Senior Indian Administrative Service officer JP Dange was appointed chief secretary of Maharashtra on Monday, while Principal Secretary Swadheen Kshatriya will be the new municipal commissioner.
Fifty-eight-year-old Dange succeeds Johny Joseph. Dange, who was additional chief secretary (Revenue), is the second Dalit to reach the highest post in the state’s bureaucracy.
The chief secretary’s selection was a tough task for Chief Minister Ashok Chavan. Although Dange was the seniormost officer in the hierarchy, Chavan was not keen to appoint him initially, said sources in the government.
Dange’s tenure as commissioner of the Thane Municipal Corporation in 1996-97 was controversial as it was the same time that the state government had appointed an inquiry commission, following allegations of large-scale corruption in the municipal body.
Chavan wanted to appoint MMRDA commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad as the chief secretary, but the selection would have meant bypassing nine officers.
The second in line being considered for the post was Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Chandra Iyengar.
However, a section of Congress leaders was opposed to her and pushing for Rajiv Agarwal who is on central government deputation. Finally, Chavan decided to go by seniority.
Chavan said Dange bagged the post on the basis of seniority and merit. “We have made him chief secretary as he is seniormost secretary (in the state) and also has merit.” Though his alliance partner, NCP, wanted Iyengar to be made chief secretary, Chavan insisted Dange was a unanimous choice. “I have taken a decision in consultation with all,” he said.
Dange said his priority was to maintain regional balance in developing the state. “Every region has its own set of issues. I will try to resolve them.”
In another much-awaited decision, CM’s principal secretary Swadheen Kshatriya was made the commissioner of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. Principal Secretary (Water supply and sanitation) Ajit Kumar Jain replaced Kshatriya.
Kshatriya is Chavan’s confidant and it is due to this association that he has been transferred to the most important office in the city’s administrative set-up. Earlier, the officer worked as general manager of civic body's transport and electricity supply unit, BEST. But this time, he would exercise immense clout as the chief executive of BMC where political bosses don’t have any executive powers.
Dalit boy from Vidarbha was youngest in his batch
She was more anxious than anyone else in her family. Once it was confirmed that her father JP Dange (58) was chosen as the state’s chief secretary, Nirupama (31), also an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, started celebrating.
“It was because of him that I quit my career in medicine and worked hard to join the IAS in 2007,” Nirupama told Hindustan Times from Jalgaon where she works as the chief executive officer of the local zilla parishad.
“My father deserved it because of his seniority. As his daughter and an IAS officer, I’m confident he will deliver the best in his tenure.”
Dange joined the IAS in 1973 at the age of 22. He was the youngest officer of that batch and ranked among the country’s first 30 IAS toppers.
But what is remarkable is that this science postgraduate came from an underprivileged Dalit family in the backward district of Akola in western Vidarbha.
He is the state’s second Dalit chief secretary after P G Gavai (1979-82).
Before this, he worked in different capacities in Mantralaya, several civil and public corporations and districts. His last posting was additional chief secretary (revenue).
“I owe my achievement to my hard work,” Dange said. “I will do my best to make administration more efficient and pro-people.”
Dange had his share of controversy as the head of the Thane Municipal
Corporation 14 years ago, when ex-IAS officer Nand Lal passed some strictures against him.
New posts for Kupekar, Joseph
Former assembly speaker Babasaheb Kupekar was appointed as Executive Chairman of Maharashtra State Planning Board on Monday.
The Board, along with the finance department, prepares the annual developmental plan for the state.
Kupekar, a Nationalist Congress Party legislator, was unhappy with the party leadership for denying him the post of Assembly speaker for a second term. The party chose Dilip Walse-Patil for the post. Now, the party has rehabilitated him as the Board’s chief.
The current Board chief Ratnakar Mahajan has already resigned but was asked by Chief Minister Ashok Chavan to continue till a successor was appointed.
Meanwhile, outgoing chief secretary Johny Joseph has been appointed as state’s Upalokayukta, an ombudsman or a people's procurator, who can investigate into the grievances of the public about administrative wrongs and excesses. Joseph retired on Monday.
The man who’ll head civic body
A 1980 batch IAS officer, Swadheen Kshatriya (52) was serving as principal secretary to Chief Minister before he was appointed as municipal commissioner on Monday.
Kshatriya, a graduate in political science, is known as a Ashok Chavan loyalist. He served the former chief minister S.B. Chavan in his office and till recently, was principal secretary to his son Ashok Chavan after he took over in December 2008.
Kshatriya was associated with the city’s administration in his service. He has served as general manager of the BEST, chief executive officer of MHADA and also commissioner of Sales Tax.