Dilip Cherian | What’s Kishor’s next move? Can he actually pose threat to Nitish?

The Asian Age.  | Dilip Cherian

Opinion, Columnists

Some observers believe that he may be waiting for the right opportunity to present itself before jumping back into the fray.

Prashant Kishor (ANI)

What are retired IAS and IPS officers doing with ace poll strategist-turned-neta Prashant Kishor? Given the man’s track record of working with some of India’s biggest political parties, including the BJP, Congress and TMC, it is not surprising that there is speculation about his next move, after his year-long padyatra through seven districts of Bihar under his Jan Suraj Abhiyan.

Some observers believe that he may be waiting for the right opportunity to present itself before jumping back into the fray. Another possibility is that Kishor may be exploring new avenues for political engagement through activism or advocacy work. The news of six retired IAS officers — R.K. Mishra, Ajay Kumar Dwivedi, Arwind Kumar Singh, Lalan Yadav, Tulsi Hajara, Suresh Kumar and Gopal Narayan Singh — has ensured that Kishor continues to draw attention with his padyatra, which is still underway. Mr Kishor has now got a major boost, with 12 retired IPS officers taking membership of the Jan Suraj Abhiyan. They include ex-DG Home Guards R.K. Mishra, retired DG Jails S.K. Paswan, K.K. Verma and K. B. Singh, among others.

The question is: Will Mr Kishor emerge as a serious rival to chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), and the other two major political parties, the RJD and the BJP? Whatever he may be up to, his next moves in Bihar will be watched closely by politicians and the public alike.

Manipur babu repatriated to the state as chief secretary

The Manipur government has appointed 1992-batch IAS officer Vineet Joshi as the new chief secretary of the state, which has been engulfed in ethnic arson and violence in recent days. In view of the fraught situation, the state government has cut short the extended tenure of Dr Rajesh Kumar, who was given a second extension as chief secretary in January this year. Mr Joshi has superseded three other IAS officers, M.H. Khan, A Moses Challai and V. Vaiphei for the post.

Sources have informed DKB that Deepti Umashankar, secretary of the appointments committee of the Cabinet, said the committee had approved the repatriation of Mr Joshi, who was heading the National Testing Agency (NTA) on Central deputation, to his parent cadre at the request of chief minister N. Biren Singh. Before going on Central deputation, Mr Joshi had served as principal secretary to the chief minister. Earlier, he was commissioner of planning and power and resident commissioner in the Manipur government.

While the exact reasons for Mr Joshi’s recall are yet to be made public, it is evident that the state government has found it necessary to bring the experienced babu back to deal with the fragile situation in Manipur given the political and social complexities of the state because of his deep understanding of the local context. Joshi is expected to douse the fires lit by politicians and bring an end to the confrontation between the state’s rival tribal groups.

As for his predecessor, sources say that it may be difficult for the state government to justify Rajesh Kumar’s extended service and it could be terminated seven months ahead of his retirement. Some however believe that the ‘double engine’ BJP Sarkar may find ways to use his services after retirement, but that could be subject to other considerations.

Gujarat IPS officers hastening to join R&AW

It’s not just Gujarat IAS officers who have it good in the Modi sarkar. Given Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘natural’ affinity for his home state, officers from other services too have an edge over their compatriots in other states when it comes to serving in the national capital on Central deputation.

Recently three Gujarat cadre IPS officers joined R&AW on deputation, and sources have informed DKB that two more officers are awaiting government approval. They trace the advent of IPS officers from Gujarat into R&AW to March 2020 when a 2010-batch IPS officer chose to work with the intelligence agency and was sent to the Cabinet Secretariat. He was followed by Sandeep Chaudhary in December 2020. Two years later, one of the state’s most decorated IPS officers Himanshu Shukla was sent to R&AW as director of the Cabinet Secretariat.

Now, we learn, that two more IPS officers from the state are waiting in the wings. Deepan Bhadran and Saurabh Singh are likely to get the nod for R&AW posting.

There may be several reasons for this trend, including the undoubted appeal of working for a prestigious agency and the potential for career growth, but it is fairly well known that Mr Modi and Home Minister Shah have always preferred to work with officers from their state. One concern, however, remains. With several high-performing officers being sent out on deputation, there is a risk that the Gujarat government could be left short-handed in terms of top-tier police talent.