Nripendra Misra, principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is stepping down. P K Sinha, the outgoing Cabinet Secretary, will take over as the officer on special duty (OSD) in the PMO.
According to a statement issued by the government Friday evening, the PM has asked Misra, a 1967 batch Uttar Pradesh (UP) cadre IAS, to continue for another two weeks. The statement said Misra had expressed his intention to be relieved of his assignment.
While Sinha comes in as OSD in the PMO, sources in the know said he will be designated additional principal secretary to the PM. Also, P K Mishra, the current additional secretary to the PM, is expected to be elevated as principal secretary. Mishra, a 1972 batch Gujarat cadre IAS, had earlier worked with Modi when he was chief minister of Gujarat. Mishra is Sinha’s senior by five years.
Sinha, a 1977 batch UP cadre IAS, got three extensions as cabinet secretary during the Modi government. Earlier this month, the government named Rajiv Gauba as the next cabinet secretary. Gauba, a 1982 batch Jharkhand cadre officer, was home secretary before that and on Friday he took charge as cabinet secretary.
On Friday, the PMO also inducted five officers, including a joint secretary, three deputy secretaries and a director.
The top-level change at the PMO has come as a surprise, especially as the Narendra Modi government after returning to power earlier this year had decided to retain some of its top bureaucrats in their current positions.
After former Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, a 1977-batch IFS, was inducted as Cabinet minister for External Affairs, Ajit Doval, a 1968-batch IPS from Kerala, was reappointed as National Security Advisor (NSA) for five years with an elevated rank of a Cabinet minister. Subsequently, both Misra and Mishra were given Cabinet rank too.
Misra was appointed to the top post in the PMO in 2014 after the government brought in an Ordinance to amend the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Act, 1997. Prior to the amendment, no Trai chairman, a post that Misra held earlier, could be further employed in the government.
Modi posted a series of Twitter messages on Misra, who was among the earliest appointments in the PMO in 2014. He’s among the most outstanding officers with a great grasp of public policy and administration, the PM tweeted.
“When I was new to Delhi in 2014, he taught me a lot and his guidance remains extremely valuable.” In another post, the PM said Misra would embark on a new phase of life “after serving the PMO assiduously and diligently for over five years and making an indelible contribution to India’s growth trajectory”.
Misra thanked the PM for the opportunity and the confidence placed in him. “I have enjoyed working, committing my every hour and thought for more than five years, towards this satisfying journey,” he said in a statement, adding, “it is now time for me to move on.” His short note does not give any reason for why he was quitting. “I remain devoted to public causes and national interest,” he said, prompting many to ask “where is he headed next”.
A governor’s post for Misra is a possibility, according to an official.