. Having family ties with the ruling clan is seen as the primary reason behind Badal opting for Brar when the SAD-BJP government dethroned the Congress in March 2007.
JHARKHAND
Name: Sanjay Kumar, 1990 batch IAS
Designation: Principal Secretary to CM
Power-point: Known to pull strings in the CM’s office, the low profile bureaucrat has been instrumental in launching some of the most successful schemes. Wields enormous power not only in the government but also in Biju Janata Dal, as he controls access to the CM. He has been listed as most powerful bureaucrat by surveys done by Odisha television channel.

The 1976-batch IAS officer hailing from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala is said to be operating from a room close to that of Jayalalithaa. Another room on the same floor is occupied by Sasikala, a long time aide of the chief minister.

But Balakrishnan is the person whom top officials such as chief secretary P Rama Mohan Rao and director general of police TK Rajendran actively seek out. Balakrishnan retired in 2014, but was appointed as the CM’s official adviser soon after.

Read | Jayalalithaa is recovering, there is no need for photographs: AIADMK

It is in her capacity as Jayalalithaa’s most-trusted advisor that Balakrishnan is calling all the shots, insiders say. Influential ministers including O Panneerselvam, who became the chief minister twice when Jayalalithaa had to step down because of legal troubles, play marginal roles.

Though no major policy decisions are being taken in Jayalalithaa’s absence, officials say Balakrishnan is ensuring the administration runs smoothly, giving an impression of being on ‘auto pilot’.

Orders dictated from the hospital are being implemented and overseen by another retired IAS officer, Santha Sheela Nair, who sits in the chief minister’s office in the state secretariat. She has been appointed as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in the CM’s office.

“It is good that Tamil Nadu has a strong and efficient bureaucracy to keep the momentum going without guidance from the political leadership,” insisted Ganapati Ramachandran, vice-president of the South Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

MG Devasahayam, a former top bureaucrat, pointed out that Balakrishnan, with more than three decades of administrative experience, has the required acumen to run the state. She first got into Jayalalithaa’s good books while serving in the chief minister’s secretariat in 2002.

When the DMK came to power, she was sidelined. But she staged a comeback when Jayalalithaa stormed back to power in 2011. Her bond with the chief minister grew further, and in 2012 when the chief secretary’s post fell vacant, she even superseded her IAS-husband R Balakrishnan to occupy the top administrative position.

Also read | Speculation rife over Jayalalithaa’s health, cops crack down on rumour mongers