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Payback time

mumbai Updated: Dec 05, 2009 01:15 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad

Political circles are seriously surprised by the appointment of senior bureaucrat J P Dange as chief secretary of the government. Not that Dange isn't qualified enough; he is the senior-most IAS officer. And though he is not disliked, he's not exactly a universal favourite.

So why did Chief Minister Ashok Chavan pick him for this plum post? Talk in the Chavan camp is that their boss was just returning a favour.

A central minister who hails from Maharashtra influenced Chavan's decision, say the CM’s aides. After the assembly polls, this minister pulled out of the race for chief ministership and backed Chavan, making it easier for the latter to retain his CM’s chair. Naturally, when the union minister put in a word for the bureaucrat, the CM had to oblige.

Track II diplomacy

It was a tough task for the Shiv Sena to retain power in Mumbai's municipal corporation, especially when its bete noire, Revenue Minister Narayan Rane, was determined to defeat the saffron combine in the mayoral election. Still, the party won the election comfortably —thanks to the decision of the MNS and Samajwadi Party to stay away from the election, reducing the opposition tally by 15.

The SP, which is not exactly friends with the Sena, chose not to vote against the latter following a meeting between its local leaders and Uddhav Thackeray’s man Friday, Milind Narwekar, a couple of days before the elections. And this happened just days after the SP’s Abu Azmi spoke against Sena Chief Bal Thackeray. But then, the Sena and the SP have a common enemy — the Congress.

Azmi had one more reason to be unhappy with the Congress — he wanted the party to back his son, Farhaan, for an assembly by-election in Bhiwandi. But the Congress refused to oblige. Azmi, who is vacating the Bhiwandi seat, wanted to, but naturally, hand it to his son. But there's always another time.

Plugging the leak

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan is rather annoyed that details of cabinet meetings are leaked to the media. So a set of dos and don'ts have been issued to bureaucrats who usually attend these meetings. One of the rules states that they should not attend a meeting if their subject is not being discussed. And when it is, they should leave the cabinet meeting hall once the discussion is over.

Funny part is, it’s mainly the ministers who leak tidbits to the media. And there's precious little any chief minister can do about that when there is a coalition government and all ministers do not belong to the CM's party. Looks like Chavan will have to bear with the leaks for some time.

Revenue tightrope

Following J P Dange’s elevation as chief secretary, the post of Revenue Secretary is vacant and the CM has to decide who will fill the vacancy. Familiar as they are with Revenue Minister Narayan Rane’s temper, very few senior officers are interested in the post.

They are also dreading the fact that whoever gets it will have to walk a tightrope in keeping both the CM and Rane happy. You see, the revenue department looks after land transactions and district administration. And with Chavan and Rane not exactly friends, there will be a tussle for control of this department.

Who will be the unlucky man, bureaucrats wonder.