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Fernandez is Patil's top aide

The government appoints tourism secretary as secretary to President Patil on Wednesday, report Aloke Tikku & Hemendra Singh Bartwal.

india Updated: Jul 26, 2007 02:46 IST

India's first woman President Pratibha Patil will have a male officer as her top aide.

The government appointed tourism secretary Christy Leon Fernandez as secretary to President Patil on Wednesday. He took over later in the evening.

There are 13 women officers from the Indian Administrative Service holding the rank of secretary like information and broadcasting secretary Asha Swarup and labour secretary Sudha Pillai.

The President is understood to have discussed names of officers eligible for the post with the Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrashekhar on Tuesday. She is believed to have zeroed in on the tourism secretary on his advice.

Fernandez steps into the shoes of retired bureaucrat PM Nair, whose tenure at Rashtrapati Bhavan was co-terminus with former President APJ Abdul Kalam. "I am sure this is going to be a unique experience. I am looking forward to working with the President," Fernandez said shortly after he was named for the post.

The 1973 batch IAS officer, who emerged the winner for the top bureaucratic post in Rashtrapati Bhavan, had been cleared for holding the post of secretary to the central government in January this year. He joined the tourism ministry less than three months ago; this was his first posting holding full charge of a central department. Fernandez has 23 months remaining before his retirement in June 2009. But like Nair, he also can continue beyond this date on a contractual basis if Patil so desires.