As former Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani exited his office in a surprise move last week, his entire staff was shown the door too. And now, with Bhupendra Patel taking his place, an entirely new team of the CMO – comprising Patel’s old hands – has been put in place before he takes the oath of office.
The new team is a vibrant set of eclectic officers that will now hold the fort at Chief Minister Patel’s office. The new CMO includes a syncretic mix of senior, junior and mid-level officers with excellent track records and no past baggage. As per the research carried out by Vibes of India, the new team includes officers who have experience in finance, administration, industries, ports, development and social development.
The only one who has been retained is one of the ablest bureaucrats in Gujarat, and one who is considered to have an extraordinary sense of bureaucracy and politics both. Kuniyil Kailashnathan (KK as he is known) will continue to remain the key person not just for the CMO but for CM Patel too.
Other than KK, the CMO has got a completely fresh makeover. The Gujarat government has brought in four IAS officers, including a New Additional Chief Secretary.
CM Patel’s new team is not new to him
Pankaj Joshi, a 1989 batch officer, replaces Manoj K Das as Additional Chief Secretary. Avantika Singh Aulakh, a 2003 batch IAS officer, will be the new secretary to CM Patel in place of outgoing Secretary Ashwani Kumar.
In addition, Collector of Bharuch and a former Gujarat Public Service Commissioner who was promoted as IAS in 2006, Dr MD Modia has been appointed as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to the CM in place of KN Shah.
Similarly, NN Dave, again an officer who was promoted to IAS in 2012, and has held the post of Deputy Municipal Commissioner at Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, has been appointed as OSD to CM replacing DH Shah.
Interestingly and very important to note, both Modia and Dave were close associates of CM Patel since the time he was a corporator in 2010 and then became the president of the most crucial body of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation – the Standing Committee that sanctions all tenders, development and infrastructure work of the civic body in 2010. Since then, he has been in close touch with these officers whom he has now taken with him to the CMO.
A brief look at each of these officers:
K Kailasnathan is a 1979 batch IAS officer who retired in 2013. But by then, he had become the eyes and ears of then Chief Minister Narendra Modi who was very impressed with not just his bureaucratic and administrative skill but also his political insights and meaningful political predictions. KK was then absorbed as a Chief Principal Secretary which he still continues to function as. This was a special post created by then CM Modi for KK.
Kailashnathan retired in 2013, after 33 years of service in the Gujarat government administration. He is considered to be a close and loyal aide to Narendra Modi, perhaps the reason why he continued to help Modi administratively and politically during the latter’s tenure as CM of Gujarat.
He is said to have played a crucial role in constructing the water pipeline grid around the Narmada basin that caters to 70 per cent of the state’s population, besides being instrumental to the state government’s flagship Sauni Yojana taking Narmada water to Saurashtra and Van Bandhu yojna aimed at increasing the support of tribals for the state government. In his long service from 1979 to 2021, which is over 33 years.
KK knows Gujarat much better and accurately than most existing politicians of Gujarat.
Finance secretary Pankaj Joshi, the efficient 1989 IAS batch officer who has been appointed to helm the CMO, will be the interface of Bhupendra Patel’s office along with Avantika Singh.
Joshi has a B.Tech in Civil Engineering, an M.Tech from IIT, New Delhi, and an MPhil in Defence and Strategic Studies. He is one of the senior IAS officers of the Gujarat government. In the past, Joshi has been the Principal Secretary, Department of Energy and Petrochemicals, Government. In the state, he has been a Director on the Board of Gujarat State Fertilisers and Chemicals Ltd., Gujarat Alkalis and Chemicals Ltd., Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation Ltd., Sardar Sarovar Nigam, Gujarat International Finance Tech City Ltd., Gujarat State Petronet Ltd., Gujarat Metro Rail Corporation. He was also the Chairman of Gujarat State Investment Limited.
IAS Avantika Singh has been given the important responsibility of being the Secretary to the Chief Minister. Singh is a 2003 batch IAS officer who comes to the CMO from the Maritime Board where she was a CEO.
Singh’s appointment is crucial. She has been a collector of Ahmedabad in the past and has done some remarkable development works. She is a very good hand at administration, education, infrastructure, is patient with the common public, accessible, intelligent and a compassionate person. Interestingly, her batchmate Roopwant Singh who is currently the commissioner of geology and mining is her husband.
Singh, through her services, has been to the Harvard Kennedy School.
Before joining IAS, Singh, who is from Hoshiarpur in Punjab, did her Bachelors in Engineering in instrumentation and control (IC).
In her earlier avatars, Singh has been and later earned a Commissioner, Technical Education and Collector-Ahmedabad. She has also been the Collector in Anand, Bharuch and Vadodara, District Development Officer in Gandhinagar and Anand and Deputy Secretary in the Department of Energy and Petrochemicals, Government of Gujarat. She replaces Ashwani Kumar of the 1997 batch.
These all are highly educated, so, they will run the state.
With due respect, I wish that the New CMO Team will do the administrative miracles in Gujarat. The urgent need is to do away with all pending letters, applications of the people related with public grievances, Land Grabbing etc in all the Govt.offices of Gujarat det are pending for many years.