The on-going tussle between two groups of Gujarat cadre officers is the hottest topic in the power corridors of Delhi – because it is engulfing every stakeholder and is attempting to shake the foundations of this administration. Ever since May 2014, Gujarat cadre officers have been hand-picked for crucial assignments in the national capital. This, however, is controlled by a group led by the “Super PM” – an exclusive cabal of a few senior bureaucrats who have very close access to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi
The most significant feature of this power cabal is that for the first time in the history of Lutyens Delhi – almost everyone – media persons, lawyers, bureaucrats, politicians, and union ministers are being pushed to take sides. The Lutyens ecosystem is a bipolar scale now – “you are either with me or my enemy”. The Gujarat cadre officers – not very close to the members of this exclusive group – end up getting a raw part of the Delhi, as explained with examples below.
Scene 1: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is primarily infested with this problem of Gujarat vs Gujarat cadre. Rakesh Asthana, IPS, Special Director, (part of the group led by the Super PM) was apparently hand-picked for working in the premier investigation agency. However, he has been very controversial in his approach towards various investigations and a First Information Report (FIR) has been filed against Rakesh Asthana in a case of bribery, that too for taking money from controversial meat exporter and hawala operator Moin Qureshi who is very close to Congress leader Ahmed Patel. This incident shows that many crooked officers from Gujarat are also close to Ahmed Patel, while fine tuning with Modi and BJP President Amit Shah.
The interesting story here is that Rajeev Topno, Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, 1996 Gujarat Cadre officer, known to be very close to this cabal, has in a very serious pursuit, been paying heed to bogus / anonymous complaints against A K Sharma, IPS, 1987 batch Gujarat cadre officer, presently Additional Director in CBI. A K Sharma is in-charge of certain high-profile cases being investigated by the CBI. A K Sharma, according to Gujarat cadre insiders, is known to be more close to the Prime Minister than Asthana, a fact that this cabal always downplays. The proximity of the Prime Minister to A K Sharma was even mentioned in a press conference by Rahul Gandhi. Sharma is also in-charge of the “unprecedented case” in which the CBI is investigating its own Special Director Rakesh Asthana.
Interestingly, Rajeev Topno also worked in PMO during Manmohan Singh’s tenure and was very close to Rahul Gandhi’s aide Kanishka Singh. How such an officer retained in Modi’s PMO office is a million dollar question.
The online news portal thewire.in had reported recently, the serious clash between Rakesh Asthana and A K Sharma in the matter pertaining to Bhaskar Khulbe, Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office in the coal scam. Who took Khulbe and Topno in PMO?
Also, the role of the “Super PM”, in protecting a major corporate group involved both in the 2G & coal scam, as reported by the wire, is under scrutiny by the CBI Additional Director A K Sharma. Hectic lobbying is underway to push the elevation of Rakesh Asthana to the post of Director CBI, as A K Sharma continues to dig deep and collate facts / material evidences to put together all pieces of the alleged offence in the Astana case.
So the important question here is – why does Rakesh Asthana want to remove A K Sharma from the CBI? Why is Rajeev Topno, who is regularly seen in Lutyens Delhi, with Kanishka Singh, aide of Rahul Gandhi, entertaining & pursuing bogus complaints against A K Sharma? Why is the “Super PM” wanting to side line A K Sharma and promote Asthana? The answers to these very important questions will very clearly unravel the fault lines in the power tussle which is massacring this administration – one hit every day.
To bring better clarity, Rakesh Asthana (with the backing of this cabal) fought both A K Sharma and Director CBI in an unpredictable manner and at an unbelievable level. Asthana filed a complaint against Director CBI, apparently drafted by the “super PM” himself, who then instructed the Cabinet Secretary to have it forwarded to the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC). This way, this cabal, compromised the institutional integrity of the Cabinet Secretariat, CVC and the CBI, all in one shot. The tussle was further aggravated by the selective leaks on a constant basis, in the main stream media, thereby, converting the power corridors into a Kangaroo court. A K Sharma, the honest officer who has been fighting Asthana from inside is responsible for the filing of the charge sheet in the Chidambaram case and is expected to finish certain other sensitive probes in the near future.
Scene 2 – Finance Ministry: 1985 batch officer G C Murmu, known to be close to the Prime Minister, was working under Hasmukh Adhia in the Department of Banking & Financial Services. However, being independent and friendly with all stakeholders, Murmu did not end up on the “right” side of Adhia. When Murmu has finally set his eyes on the Revenue Secretary chair in December 2018, Adhia is all set to short shrift him, lobbying frantically for P D Waghela, Commissioner (Taxation), 1986 batch officer, Gujarat cadre, known for his proximity to Adhia.
Whispers in the North Block indicate that Adhia desires to control the Finance Ministry even after November 2018 through Waghela. This is so evident from the fact that Adhia who did not express any courtesy or respect to the Finance Minister in the past, has suddenly gone out of his way and developed a new-found proximity with the FM, something that Murmu does not enjoy. Adhia, in turn, wants to capitalise on this proximity to block Murmu from becoming the Revenue Secretary. Murmu was not given any important assignment in the Finance Ministry and for most part of his tenure, reported to Adhia. All bureaucrats in CBDT and CBEC have developed a special rapport & fondess for G C Murmu, who is both friendly and accessible to all concerned, unlike Hasmukh Adhia. This has led to a serious sense of insecurity in Adhia. Adhia objected to Murmu’s travelling abroad for important meetings, shot down his ideas and file proposals, relegating him to an Additional Secretary “persona non grata”.
It is an open secret in the Finance Ministry, that Adhia has not just side-lined Murmu but his views get treated with contempt on almost all issues of important decision making. Moral of the story – never rub Adhia the wrong way if you want to be successful in the Finance Ministry!
Scene 3 – PMO: This Gujarat cadre vs. Gujarat cadre is an all pervasive problem in the corridors of power in both the North Block & South Block. It has not even spared the Prime Minister’s Office. The entry of K. Kailashnathan, a 1979 batch Gujarat Cadre officer, close to the Prime Minister, has been consistently blocked by the “Super PM”, fearing the creation of a new power centre. Exactly similar agenda was pursued in the case of J N Singh, 1983 Gujarat cadre IAS, who is presently the Chief Secretary, Gujarat. This becomes even more explicit in the case of S K Nanda, IAS 1978 Gujarat cadre, who was brought to Delhi by the Prime Minister. However, not known to be on the “right side” the “Super PM”, Nanda was relegated to the insignificant post of Director, Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO). PM proposes and Super PM disposes!
It is a known fact that the Gujarat cadre IAS & IPS officers occupy less than 4% of the positions in the administration of the union government. However, most of the powerful & influential jobs have been reserved for them. This is not the first time that such an incident is ever happening in the power corridors of Delhi. But, yes, this is the first time when there is such a serious in-fighting and bickering that is unfolding at such a huge scale amongst the officers of the same cadre or group that control the power channels. It almost appears certain, that if unchecked, it could rattle the very foundations of this administration in days to come.
Scene 4 – To be continued…
 Behind Civil War in CBI, Concern Over Fate of Top PMO Official Linked to Coal Probe – Oct 5, 2018, TheWire.in
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