Dharmendra Pradhan has a new private secretary

Vol 22, PW 20 (25 Jul 19) People & Policy

Until now oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan has surrounded himself with people from his home state Orissa.

But Narendra Modi seems to want to balance this by parachuting in people from other states. Take Ajay Kumar, 40, appointed private secretary and gatekeeper to oil minister Pradhan on July 15.

A frequent oil ministry visitor tells us the appointment of Kumar, a former Gujarat special state tax commissioner, is the work of Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah. "Kumar was appointed to keep an eye on Pradhan because he (Kumar) is from Gujarat," we hear.

"Modi wants his people at the oil ministry." Our source argues neither the cabinet's appointments committee or the PMO accepted other names submitted by the ministry to replace Pradhan's last private secretary BS 'chhote' or junior Pradhan who joined the Indian embassy in Moscow as deputy ambassador on June 3.

Also from Orissa, 'chhote' Pradhan allegedly lobbied for his cousin's husband Rohit Yadav, formerly private secretary in the civil aviation ministry, to replace him as PS to the oil minister. Yadav was eventually transferred on July 4 to the steel ministry, also under Dharmendra Pradhan.

 Kumar's appointment letter, signed by department of personnel and training director J Srinivasan, lays out Kumar's deputy secretary level pay scale of Rs78,800/mth ($1145) to Rs2.092 lakh ($3040). Kumar holds a PhD in agronomy and will be Pradhan's PS for five years or until further notice.