POWER-CRATS
India Today|November 01, 2021
HIGH & MIGHTY 10 ADMINISTRATORS
Sandeep Unnithan, Shwweta Punj, Anilesh S. Mahajan, Kaushik Deka and Sonali Acharjee

BUREAUCRATS ARE INDISPENSABLE to the Narendra Modi government. This truism held good in the first term of the government. Midway through its second term, the government has increased its reliance on a set of key bureaucrats in a way few other administrations have. Officials not only draw up important policy decisions—from divestment to the restructuring of the defence ministry—but also implement them. They are thus seen as critical to the government’s performance. Efficiency and achievement are rewarded through extensions and key bureaucrats are retained in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as advisors after retirement. The Modi government’s PMO is arguably the most powerful since Indira Gandhi’s in the early 1970s and later in the early 1980s. It straddles every aspect of governance, from national security to the economy and Covid-19 management, and relies on the corps of efficient bureaucrats working under the watchful eye of the PM. The career progression of former bureaucrats now extends even into the Union cabinet. After the July 2021 reshuffle, there are now a record five former civil servants serving as cabinet ministers—Hardeep Singh Puri, S. Jaishankar, R.K. Singh, R.P. Singh and Ashwini Vaishnaw. Two key former civil servants in the PMO— Principal Secretary to the prime minister, P.K. Mishra; and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval—also enjoy cabinet minister rank. This might just be the golden age of the bureaucracy.

1 P.K. MISHRA, 73

PRINCIPAL SECRETARY TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA

NUMERO UNO

BECAUSE ‘PKM’ is the country’s most powerful bureaucrat. As Prime Minister Modi’s closest aide, he has shaped key government policies over the past year, from Covid management to ensuring that vaccine production runs on full steam. Has ensured a smooth passage for reforms in defence, space and finance

BECAUSE the inscrutable bureaucrat continues to perform a critical function in the Modi government—getting the right person for the right job. He vets the appointments of all bureaucrats, officials and politicians to positions in government, a task accomplished almost without incident for over seven years

BECAUSE he continues to focus on his primary expertise of creating disaster management systems, which he first used in Gujarat after the Kutch earthquake of 2001. As of 2021, he co-chairs the international Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure with UK MP Alok Sharma

POWER HOUSE

Moved into the late Arun Jaitley’s former residence, 2, Krishna Menon Marg, after being elevated to cabinet rank in 2019

2 AJIT DOVAL, 76

National Security Advisor

SECURITY CZAR

BECAUSE India’s longest-serving NSA has become the indispensable second engine of national security to diplomacy—from addressing tensions with China in Ladakh to ensuring a painless exit from Afghanistan to opening up a back channel with the Taliban and liaising with his counterparts around the world

BECAUSE his office at New Delhi’s Sardar Patel Bhawan is where the who’s who of the intelligence and security world can be spotted— Richard Moore of MI6, William J. Burns of the CIA and Russian NSA Nikolay Patrushev, to name a few

BECAUSE Doval is on a first-name basis with not just his global counterparts but his office staff as well. Cultivates an air of informality and approachability at work. Just about anyone can walk up to him with a suggestion

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