Behind chief secretary’s ouster: A case of missing names, declining ties with Uttarakhand CM
Outgoing Chief secretary S Ramaswamy earned the ire of his political masters after irrigation minister Satpal Maharaj’s name was found missing from the five foundation stones which Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid in Kedarnath on October 20dehradun Updated: Oct 25, 2017 14:56 IST
Chief secretary S Ramaswamy earned the ire of his political masters after irrigation minister Satpal Maharaj’s name was missing from the five foundation stones which Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid in Kedarnath on October 20, according to top sources.
But, the sources added, it was just an immediate provocation.
Unfortunately for the senior bureaucrat, the “faux pas” was followed by another similar act — the non-inclusion of the local parliamentarian and former BJP chief minister BC Khanduri’s name. BJP insiders said the clumsy act was brought to Modi’s notice and he viewed it as an upshot of the infighting in the BJP state leadership.
No wonder, Ramaswamy was unceremoniously removed from his position a few days later. He was replaced with Utpal Kumar Singh, an IAS officer of Uttarakhand cadre of 1986 batch.
Sources in the government said the faux pas during the Mod visit could only be an immediate provocation for the abrupt ouster. “The real reason behind his unceremonious exit is said to be his performance which was perceived to be slow by the Modi-led BJP government at the Centre,” an official said, adding the Prime Minister used to personally monitor the progress of all the centrally funded projects during videoconferencing with Ramaswamy.
The centrally funded schemes which Modi regularly monitored included his pet Chardham all weather roads project and the Rishikesh-Karnaprayag rail project.
Another reason that contributed to Ramaswamy’s ouster is said to be his failure to contain factionalism in the state bureaucracy. Sources close to chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat indicated that the CM’s tuning with the top bureaucrat had come under strain recently. “He had occupied the top post for a long time…Let the change happen which is alright,” an aide of the chief minister quipped.
After his appointment as the chief secretary almost a year ago, Ramaswamy had three more years to go as his retirement is due in 2020. Ramaswamy is also the chairman of the revenue board, a post he will continue to hold, sources in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) indicated, adding he may also take up a new assignment at the Centre.
Surprisingly, the entire process was kept a tight secret. If sources in the CMO are to be believed, Rawat dispatched a letter to the Centre on Monday evening urging it to relieve Singh at the earliest. “Singh was relieved by the Centre and repatriated to his parent cadre,” a senior IAS officer said, referring Uttarakhand where he (Singh) had served in various senior capacities in the past.
BJP state chief Ajay Bhatt refused to comment on the reports that infighting in the BJP led to the ouster of Ramaswamy. “I am heading the party organisation…My duty is to publicise among the people the projects and schemes being implemented by our government, which I am doing.”