Virbhadra bestowing plum posts on loyalists draws fire (Himachal Newsletter)

Shimla, March 23 (IANS) Septuagenarian Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh bestowing plum posts on two loyalists has drawn fire as this is being seen as a lack of confidence in the bureaucracy.

Subhash Ahluwalia has been appointed principal private secretary to the chief minister, the post he had occupied during Virbhadra Singh’s 2003-07 stint. Ahluwalia is also media advisor to the government.
T.C. Janartha, who was Virbhadra Singh’s private secretary during his 1993-1998 tenure, has been appointed officer-on-special duty (OSD) in the chief minister’s office.
Both are retired Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officers.
Earlier, T.G. Negi, another retired IAS officer, was appointed the chief minister’s advisor.
Political observers say just a week after his coronation, the posts bestowed by Virbhadra Singh, who has over half a century in active politics, on his trusted loyalists and former legislators – Kuldeep Pathania, Harsh Mahajan, Ram Lal Thakur and Subhash Manglet – have already come under the Congreess high command’s scanner.
“Earlier, the high command conveyed to the chief minister not to appoint former legislators, especially those who recently faced defeat in the assembly polls,” a senior Congress leader told IANS.
He said this time he has appointed former IAS officers, which is principally wrong. “Moreover, it gives a message that you have no faith in the present lot of bureaucrats,” the leader, who did not wish to be identified, said.
Four-time legislator Pathania, who lost the assembly elections, has been made chairman of the Himachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board, while former forest minister Thakur has been given a cabinet rank with his appointment as chairman of the Himachal Pradesh State Planning Board.
Virbhadra Singh’s close aide and former minister Mahajan, who did not contest the polls, has been made chairman of the Himachal Pradesh State Cooperative Bank that has 195 branches.
Similarly, former legislator Manglet has been made the Himachal Agriculture and Marketing Board chairman.
All this has given much ammunition to the opposition BJP to fire salvos at the chief minister.
Firebrand BJP legislator Randhir Sharma, while participating in discussion on the state budget for 2013-14 in the assembly March 19, said the government is being run by retired officers.
Sharma said: “This is a government of retirees. The chief minister’s private secretary is a retired officer. His advisor is a retired IAS officer. The chief minister’s OSD is also a retired officer. In the secretariat, the government is being run by these retired officers.”
“Politicians who have been rejected by the people in electoral politics are being given authority to inaugurate government functions,” he added.
“The government should not compromise with the respect that an elected representative deserves in the constituency,” Sharma added, without naming his arch rival former forest minister Thakur, who has been given a cabinet rank in the government.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])