Bad news for Vaidya as file returns from PMO

Vol 27, PW 5 (07 Mar 24) People & Policy

In another twist, SM Vaidya's hopes of reapplying for his job as IndianOil chairman are fast diminishing.

This report learns that the PMO has rejected the oil ministry proposal - sent in early February - to increase the age criteria for the position to 61 at the end of February 2024. "It's possible the PMO rejected the (oil ministry) proposal because of the DoPT's (Department of Personnel and Training) comment on the file, which was against setting the age criteria at 61," says a source.

When the oil ministry initially proposed the 61-year age limit, the DoPT said that in the past, the criteria was 60 and suggested that the same approach be followed with this vacancy. Soon after the PMO rejected the proposal, the Search and Selection Committee (SSC) met on February 25 (2024) to decide the eligibility criteria.

On the committee are PESB chairperson Mallika Srinivasan, oil secretary Pankaj Jain, and an outside "expert of eminence" in the shape of former HPCL chairman MK Surana. "The SSC has decided to keep the eligibility criteria the same as the ONGC chairman criteria (used to select Arun Singh)," adds our source.

"They just want to replace the word 'upstream' (used in the ONGC listing) with 'downstream'." According to the eligibility criteria when Arun Singh was hired, the oil ministry allowed applications from candidates with less than two years to retire.

That is, candidates must have been under 60 on March 31 (2021), when former ONGC chairman Shashi Shanker retired. "If they follow these criteria for IndianOil chairman, the candidate should be under 60 on September 1 (2023), when Vaidya should ideally have retired," adds our source.

Still unclear is whether the committee has signed the minutes of the meeting. Also unclear is whether the SSC will issue a vacancy notice or select candidates directly, as happened for ONGC.

If a vacancy is sent out, GAIL chairman SK Gupta is widely believed to be the strongest candidate.