Pradhan told he can't have his man in the ministry

Vol 18, PW 2 (11 Sep 14) People & Policy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi clearly wants to prevent his ministers surrounding themselves with compliant bureaucrats of their choosing.

Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan learned this the hard way when his request to appoint his father’s one-time loyal aide Upendra Prasad Singh as joint secretary exploration was turned down by the PMO. Earlier, Pradhan also had his request to appoint Singh as his personal secretary turned down.

“Perhaps Modi wants none of the ministers to have bureaucrats personally chosen by them,” speculates one bureaucrat. Typically Modi rejects the appointment of bureaucrats who were the personal staff of any minister under the previous Congress-led government.

But this does not apply to Singh, who has impeccable BJP credentials. He was private secretary in 1998 to Pradhan’s father Debendra Pradhan when he was minister of state for surface transport in the BJP-led government of Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Singh is from Bihar but he joined the IAS in 1985 from Orissa, Pradhan’s home state. Since April 2011 he is joint secretary at the steel ministry.

Another source says Singh was probably seen as too senior to be a personal secretary especially since he is due for promotion to additional secretary rank. “But Singh could have been sent as joint secretary exploration,” he adds.

Contacted by this report, Singh declined to comment.