In his new innings as Punjab chief minister, Captain Amarinder Singh got cracking from Day One. The cabinet in its first meeting on Saturday ordered sweeping economic, police and administrative reforms. Amarinder already has a team of his trusted lieutenants — three Indian Administrative Services officers, two Punjab Civil Services officers and some personal loyalists — in place. Some have been appointed and some are awaiting an official announcement. The new-look chief minister’s office (CMO) has many firsts — from a woman breaking into a male bastion to protocol secretaries! Sukhdeep Kaur tells you who are the king’s men and his armours.
Man Friday: Suresh Kumar, chief principal secretary
A sharpshooter at all things administrative, this 1983-batch IAS officer was principal secretary to Capt during his previous stint. He retired last year as an additional chief secretary. With Amarinder’s return to power, Kumar is back into the thick of babudom as CM’s Man Friday. Nothing suits Capt more than soft-spoken and low-profile Kumar who can get work done and yet ruffle no feathers. For Kumar, transparency will be the mantra.
2nd in command: Tejvir Singh, principal secretary to CM
A 1994-batch IAS officer, Tejvir will be second in command as principal secretary to the CM. Presently, on central deputation, Tejvir will join the new assignment in first week of April. His experience as Patiala deputy commissioner and later director of public relations will also come handy for Amarinder in managing his constituency and the media.
Youth factor: Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, Special principal secretary
At 44, he is the junior-most IAS officer (2001 batch) in the CMO, and has been posted as special principal secretary to the CM. Gurkirat was director, social security, in the previous government and was currently holding the position of Markfed managing director. He says his office will try its best to address every grievance of people of Punjab.
Gender bender: Amrit kaur Gill, deputy principal secretary to CM
Amrit Kaur Gill has broken the glass ceiling to become the first woman officer to be appointed in the CMO. The 53-year-old PCS officer has moved to her new assignment as the deputy principal secretary to the CM after serving as the chief administrator of GLADA. She brings with her experience of 22 years at various positions.
Mr Dependable: MP Singh, OSD to CM
The trust that this retired PCS officer enjoys both with Amarinder and his wife, Preneet Kaur, is evident from the fact that he was appointed as the officer on special duty even before Amarinder was sworn in as the chief minister. The Patiala Palace cannot do without him and he cannot do without them either. Not media-savvy, he likes to work from behind the scenes.
Capt’s eyes and ears: Capt sandeep Sandhu, secretary, political
Amarinder is not easily accessible to party MLA and leaders, and so he has someone Congress leaders refer to as ‘Chhota Captain’. This former sailor from merchant navy acts as Amarinder’s logistics man and link to the AICC. Presently, general secretary in-charge of the Congress office, he keeps those who cannot meet Captain in good humour.
Fellow armyman: Major Amardeep, secretary, protocol
What better company for a former armyman and military historian like Amarinder than another from the army. Major Amardeep served in the same Sikh Regiment of which Amarinder was a part and essays many roles from his chauffeur and liaison officer to a trusted aide.
Long-time loyalist: Karanpal Sekhon, secretary, protocol
He left a corporate job to be where his heart was — officer on special duty (OSD) to Amarinder. The Sekhons have been close to the Patiala royalty for three generations now. Karanpal has been a constant with Amarinder, in power and out of it.
Experience counts: Raveen Thukral, Media Advisor
A former political editor of Hindustan Times and associate editor of The Tribune, Raveen Thukral has long years of experience in media. The 52-year-old took over as Amarinder’s media strategist in the run up to the elections and will be his media manager as Captain dons the role of CM.
Media man: Vimal Sumbly, press secretary
A former journalist, he was the media secretary to Amarinder throughout latter’s days as the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president. His good relations with the media will see Sumbly take the role of chief minister’s press secretary. He has also served as media adviser to a former Union minister, Manish Tewari.
MEN WHO MATTER
Old camaraderie: Lt Gen TS Shergill (Retd), senior advisor
War veteran Lt Gen Tajinder Singh Shergill (retd), one of the most trusted of Amarinder’s friends, is set to be appointed as a senior adviser in the CMO. A former chairman of PPSC, Shergill co-authored a book with Capt.
Eyes on prudence: KR Lakhanpal, expenditure panel head
Former chief secretary, he is tipped to head the Expenditure Reforms Commission. The cabinet has approved the formation of the commission to plug wasteful expenditure and ensure prudence and efficiency in spendings.
Legal hawk: Atul Nanda, advocate general
The legal hawk has landed the plum post of advocate general in the Amarinder government. He has been handling Captain’s personal court cases and is a part of his inner circle of friends.