If Narendra Modi succeeds in his quest to become the Prime Minister of India next month, he is likely to take with him to New Delhi a team of trusted low-profile bureaucrats who have worked closely with him in his role as Gujarat Chief Minister.
While Mr. Modi is perceived as a one-man show, there is a core group of officials who run Gujarat, including a powerful quartet in the Chief Minister’s Office: Chief Principal Secretary Kuniyil Kailashanathan, Principal Secretary G.C. Murmu, Additional Principal Secretary A.K. Sharma and Additional Secretary Vijay Nehra.
Mr. Kailashanathan, a 1979 batch IAS officer, popularly known as ‘KK’, is known as a Modi loyalist. He retired in May last year as Additional Chief Secretary in the CMO, but was brought right back the very next day as Chief Principal Secretary, a post reportedly created for him.
The bureaucrat, who holds a master’s degree from Madras University and Wales University, has had a long stint in Gujarat. Since 2007 he has been serving as chairperson of the Gujarat State Financial Services Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of the State government.
Mr. Murmu, a 1985-batch IAS officer, is another Modi A-lister. When asked about the Chief Minister’s governance style and interactions with officials, he is tight-lipped. “Right now we are very busy due to the elections. We do not have the time to concentrate on other things,” he says. He was questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case.
Mr. Sharma inherits the legacy of retired IAS officer Maheshwar Sahu, known as the man behind the success of Mr. Modi’s showpiece event the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ summit.
“The basic thing about Mr. Modi’s model of governance,” says Mr. Sahu, “is his vision and the priority he gives to creating systems. He tries to create an ecosystem of governance which helps to lead many initiatives in manufacturing, infrastructure growth and industry.”
Along with Mr. Sahu, Mr. Sharma, in his capacity as chief executive officer of the Gujarat State Infrastructure Board, was in the key team of officials who managed the summit.
The youngest of the lot is Mr. Nehra, an IAS officer of 2001 batch. When he was posted as the Vadodara Collector, the Gujarat government conferred upon him the Best Collector award in 2009 for bringing 12,000 senior citizens under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme.
Mr. Nehra remains unassuming about his rise to the CMO and shrugs off questions about the possibility of going to Delhi on deputation. “How is that possible? I am the youngest [in CMO],” he remarks.
Apart from the four CMO officials, Mr. Modi’s inner-circle also includes Raj Kumar, Principal Secretary, Agriculture and Co-operation Department; D. Jagatheesa Pandian, Additional Chief Secretary, Energy and Petrochemicals; K. Srinivas, Secretary (Personnel) General Administration Department and Guruprasad Mohapatra, Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner.
Little is known outside Gujarat about Chief Minister Modi’s Cabinet. But one politician who is said to be instrumental in generating investment in Gujarat is State Minister for Industries Saurabh Patel, who is related to the Ambani family.
But it is officials more than politicians that Mr. Modi depends upon. Former Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner I.P. Gautam, who is credited with improving the city’s infrastructure and conserving its heritage, is one of them. Another is Anand Mohan Tiwari, Principal Secretary, Education.