An NDA govt may skip seniority, name UP’s Javed Usmani as Cabinet secretary

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Javed Usmani

NEW DELHI: The new government may give seniority a miss in selecting the next Cabinet secretary and opt for a “relatively junior” officer as the country’s top bureaucrat, a senior BJP leader indicated on a day when exit polls predicted an NDA government at the Centre.

Ajit Seth, the current Cabinet secretary, is due to retire on June 13 and a successor is usually named a fortnight in advance. As a result, the new government will have to decide on a new Cabinet secretary within days of taking charge.

Going strictly by seniority, Sutanu Behuria, a 1976-batch Himachal cadre IAS officer is the next in line, followed by Alok Rawat from Sikkim. Although there are another eight officers from Rawat’s 1977 batch who are currently working at the Centre, the new government may ignore the entire batch and could opt for Javed Usmani, a 1978 batch official, who is currently Uttar Pradesh chief secretary.

What seems to be going in Usmani’s favour is his familiarity with working in the Prime Minister’s Office, having spent close to seven years — first during the United Front government and then as joint secretary during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s term. He returned for a second stint from 2004 to 2007 when Manmohan Singh took charge.

If the Modi government goes ahead and appoints Usmani, it will break from recent trend when the government has played it safe and gone by seniority, both in case of Seth as well as his predecessor KM Chandrasekhar.

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