Hardeep Puri to decide on new PNGRB Chmn.

Vol 24, PW 22 (23 Sep 21) People & Policy

Oil minister Hardeep Singh Puri has been given the critical task of taking a firm decision and recommending a single name for the role of PNGRB chairman.

Well-placed sources tell this report that around September 10 (2021), the PMO returned the list of three names put forward for the job of PNGRB chairman in June (2021) to the oil ministry. Heading the list is former power secretary Sanjeev Nandan Sahai followed by ExxonMobil executive Vineet Sagar and Gurmeet Singh, former IndianOil director marketing.

The PMO did not make any written comment explaining why it was returning the list but verbally asked ministry bureaucrats why the oil ministry had sent the list without recommending one of the three shortlisted candidates. The ministry was asked to recommend its choice for PNGRB chairman when re-sending the list for PMO approval.

Following interviews on June 2 (2021), a specially set up government panel headed by NITI Ayog member and defence industry scientist VK Saraswat listed the three names. Sahai's name topped the list, suggesting he was the recommended candidate.

On June 3, the panel sent this list to the oil ministry, headed by Dharmendra Pradhan. However, Pradhan and oil secretary Tarun Kapoor backed Gurmeet Singh.

Some say the PMO wanted Sahai, which went against the oil ministry's plans to put Singh in the role. Another source suggests the oil ministry's move to send the list of three names without clearly recommending anyone indicated Pradhan's unhappiness with Sahai's last-minute entry into the race.

"To pacify Gurmeet Singh, it was ensured that his name was also included in the list sent by the (oil) ministry," we hear. "The oil ministry included the second name (Vineet Sagar) to show that even a private-sector candidate was considered."

But Hardeep Puri replaced Pradhan on July 8 (2021) as oil minister, and the tug of war between the oil ministry and the PMO took an unexpected turn. Puri must now clearly recommend one name and send it to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) headed by Narendra Modi, for final approval.