After weeks of speculation, Mittals’ last minute extension came as an anti-climax

AK Mittal CRBNew Delhi: After weeks of speculation in babu circles naming of the railway board chairman came as an anti-climax. The government approved the reappointment of incumbent A.K. Mittal for two years. The announcement came just two days before his retirement. This unexpected extension makes the 1976-batch IRS officer the longest serving head of the railway board.

According to sources, the railways had sent three names to the Appointments Committee of Cabinet — member staff Pradeep Kumar, member traffic Mohammad Jamshed and member engineer A.K. Mittal, but none could make the cut. Finally, Mr Mittal got the nod from the highest quarters (read PMO) to continue for two more years.

According to established norms, the senior most member in the railway board with minimum one-year residual service qualifies to become chairman of the board. Though the senior most member in the board is Hemant Kumar, but he has only four months’ service left so was not eligible.

Apparently, a move is also afoot to give a fixed two-year tenure to the chairman of the railway board similar to the tenure of home, defence and finance secretaries. But that may take a while to fructify.

Gujarat: Modi’s favourite cadre

In Gujarat cadre despite Anandiben shocker Modi trusts. So Sanjay Bhavsar, a Gujarat Administrative Service officer serving as officer on special duty to PM Narendra Modi has now been elevated to the IAS on probation and allotted the Gujarat cadre. He will now continue as OSD to the PM on co-terminus basis with the tenure of and at the discretion of the PM.

Mr Bhavsar is considered operationally close to Mr Modi. He worked for many years with Mr Modi when he was CM of Gujarat. He is one of the at least 30 officials who moved from Gujarat to Delhi when Mr Modi became the PM. They include, besides Mr Bhavsar, Arvind Sharma, G.C. Murmu, Hasmukh Adhia, Rajesh Kishore, H.K. Dash, P.K. Pujari, Guruprasad Mohapatra, Ashim Khurana, R.P. Gupta and Hiren Joshi, and are loosely known as the “Gujarat Team”.

In the PMO here, Mr Bhavsar has been charged with looking after the appointments schedule and tours of the PM. The elevation to the hallowed IAS is then an indication of the PM’s high level of trust in Mr Bhavsar’s abilities.

Change of Guard

The appointment of 1979-batch IRS-IT officer Rani Nair as the new chairperson of the Central Board of Direct Taxes has calmed the roiled waters, which in an unprecedented manner had pitched tax officials against revenue officials of the finance ministry. The principal point of discord was the weekly video conference of principal income-tax commissioners which was attended by revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia. The tax officials had complained about “interference” by the revenue department and to Mr Adhia’s presence in the weekly conferences.

But with the savvy Ms Nair, who is known to be decisive official, now onboard, the protests have petered out. Whispers also suggest that finance minister Arun Jaitley had taken a dim view of this “spat” and hinted at disciplinary action against the tax officials.

Ms Nair’s presence has now conveniently ended the hostilities. According to sources, instead of weekly meetings, Ms Nair will interact with officials whenever needed. When required, the revenue secretary will also attend the meetings, but they will no longer be a weekly affair. But Ms Nair will apparently enjoy a very short tenure as chief of CBDT, as she is scheduled to retire on October 31. Observers say that usually such a short reign indicates that a new favourite is waiting to take over, and also perhaps an undesirable can be expected to retire in between. But with dovecotes aflutter already, nobody knows how tenures eventually play out.

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