Whispers of Chandra as next cabinet secretary

Vol 18, PW 5 (23 Oct 14) People & Policy

Saurabh Chandra could soon be moving on to better things.

Described by colleagues as intelligent and smart, India’s most powerful oil industry bureaucrat is hotly tipped to become India’s next cabinet secretary, where he will assume charge of all secretaries in all ministries. If he wins Chandra will replace Ajit Seth, who retires in December after securing a six-month extension in June (2014).

“Chandra has a strong chance,” says a ministry source, “but only if no further extensions are given to Seth.” Last month (September) Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally interviewed Chandra and three others: Rajiv Mehrishi who joined the IAS in 1978 from Rajasthan; Alok Rawat who joined the IAS in 1977 from Sikkim; and power secretary PK Sinha.

But on October 15, Mehrishi and Rawat were unexpectedly assigned other responsibilities: Mehrishi as economic affairs secretary in the finance ministry and Rawat as secretary in the department of administrative reforms and public grievances and the department of pensions and pensioners welfare. “Mehrishi and Rawat are out,” says a senior IAS officer.

“It’s down to Chandra and Sinha.” Chandra joined the IAS in 1978 from Uttar Pradesh and was department of industrial policy secretary before coming to the oil ministry in March 2014.

He retires in April 2015. Power secretary Sinha, was earlier at the oil ministry till June 2013 and retires in July 2015.