NEW DELHI: While the count wrestles with inflation and politicians with their party congresses the bureaucracy is furiously agog with but one concern who will be the next Cabinet Secretary? Lobbying for the post is at its peak with front-runners and dark horses switching positions each day.

Wives friends in high places and Sundry factotums have all been pulled into the campaign and Tight prove as crucial as the more traditional factors like seniority and competence

If senior bureaucrats are to be Believed I&B Secretary Mahesh Prasad (1957 IAS batch) who was the “hottest” contender till last week appears to have been overtaken at the bend by his batch mate Youth Affairs and Sports Secretary MM Rajendran.

The chances of Power Secretary S. Rajagopal and Industry Secretary Suresh Kumar also of the 1957 batch are said to have improved as well with Prasad “biting the dust.”

Prasad’s claim rested almost entirely on his seniority but the recent TV serial selection scam in +his ministry and his reported differences with his minister Ajit Panja have “confirmed” his tendency to run into hot water.

But what is proving of greater  importance is that Prasad did not quite endear himself to his colleagues when as a resident of AB 6Pandara Road he had the whole road declared a “silence zone got a speed breaker erected outside his house and banned heavy vehicles at all hours. Outraged neighbor’s bureaucrats all forced him to modify this to allow school buses.

 Prasad’s most recent contretemps was to influence the NDMC ta ban the entry of pet dogs into Lodhi Gardens. Unfortunately for him the infuriated dog-lovers were mainly influential residents of Jar Bagh Isalik Estate Aurangzeb Road-Pandara Park who complained to his political bosses.

Nevertheless there is a most intriguing though colorful one-man lobby which is going around town claiming there will be no winner their than Prasad.

 Meet Dr. Someshwar Shastri “of D 1/335 Viney Marg.” Hailing from Arrah (Bihar) he claims to be a Reader in Sanskrit at the bureaucrats on their exclusive RAX exchange introducing him Self as their admirer and claiming that “mein abhi PM house se bol raha hoon.”

Dr-Shastri has told a number of officers that he has an “excellent” rapport with the Prime Minister. During a visit to an officers house among other boats he claimed” I will noted anyone also (other than Maahoch Prasad) be made Cabinet Secretary.”

It is possible that the coveted post will go to neither Prasad nor any of his batch mates. When the present Cabinet Secretary Naresh Chandra retires in July the 1957 batch will have just a year or less to go. The 1958 batch therefore has also joined the race.

The frontrunner here is said to be Finance Secretary KF Geetha krishnan But he will have to fight off the challenge of his batch mates Minorities Commission Secretary Zafar Saifullah (We cynically the senior most in the batch) Women and Child Development Secretary Mira Seth and Chemicals Secretary MS Gill who have the advantage of religion and sender in case such factors come into play. The country has never had a Muslim or woman Cabin Secretary. But then in case the Prime Minister is looking for 3 Cabinet Secretary with a clear to (or three-year tenure he may turn to the 1959 batch Home Secretary MD God bole Defence Secretary N-Raghunathan and Heavy Industries Secretary Surendra Singh would be among the top contenders.

Amid all this speculation “hectic lobbying” continues. For instance the “South Indian” lobby (known to its detractors as the “”Madrasi mafia) is pleading the ease of Rajagopal and Geetbakrishnan (in that order) in the “right quarters” (reader R. Venkataraman Chidambaram & J Jayalalitha)

This lobby is said to operate on the “puja” and “bhajan” circuits and is rarely seen to collect publicly. Wives play a crucial role here in deciding who is to be backed and who is an outcaste.

Then a “Kayasth lobby” is legally plugging for Suresh Kumar through the Prime Ministers Principal Secretary AN Varma

There is a lone ranger too in MM Rajendran those present at his S7thbinhday bash on April 12 & another party thrown in his honor by a prominent city socialite say his name gained currency when one of his friends defied the chorus and sang out “Happy Birthday Cabinet Secretary.”

Article extracted from this publication >> May 8, 1996