In an atmosphere vitiated by serial scandals, the UPA government went strictly by seniority in selecting the next cabinet secretary, picking 1974 batch UP cadre officer Ajit Kumar Seth for the coveted post of the country’s top bureaucrat.
Currently serving as secretary-public grievances at the cabinet secretariat, Seth has had an unimpeachable career and is the senior-most in a batch which also includes 10, Janpath-favourite Pulok Chatterjee. Seth will be officer on special duty at the cabinet secretariat till June 13, after which he will take over his new post. He will have a fixed two-year tenure. His predecessor KM Chandrasekhar had received two extensions.
Seth is known to be a meticulous bureaucrat, with a background in chemistry, who has served in various capacities in the UP government and has been on central deputation since November 2009.
By January, it was clear that Chatterjee — another UP cadre officer who is perceived to be close to the Gandhi family — had ruled himself out of the race, continuing his stint at the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The other two contenders were Bihar chief secretary Anup Mukherjee and department of personnel and training secretary Alka Sirohi. But this time round, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided to go strictly by the book and seniority — unlike how former foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon was chosen over 14 other officers.
The appointment of the top bureaucrat precedes a major cabinet reshuffle promised by the Prime Minister.