Steel Secretary RS Pandey to replace MS Srinivasan

Vol 12, PW 5 (24 Jul 08) People & Policy

Congratulatory messages are still coming in for steel secretary Raghav Sharan Pandey who will replace outgoing MS Srinivasan as oil secretary on July 31.

Much surprise greeted the announcement on July 15 that Pandey will be the next oil secretary as he was never a serious contender. Contacted by this report, Pandey is philosophical about his appointment.

“We bureaucrats never know what’s in store for us,â€‌ he said. “We go wherever the government sends us.

â€‌ Born on January 15, 1950, Pandey’s appointment is all the more striking given he is unlikely to stay beyond January 31, 2010, when he crosses the official retirement age of 60. “Secretaries who have only a year or so to go before retirement are often considered,â€‌ he counters.

“It is true I have never worked in the oil ministry before but I had never worked in the steel ministry before either.â€‌ Asked about his priorities, Pandey is vague: “I still have a few days more to take charge.

Let me go there and see how things are. Only then can I comment.

â€‌ Fellow bureaucrats say it is highly unusual for the government to announce a new secretary when the incumbent still has two weeks left. “Usually, a replacement is announced just a day or two in advance,â€‌ says a source.

“From the day Pandey’s name was announced everybody must have stopped saluting Srinivasan. Announcing the next oil secretary’s name so well in advance is a clear snub.

â€‌ Adds another bureaucrat: “Winning friends and influencing people was never Srinivasan’s strong point. His only strong points are arithmetic, crossword puzzles and English grammar.

He believes these are important qualities needed in any individual.â€‌ In Delhi, speculation is rife that Pandey’s accelerated appointment is to placate the Samajwadi Party, which has stepped in to support the government following Communist withdrawal in protest at the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Srinivasan and (oil minister) Murli Deora are perceived to be firm supporters of Reliance Industries president Mukesh Ambani. By contrast the strong friendship between Samajwadi Party strongman Amar Singh and Mukesh’s estranged brother Anil is widely known.