SM Vaidya's days at IndianOil are numbered

Vol 26, PW 22 (19 Oct 23) People & Policy

SM Vaidya might soon be replaced as IndianOil chairman despite winning a one-year extension until August 31 (2024).

This report learns the cabinet’s appointments committee (ACC) has begun the process of selecting a new chairman for IndianOil and wants someone who can replace Vaidya as soon as he or she is chosen. ACC deputy director Vijay Kumar Darak released an order on October 7 (2023) asking oil secretary Pankaj Jain to form a selection committee.

"The ACC has approved the oil ministry proposal to select an IndianOil chairman on an immediate absorption basis (to join as soon as selected) through a search and selection committee as a one-time measure," reads Darak’s order. On the committee are PESB chairperson Mallika Srinivasan, oil secretary Jain, and former HPCL chairman MK Surana.

"This committee is likely to meet before the end of this month (October 2023)," says a source. "Let’s see what it decides on the age criteria."

Usually, such committees recommend that eligible candidates should be no older than 60 on the date of the vacancy, which in this case would be August 31 (2023), the date Vaidya was initially meant to retire. However, if the age limit is 60, it would mean Vaidya himself would not be eligible to apply because he turned 60 on August 8 (2023) and would be just a little older than 60 on August 31 (2023).

Therefore, some believe the committee might set an age limit of 61, in which case Vaidya is expected to apply. "He is not happy with the one-year extension," we hear.

"And why should he be? Anyone else would have tried to secure additional extensions; he wants to continue for as long as possible." Our source believes that the age limit would not be as high as 62 because that would ironically allow selection committee member MK Surana himself to apply.