Even four weeks after the retirement of State Bank of India managing director K Ashok Kini, the government has not been able to identify his successor.
In the face of intense lobbying by various pressure groups, Finance Minister P Chidambaram has not put his stamp of approval on the file cleared by the appointments committee. Instead, he has sent it to the Prime Minister's Office for a final call.
Kini's successor will ultimately be made chairman of the country's largest commercial bank when AK Purwar retires on May 31. This is because the other managing director, TS Bhattacharya, will not have the residual two years' service, a pre-condition for the top post.
Five executives of the rank of deputy managing director were interviewed by the appointments committee in September.
They are: Abhijit Dutta, DMD and corporate development officer, SBI, Yogesh Agarwal, MD, State Bank of Patiala, OP Bhatt, MD, State Bank of Travancore, Sanjay Bhattacharya, MD, State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, and C Narasimham, MD, State Bank of Indore.
The appointments' committee -- consisting of former Reserve Bank of India Deputy Governor K J Udeshi, Economic Affairs Secretary Ashok Jha, Additional Secretary (banking) Vinod Rai, former SBI Chairman Dipankar Basu and one management expert -- recommended Bhatt's name for the post.
But, a section of the banking industry pitched for Agarwal as he was the most senior of the lot. Although four of the contenders joined the bank on the same date (July 1, 1972) and enjoyed equal seniority till they were made chief general managers, Agarwal was the first to be made DMD.
While the supporters of Agarwal say never in the history of the SBI has any senior executive with more than two years of residual service been superseded (when a chairman is selected), others contend that Bhatt has done well at the interview, which is the deciding factor for the appointment.
The finance ministry started interviewing executives for the top slot a few years back.