Who Will Be The Next CS?

‘Sharma not the senior most bureaucrats in the State’

The possibility of the elevation of Financial Commissioner (Industries and Commerce) Khursheed Ganai- the 1982-batch IAS topper-, is doing  rounds in the power corridors as several ministers in the government see it as the most appropriate step to offset the embarrassment caused by Khanday’s decision.

Srinagar: The unexpected decision of the Chief Secretary Muhammad Iqbal Khanday that took everyone by surprise  to seek voluntary retirement has triggered serious debate and speculation over the appointment of his successor. 

Several top bureaucrats are in the fray and have indicated that they would also submit their papers if a junior officer would be elevated to the top rank. As of now, it is believed that instead of B R Sharma- who it was speculated would  hold the top slot- it is Khursheed Ganai, the financial commissioner (Industries and Commerce) who is the preferred candidate. Khursheed , is a 1982 IAS batch topper. Other possible contenders’ – Arun and Sonali Kumar’s-Amarnath land row against the former  and corruption charges against the latter- likely to work against their candidature.

Khanday, it may be recalled ,  on Tuesday decided to quit his position apparently after developing differences with the government over the functioning of his office. He was slated  to retire by the end of November  but hastened to put in his papers after several ministers in Mufti Muhammad Sayeed’s cabinet raised objections over his ‘style of functioning’.

However, pending a formal government decision over Khanday’s exit, speculation was rife  over appointment of BR Sharma as the next Chief Secretary. This reportedly triggered resentment amongst the government circles. Reliable sources told CNS that several top bureaucrats are against the elevation of Sharma for the top position.

“BR Sharma is not the senior most bureaucrat in the State. He is 1984 batch IAS officer and there are at least six officers senior to him in the J&K cadre”, a senior officer wishing anonymity said.

Against this  backdrop, the possibility of the elevation of Financial Commissioner (Industries and Commerce) Khursheed Ganai- the 1982-batch IAS topper-, is doing  rounds in the top government circles as several ministers in the Mufti Sayeed government see it as the most appropriate step to offset the embarrassment caused by Khanday’s decision.

 “No matter Ganai is retiring in a few months from now. But, his elevation to the top post can be in accordance with the norms besides it can provide a face saver to the government”, he said.

Interestingly, Khanday is the only Muslim direct IAS recruit from Kashmir who has been elevated to the top post. Another IAS officer Mohammad Shafi Pandit could not make it to the top post even as he headed the Public Service Commission for five years after his  retirement.

Ganai has twice served as Divisional Commissioner Kashmir besides being Principal Secretary to former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for two years. He has held key positions within and outside the State and is rated among the most honest officers with an impeccable record.

Sources said Mufti-led government cannot afford to elevate likes of Arun Kumar and Sonali Kumar to the coveted post. While Arun Kumar became the most controversial bureaucrat during his tenure as Principal Secretary to the then Governor Lt Gen (retd) S K Sinha during the Amarnath land row in 2008, his wife Sonali Kumar is facing corruption charges and cases have been registered against her.

Arun Kumar was believed to be the main figure in securing 100 kanals of forestland for the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). Interestingly,  the then PDP Minister Qazi Afzal had ordered the transfer of the land, which became the basic cause for the land row that ended the Ghulam Nabi Azad led PDP-Congress coalition prematurely.

“Obviously, Arun Kumar and Sonali Kumar can’t be the government’s favourites (for the CS post)”, said a senior political leader. “The other senior officers are not interested in taking up the position”, he said. Quite naturally Khursheed Ganai becomes the most favourite choice for the incumbent government.

Observers say that Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed cannot be averse to the idea to elevate Ganai.   

Last week, Mufti showered encomiums on Ganai at Uri for doing tremendous work to speed up cross-LoC communication at Salamabad and Chakan da Bagh.

Observers say that Ganai’s elevation can help PDP to manage perception in common Kashmiris about the party, which has faced serious denting during the past six months.

Sources said that Khanday’s decision to step down is not unprecedented. In the past, Sudhir S Bilorea and BR Kundal have also resigned from the top post for different reasons.

Khanday who applied for VRS on Tuesday is miffed at the government decision to promote junior officers as seniors during the recent cabinet meeting, sources said.

Khanday, as per sources, has said that he had felt “deeply humiliated” with the government decision these promotions during a cabinet meeting which he could not attend due to a death of his close relative.

Khanday Refuses To Stay Put

The government is trying hard to convince Iqbal Khanday to reconsider his decision.

Sources said that a group of senior PDP ministers called on Chief Secretary at his official chamber in civil secretariat here as part of an effort to convince him to take back his decision of seeking VRS and also to save the government from an embarrassment.

Sources added that the ministers including Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu, Sports Minister Imran Ansari and Revenue Minister Javaid Mustafa Mir were instructed by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to talk to Khanday and make him to take back his decision. 

However, sources added, that the chief secretary has categorically rejected government’s wish for him to continue till the superannuation.

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