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Will this be Narendra Modi’s PMO team?

LiveMint logoLiveMint 13-05-2014 Maulik Pathak

Ahmedabad: With exit polls clearly indicating that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is the odds-on favourite to be India’s next prime minister, the buzz in his citadel, Gandhinagar, has now moved on to the composition of his Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Modi’s close associate Amit Shah, the architect behind the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) revival in Uttar Pradesh—if exit polls are to be believed—and Modi’s unofficial aide-de-camp for years, will continue to play the part in an official capacity in the PMO, say people close to Shah.

None of them, like almost everyone else Mint spoke to for this article, wanted to be identified.

The PMO, located in New Delhi’s South Block, has always been a centre of power. It usually comprises a minister (who has a minister of state rank), an advisor (who has the same rank), the national security advisor (also the same rank), a principal secretary, a communications advisor and a secretary and joint secretary.

According to people in Gandhinagar with knowledge of the matter, K. Kailashnathan, Modi’s chief principal secretary, and A.K. Sharma, additional principal secretary, may find themselves in the PMO.

KK, as Kailashnathan is popularly known, is considered the second most powerful man in Gujarat—reinforcing the perception that most strong chief ministers depend more on bureaucrats than on their cabinet of ministers.

Over the past 35 years, he has been chief executive officer (CEO) of the Gujarat Maritime Board, industries commissioner and principal secretary of the urban development department. He retired as additional chief secretary to the chief minister in 2013 but was immediately appointed as chief principal secretary in the chief minister’s office. The post was specially created for him. Modi depends on him for not just administrative advice, but also political insights, say people in the secretariat. Earlier this year, he featured in a list of India’s 100 most powerful people compiled by The Indian Express.

Sharma has been part of the chief minister’s office ever since Modi came to power, except for one year when he went abroad to study. He played a crucial role in conceptualizing and organizing the Vibrant Gujarat Summit (the biennial investment summit held in Gandhinagar) and is also the CEO of Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board that deals with large industrial infrastructure projects.

Modi could also tap bureaucrats he has worked with who have experience of working in Delhi, representing the state or working in a central government department on deputation.

Among these are Bharat Lal and P.K. Mishra. Lal is an Indian Forest Service official who is currently Gujarat’s resident commissioner based in Delhi. He has played a crucial role in organizing important meetings for Modi in the country’s capital, besides co-ordinating with the media and press at times.

“Modi would like to have someone close in his team who is aware of the functioning of the capital and Bharat Lal is best suited for this job,” said a top Gujarat bureaucrat.

Mishra, whose term as chairman of the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission, the state electricity regulator, ended recently, is also likely to be in the PMO. He was part of the chief minister’s office when Modi came to power but was then deputed to the central government and served as agriculture secretary before retiring.

Among the names doing the rounds in Gandhinagar are also those of Vijay Laxmi Joshi and Gauri Kumar, who are Gujarat cadre officers currently deputed to the Union government. Both have worked with Modi in the past.

Joshi, currently additional secretary, department of commerce, in the ministry of commerce and industry, has also been the chairman and managing director of MMTC Ltd. While in Gujarat, she served as managing director of the Gujarat Mineral Development Corp. and managing director of the state electricity utility Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd.

Kumar is currently secretary (border management) in the ministry of home affairs. She was principal secretary (industries) in the Modi government in Gujarat and played a part in convincing Tata Motors Ltd to move its Nano small car project to the state.

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