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The man who weathered coup, Agusta, Tatra controversies

May 24, 2013 12:00 IST

Newly appointed Comptroller and Auditor General Shashi Kant Sharma is is approachable and friendly, not forbidding, say his former colleagues. 

When Defence Minister A K Antony was chief minister of Kerala, his instruction to his staff was simple: "I don't want files to come to me. You clear the files and tell me where to sign and I will. But you are an extension of me -- when you do something, it is as if I were doing it. So, please remember this when you prepare a file noting."

In other words, it was a relationship of complete trust between the minister and his bureaucrats. During his tenure as chief minister, rarely did Antony's table have a lot of files on it.

Shashi Kant Sharma would not have become the Comptroller and Auditor General, had it not been for Antony. Sharma was defence secretary through halcyon times, as well as equally troubled times in the defence ministry. He weathered former army chief V K Singh's attempted coup controversy, along with several corruption scams, including the AgustaWestland deal and the Tatra trucks scam with equanimity.

In fact, equanimity and balance are integral to Sharma. Rarely does he get into flaps. When it comes to building relationships with subordinates, he is known to emulate Antony recently, he told a junior: "Yaar, tell me what to write and I will do it". Junior officers in the defence ministry say he is approachable and friendly, not forbidding.

Perhaps, it is this sense of balance that has kept him away from controversies. As joint secretary (air acquisitions) in 2003, he was a key figure in negotiating the deal. In 2010, as director general of defence acquisition, he cleared the deal. Yet, even as the issue of bribes in the deal has come to haunt former chief of air staff S P Tyagi, there isn't a whiff of implied impropriety in Sharma's conduct.

As Comptroller and Auditor General, one of the first deals he should choose to audit should be the decisions he had taken in his previous capacities. Sharma would be stepping into the shoes of Vinod Rai, the man who had rocked the government establishment by doing his job all too well. Sharma is genial, and though he has never won any award in his career, he has always managed to get the best jobs -- secretary, department of financial services, and secretary, ministry of defence.

Earlier, Sharma was posted in Banka (Bihar) and Dhanbad and Bokaro (both in Jharkhand). He was district magistrate of Bhagalpur from 1982 to1985 and served as district magistrate of Patna in 1990, before being appointed labour commissioner in Bihar, a post he held till 1992. He was then shifted to Delhi to run the department of youth affairs and sports and, thereafter, to the ministry of urban affairs and employment.

He has never made waves and is not expected to create problems for an election-bound government -- that's what qualifies him for the job.

Aditi Phadnis