Srinivasan leaves office 10 days after his 60th birthday

Vol 12, PW 2 (12 Jun 08) People & Policy

Oil secretary MS Srinivasan steps down in 49 days and the rumour mill has already begun working overtime with talk of his likely successor.

Nothing is in writing: all we have is informed opinion form observers – scrutinising names for the second most high-profile appointment in the Indian oil and gas sector after oil minister Murli Deora. “It is still early days for any official file to be moved for Srinivasan’s successor,â€‌ confides a senior civil servant.

“For secretary level posts official papers will start moving barely two weeks before he steps down.â€‌ Among the more surprising names to circulate is that of GAIL chairman UD Choubey and IOC chairman Sarthak Behuria.

Insiders say oil minister Murli Deora prefers Behuria because they are bridge partners since long but Choubey is said to enjoy the strong support of railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav and by default Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi. Most agree neither has the slightest chance, mainly because they are not IAS officers.

“(Former oil secretary) Vijay Kelkar (and former power secretary) RV Shahi were not from the IAS,â€‌ agrees a source. “But they were exceptional cases.

Today the IAS will not allow outsiders to get these important posts.â€‌ Another big disadvantage for Behuria is that his brother Siddharth is telecom secretary.

“It is highly unlikely the government would allow two brothers to head two important ministries,â€‌ adds a source. Logically, present oil ministry additional secretary S.

Sundareshan should have a bright chance as he is just 56. But Sundareshan becomes eligible only next year.

“Sundareshan joined the IAS in 1976,â€‌ we hear. “This year only those from the 1975 batch are being promoted to secretary.

â€‌ Before becoming secretary, Srinivasan was first additional secretary, then special secretary in the oil ministry. Other speculative names circulating are those of civil aviation secretary Ashok Chawla; secretary food and public distribution T.

Nanda Kumar and secretary health and family welfare Naresh Dayal. Aside from speculation, the only hard facts in this story are that Srinivasan turns 60 on July 21 and will step down on July 31.