Hooda’s office in ‘extension’ mode

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

Chandigarh: Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s office is in an “extension” mode. Most of its senior functionaries have wrangled extensions in service to remain in the all-powerful setup.

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The latest one to get an extension is Chhatar Singh, an IAS officer who retired March 31. Hooda chose to retain Chhatar Singh as principal secretary to the chief minister (PSCM) and gave him a three-month extension.

This has come as a blow to many senior IAS officers of the Haryana cadre who were vying and lobbying hard to get the job. It was widely speculated that Chhatar Singh would be adjusted by the Hooda government in a post-retirement job in Gurgaon and a new PSCM would be announced. The names of nearly half a dozen senior and powerful IAS officers were doing the rounds for the high-profile job.

But with the intense pressure on him, Hooda chose to extend the services of Chhatar Singh, otherwise a low-profile officer.

Chhatar Singh is not the only officer in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) on an extension. In fact, there are quite a few of them.

Among them is Hooda’s principal OSD (officer on special duty) M.S. Chopra. Another retired OSD in the CMO is B.R. Beri. Shadi Lal Kapoor is also a retired person in the CMO.

Another retired officer in the CMO is P.V. Rathee, who is the principal advisor to Hooda for home and security matters. Rathee had retired as director general of police (DGP).

Hooda also adjusted K.V. Singh as OSD-Media in the CMO.

“The CMO has become a boardroom of retired officers, those who are on extension or have been adjusted. Not many are there on pure merit,” a senior IAS officer told IANS.

Hooda is in his second term as chief minister. He became chief minister for the first time in March 2005.

After calling early assembly elections in Oct 2009, almost five months before schedule, Hooda managed to get a second term with the Congress emerging as the single largest party in the 90-member assembly. With support from independent legislators and later a breakaway group of Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) legislators defecting and joining the Congress, Hooda has remained firmly entrenched.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])