Vaidya will benefit from ministry's inaction

Vol 27, PW 7 (04 Apr 24) People & Policy

Anyone hoping to apply to become the next IndianOil chairman will now have to wait until after the national elections end in June (2024).

Silence has descended on the oil ministry after a period of constant activity in trying to move the chairman vacancy file. First, it failed to win current chairman SM Vaidya a two-year extension.

Then, it was unable to get the PMO to sign off on increasing the maximum age eligibility to 61 so Vaidya could apply. A source claims the oil ministry's latest tactic is to do nothing to move the file further, which means that Vaidya might remain in charge at IndianOil until he completes his one-year extension in August 2024.

"A fresh proposal of the eligibility criteria with a 60-year age limit was drafted and prepared, but since then, everyone in the ministry has gone silent," he says. "Nobody is ready to discuss whether the proposal has been sent further for approval; nothing is moving."

Since March 16 (2024), the election commission's model code of conduct has been in place ahead of general elections in seven phases from April 19 (2024) to June 1 (2024). This means nothing will likely move forward on the IndianOil chairman vacancy until a new government is formed.

"Everyone's focus is on elections," adds our source. "After the elections, oil minister Hardeep Singh Puri will likely be replaced; if a new minister takes charge, he might or might not favour Vaidya."

Junior oil minister Rameswar Teli has not been put on the BJP list to contest the elections. On August 4 (2023), the ACC extended Vaidya's term for one year or until the appointment of another candidate.

"If a new candidate had been selected through an interview process, Vaidya would have to vacate his position," we hear. "But delaying the process ensures he stays."

After August 2024, Vaidya might receive another extension until a candidate is selected to replace him, or a director might hold the additional charge of chairman.