Dilip Cherian | Coalition dynamics: What’s next for PMO?

The Asian Age.  | Dilip Cherian

Opinion, Columnists

Government dynamics undergo shifts: PMO's evolution and Babus' trepidations

Officials of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) during an address by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at South Block, in New Delhi, Monday, June 10, 2024. (PTI Photo)

The political dynamics have shifted with the entry of coalition dharma, and as Prime Minister Narendra Modi starts his third term as head of the NDA government, there is hope as well as trepidation among babus about the potential changes within the ministries and departments. Who is in and who is out? All eyes are on the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), which has been an invincible force during Mr Modi’s two previous tenures.

Now that the Cabinet has been formed and portfolios allocated, with major ministries retained by old trusted hands, it is clear that the big message of the exercise is continuity. This theme will likely be reflected in the composition of the PMO as well. Observers believe that trusted officers from the Gujarat cadre may largely remain intact. These officers, who have served under Mr Modi during his tenure as chief minister in Gujarat, are expected to continue due to the deep trust and familiarity they share with the Prime Minister.

But the recent electoral setback in Uttar Pradesh could prompt a reassessment, some feel. Arvind Sharma, a Gujarat cadre IAS officer who has been Mr Modi’s key liaison with Yogi Adityanath in Lucknow, might be called back to the PMO during this period of re-evaluation.

Names of trusted aides like P.K. Mishra in the PMO, Cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba and Comptroller and Auditor General G.C. Murmu are reported to be under scrutiny. Their long tenures in their high offices may soon come to an end as part of a broader strategy to infuse fresh perspectives into the government. The coalition angle has further complicated the scenario, with even the Speaker’s post now in contention. Any movement will significantly impact the functioning of various key institutions over the new NDA government’s tenure.

Still, despite the current uncertainty, most observers expect that the core team handling communications, secretarial work and policy matters will likely remain stable. The expertise of these officers and continuity are crucial factors.

Babus on edge after TDP victory in Andhra Pradesh

As N. Chandrababu Naidu, the TDP national president, is set to become the next chief minister of Andhra Pradesh after an overwhelming win for the TDP-led alliance (including JSP and BJP), several IAS and IPS officers who haven’t exactly been TDP-friendly are feeling the heat.

Mr Naidu, often hailed for his visionary leadership and technological prowess, is known for his administrative acumen and forward-thinking approach. His return to power is being seen by many as a herald of renewed progress and efficiency. Already, changes are underway.

The first major change is the appointment of special chief secretary Neerabh Kumar Prasad as the new chief secretary, replacing K.S. Jawahar Reddy who was asked to take a leave of absence. And he’s not alone — several IPS officers who handled key cases against top TDP leaders are also reportedly on edge. This includes names like P.S.R. Anjaneyulu, P.V. Sunil Kumar, N. Sanjay, Kanthi Rana Tata, Kolli Raghuram Reddy, Y. Ravi Sankar Reddy, and Y. Rishant Reddy, along with another senior IAS officer, S.S. Rawat.

Sources informed DKB that initially, Mr Naidu wasn’t too keen on meeting IPS officers like Raghuram Reddy and Anjaneyulu without appointments. It is also almost certain that the new administration is planning to transfer all district collectors, superintendents of police, commissioners of police, and other senior officials. With this looming, officials are reportedly lobbying for favourable postings through Mr Naidu's close contacts.

Meanwhile, senior IAS officers are also eyeing positions in the chief minister’s office as secretaries. Principal secretaries, and special chief secretaries. The shake-up is proceeding well.

High voltage drama: Babu ex-couple in power struggle

There’s some high drama unfolding in Thaiyur, Tamil Nadu. Justice Anitha Sumanth has put a hold on the decision regarding former director general of police (DGP) Rajesh Das’ plea to restore power to a bungalow. This isn't just any bungalow — both Mr Das and his estranged wife, Tamil Nadu energy secretary Beela Venkatesan, are laying claim to it!

Earlier this week, the lawyer representing Venkatesan argued that Mr Das has no right to demand the power be turned back on. After all, it was disconnected at Venkatesan’s request. He also mentioned that Mr Das had been MIA for two months before suddenly resurfacing and trying to take over the property. To add to the interest, there’s even a criminal case against Mr Das for trespassing and allegedly assaulting the security guard.

On the flip side, the lawyer representing the ex-DGP argued that despite the land being in Venkatesan’s name, Mr Das has been footing the bill for the housing loan and living there all along. When the judge suggested mediation, Venkatesan’s counsel promptly declined.

So, we've got a missing ex-DGP reappearing, an energy secretary cutting the power, and a bungalow at the centre of it all. Who needs soap operas when real life gives us plots like these?