Shimla: The talk in Himachal Pradesh is that the retiree IAS officers have grabbed the Chief Minister’s office. The recent appointment of retired IAS officer, T G Negi as Principal Advisor (to function as Principal Secretary) to the CM, after elevation of V C Pharka as CS, has not gone down well with bureaucracy in Himachal. This, especially, as retired IAS officer, Subhash Ahluwalia is already the Principal Private Secretary to the CM. Even though the selection of Pharka as CS, by superseding three senior IAS officers (two of his own batch) too has ruffled the feelings, as two IAS officers, Additional Chief Secretaries, Vineet Chowdhry and his wife Upma Chowdhry have already proceeded on one month protest leave.
A section of senior IAS officers feel that Negi’s appointment will set a bad precedent as Principal Secretary to CM is most important office in any government. “The choice should have been from the serving officers. It has given a wrong signal,” the IAS officers speak in hushed tones. Here, it is pertinent to mention that Negi, who was already State Election Commissioner (SEC) was picked up only after an ACS level bureaucrat, also perceived close to the CM, showed reluctance. (Probably, the serving officers do not want to get tagged to the political bosses in the last leg of tenure). So, in a way, Negi, who is confidante of Chief Minister, having remained Principal Secretary to him in the last tenure from 2003 to 2007, became the obvious choice. Otherwise also, Negi is an honest and efficient officer with good administrative capacities and above all, he is accessible to commoners.
Negi’s qualities sum up to all, what an octogenarian Chief Minister would want his Principal Secretary to perform like in the run up to polls.“I am here to work for the government,” Negi quietly said, when asked about his appointment in the CM office. Negi had resigned as SEC same day and joined as Principal Advisor immediately after Pharka was appointed the CS earlier this week. He had still some years to go as SEC, but he left that post to fulfill the expectations of the CM at a post ‘co-terminus’ with the government. Just if the ‘retired’ tag of Negi is to be forgotten, politically and administratively speaking, his appointment is seen as smart political move by the CM to present a people friendly face in the election year.
“It is CM’s prerogative. The government is in the fourth year of rule. At this moment, the Principal Secretary’s office gains much importance for the government and the people. Negi is CM’s trusted officer and is people friendly,” shared some Congress leaders. The officers down the line, who are administratively critical of Negi’s appointment, agree that politically, he is the best choice for the job. This, especially, as the bureaucrats have been working cross purposes in Congress government with no faith left in each other, much to the chagrin of ordinary folks, who see the files stuck in egos. A concern is that will Negi have an authority over the serving bureaucrats being a retired officer? “He may have. It depends on the CM.
And Negi is otherwise of 1980 batch, with senior most serving officers also from 1982 batch. All said and done, by placing his confidante, Pharka as CS and Negi in his place, sources said Virbhadra Singh has sought to set the things right in the CM office— as his former Principal Secretary Pharka and Principal Private Secy, Ahluwalia reportedly did not go along well. But Negi and Ahluwalia are close friends. Negi even sat on Ahluwalia’s chair on Friday, when the latter was out on tour, to handle the visitors in CM office.
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