Gujarat Chief Secretary Anil Mukim is retiring in August this year. He is 1985 batch officer of Gujarat cadre. In the 1985 batch, almost all the IAS officers will retire by the time Anil Mukim retires. So now it will be a competition between the top performers of 1986 batch officers.
As per sources in Gujarat top bureaucracy circle the stiff competition is between Sangita Singh, Pankaj Kumar, Rajiv Gupta and Guruprasad Mahapatra of 1986 batch.
Out of this Guruprasad Mahapatra has the best chance as he is close to top political leadership of the country, but at the same time he has a big task of reviving the industry sector of India as secretary to Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade. In the Prime Minister’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat, he has a big role to play. So it’s not clear whether he will be sent to state government.
While Sangeeta Singh, additional chief secretary to Home department, is another contender but she will not have much time to work as she will be retiring in October this year only so virtually she will have just two months to work. That may go against her.
So virtually the toughest competition is between Rajiv Kumar Gupta, additional chief secretary to Forest and Environment department and Pankaj Kumar, additional chief secretary to Revenue department.
Both the officers know this very well also and they have made it a point to perform during the Corona crisis to outplay the competitor. Pankaj Kumar is overall state in-charge of handling of COVID19 pandemic in the state and Rajiv Gupta is in-charge of overall handling of the situation in the worst-affected Ahmedabad.
Both the IAS officers understands the importance of job at their hands and therefore they are taking extra effort to outperform others in this situation. To score the success point Rajiv Gupta has been working very hard to bring the situation under control in Ahmedabad. If he successfully and quickly brings the Ahmedabad situation under control, his claim on the post of chief secretary will be strengthen.
On the same line, if Pankaj Kumar brings the mess of the state government, in handling of Corona crisis including embarrassment of Dhaman ventilator purchase, media antagonism about the reduction in number of testing, under control, then he also can be a strong claimant.
So, it seems, the final competition for the top bureaucrat post is between Pankaj Kumar and Rajiv Gupta and Corona handling in their respective responsibilities will be the key to strengthen their claims. But the battle seems fierce between the two.
(The author is a senior journalist with over two decades of experience covering Gandhinagar, bureaucracy and politics in Gujarat.)