Tarun Kapoor 'freezes' when asked about Sahai

Vol 24, PW 19 (12 Aug 21) People & Policy

If you're wondering when former power secretary Sanjeev Sahai will take up his position as the new PNGRB chairman, rest assured - even oil secretary Tarun Kapoor doesn't know or claims not to know.

On August 6 (2021), this report challenged Kapoor with a solitary question as he stepped away from the dais after the plenary session of an investor meeting at the Pandit Deendayal Energy University (PDEU) in Gandhinagar. When will Sahai take up his new position as PNGRB chairman, asked our correspondent? Surrounded by burly CISF security personnel and in a hurry, Kapoor froze, motionless, and reflected for several seconds.

"It is difficult for me to answer this," he said. After pausing a few seconds longer, Kapoor added: "I really can't say anything on this."

Asked how long it would take for the chairman and other members to join the PNGRB, Kapoor said: "It is difficult for me to put a timeline on this." To the rescue, PDEU director RK Vij swooped in and whisked Kapoor to safety before this report could probe the oil secretary further.

As if by magic, a day later on Saturday (August 7), Anand Singh Khati, an undersecretary in the cabinet's appointments committee secretariat, released a one-page order confirming GAIL director finance AK Tiwari and former GAIL director marketing Gajendra Singh as the new PNGRB members. Two days later, on August 9, PNGRB joint adviser AK Garg confirmed: "I am directed to convey that (Shri) Gajendra Singh has joined as a member PNGRB with effect from August 9 (2021).

He may be designated as Member-II until August 14 (2021) and as a [full] member from August 15 (2021)." Still unclear is when AK Tiwari will join; he retires as GAIL director finance in November (2021).

But what of Sahai? Speculation is growing that he doesn't want the job and didn't even apply for it. "He (Sahai) might have other priorities," speculates a source.

Sahai, a surprise new candidate, came first after interviews on June 2 (2021) before a government panel led by defence industry scientist VK Saraswat. Until then, former IndianOil director marketing Gurmeet Singh was the favourite following his surprise 'endorsement' by oil secretary Tarun Kapoor.

Sahai joined the IAS in 1986 and retired as power secretary on January 31 (2021).