NEW DELHI (TIP):With a week to go for election results to be declared and little chance of the ruling coalition getting a fresh term, UPA ministers and their staff have started winding up. Most offices wear a deserted look with ministerial staff either looking at foreign postings or starting to scout for their next assignment within the country.
The early birds have already taken up new assignments. For instance, Indu Shekhar Chaturvedi, who was private secretary to PM Manmohan Singh, has moved to Washington as a senior advisor in the International Monetary Fund. Similarly, Anjali Prasad, who was the additional secretary responsible for FDI policy, has joined as India’s ambassador to WTO in Geneva.
There are several others who are in contention for foreign assignments, starting with the government’s chief spokesperson Neelam Kapoor, who is said to be headed for Nehru Centre in London. Also in the race for a job at the Indian high commission in London is commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma’s private secretary Ashish Kundra, while the minister’s officer on special duty Ayush Mani Tiwari may move to the Indian mission in Brussels.
Even finance minister P Chidambaram’s OSD, Vijay Singh Chauhan, is a candidate to be an advisor to India’s executive director to the World Bank in Washington. Officials, however, say this is not a surprise given that bureaucrats often get prized postings after stints with ministers. Even in 2009, Pulok Chatterjee, who was then a secretary in the PMO, had moved to Washington as executive director to the World Bank. Similarly, DPS Sandhu, who was also part of the PMO, went to Washington.
Shakti Sinha, a trusted aide of former PM A B Vajpayee, sought and got a posting with the World Bank after the NDA government lost the trust vote by a single vote. Although outgoing regimes take care to ensure that choice foreign postings for their trusted officers are secured, the practice has over the years become so institutionalized that it is seen as a ‘given’, even an entitlement which succeeding governments will not like to interfere with for the risk of appearing mean-spirited.
The ministers themselves are bidding farewell, starting this weekend itself. Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma, for instance, has invited senior officials for lunch at a kebab joint in a five-star hotel near the Delhi airport for what appears to be his last such meeting before election results are out. Finance minister P Chidambaram is scheduled to meet regulators and top North Block officials at the meeting of the Financial Sector Development Council, where the agenda, apart from the immediate issues facing banks, insurance companies and stock markets, will be to bid adieu after spending years with most of the regulators.
Later, he meets public sector bank chiefs. “Obviously, with just days to go with the result, he can’t be telling us what we should do during the financial year,” said a bank chairman who did not wish to be identified. In fact, the mood has already begun to change in the ministries and departments with information flow suddenly increasing, often causing embarrassment to the government (Doordarshan’s interview of Narendra Modi and the industry department report on Gujarat land intervention being cases in point).
Packing has already begun at 7 Race Course Road, the PM’s official residence, with books and others articles being carefully catalogued as Singh prepares to move into a new bungalow on Motilal Nehru Marg. An agency report said all gifts received by Singh or members of the PMO are being catalogued and handed over to the treasury.