Power Secretary P K Sinha, who will otherwise retire in July 2015, is a front-runner, while Finance Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi is also under serious consideration. But the prime minister could spring a surprise as well.
On the eve of the completion of one year of the Narendra Modi government, one of the not-so-debated issues has been the indecision and confusion in selecting a cabinet secretary suitable for the National Democratic Alliance government.
Prime Minister Modi has not been able to select any officer from the Indian Administrative Service who can execute the NDA agenda as well as ensure that there is no policy paralysis.
In the last one year, the government that boasts of an historic mandate in Parliament and considers itself strong and decisive, has not been able to choose its own cabinet secretary to lead its army of officers.
Incumbent Ajit Seth was appointed by the United Progressive Alliance government and is on his third extension.
That term ends on June 13. Unless he gets an unexpected fourth extension, the new cabinet secretary will have to take over soon.
Power Secretary P K Sinha, who will otherwise retire in July 2015, is a front-runner. He belongs to the 1977 IAS batch of the Uttar Pradesh cadre.
Finance Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi is also under serious consideration. He belongs to the 1978 batch of the Rajasthan cadre.
He was Rajasthan chief secretary and was brought to the Centre to replace Arvind Mayaram. In Rajasthan he showed dramatic results while introducing s few market and labour reforms but in New Delhi so far he has not been able to register any big-time success.
If he doesn’t get the most coveted bureaucratic post in the country, Mehrishi will retire in August 2015.
The two extensions given to Ajit Seth by the NDA government under the excuse of having continuity in governance, speak volumes about PM Modi’s predicament over finding a top bureaucrat suitable for him. Seth's extensions have not been liked by fellow bureaucrats.
The new cabinet secretary will have to gel with the weighty and mighty Prime Minister’s Office.
Around eight months back it was argued that Saurabh Chandra or P K Sinha will become the cabinet secretary in December 2014. Meanwhile, due to the indecision in the government, Chandra retired.
It is said that Mehrishi remains the favourite of his boss, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while some others in the party and government think that Sinha is a doer and has proved his talent in the power ministry.
However, it will not be a surprise if Modi decides to spring a surprise.