Gandhi confidant Pulok Chatterjee joins PMO


New Delhi : With the UPA reeling under a host of crises, Pulok Chatterjee, a confidant of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Monday joined the Prime Minister’s Office as principal secretary and is expected to streamline coordination with the party high command.

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Chatterjee, a 1974 batch IAS officer who served in the PMO earlier as secretary before he headed to Washington for World Bank job in 2008, succeeded T.K. A. Nair. Nair, who has been the principal secretary ever since Manmohan Singh became prime minister in 2004, will continue in the PMO as the advisor to the PM and will enjoy the rank of the minister of state.

Chatterjee has his job cut out for him: he is expected to ensure closer coordination between the PMO and Sonia Gandhi with whom he enjoys a personal rapport and help shore up the image of the government that has battered by a spate of scams ranging from 2G spectrum allocations to 2010 Commonwealth Games.

He will also have to decide to key appointments in his own team: three joint secretaries in the PMO have completed their term, and are awaiting their new postings. They include Pankaj Saran, Shatrughna Singh and Vini Mahajan.

Chatterji has enjoyed confidence of the Gandhi family for decades that goes back to a time when he was a civil servant in Sultanpur-Rae Bareli, the family pocketborough.

He also worked at the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation by Sonia and served as an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to Sonia Gandhi, when she was the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha during the National Democratic Alliance’s stint in power at the Centre.

He is also reported to have supervised arrangements for Gandhi’s treatment in the US recently.