Hasmukh Adhia, who retired as finance and revenue secretary on Friday, is moving to Ahmedabad —quite unusual for a top bureaucrat who’s been at the centre of things from demonetisation to the goods and services tax (GST). Known to be among the favourite officers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the 1981 batch Gujarat cadre IAS has surprised many by not sticking around in the capital waiting for a plum post-retirement posting. The man once tipped to be the Cabinet secretary is clearly looking to break away from the past.
People who know him describe Adhia as quiet and dignified. He does not socialise much beyond work, one of his colleagues said. It was his work that gave Adhia prominence as principal secretary to the chief minister of Gujarat under Modi. His shift to Delhi soon after Modi became the PM in 2014 and his subsequent rise to the top rank in the finance ministry all seemed only logical.
What changed for Adhia then that he’s moving back to Gujarat?
Allegations made by Bharatiya Janata Party’s Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy may have been responsible for the shift, according to sources in the government. Swamy had alleged that Adhia had a role in the Punjab National Bank scam and had helped Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi flee. He had also alleged that Adhia had tried to save former Finance Minister P Chidambaram in the Aircel-Maxis case by terminating the services of Enforcement Directorate officer Rajeshwar Singh. In addition, a news report had made allegations that Adhia had received expensive Diwali gifts in 2016. While he had them sent to the government’s toshakhana as per procedure, no probe was ordered on who had sent the gifts, the report had claimed.
Even as the allegations may have damaged his career, which many thought had several years left still, Adhia is unlikely to write a memoir or a tell-all book, his colleagues quoted above said. Instead, he will devote time to study of spirituality. Adhia holds a doctorate in yoga from Bangalore University.
In four years as secretary in the Finance Ministry, first in-charge of Financial Services Department and then the Revenue Department, Adhia has overseen many initiatives of the Modi government including GST.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in a farewell blog for Adhia, called him a highly competent, disciplined and no-nonsense civil servant of impeccable integrity. The government wanted to give him a post-retirement role, but Adhia said he would not work for a single day after November 30, he added, in an indication that the bureaucrat has had his stint. Over to yoga and spirituality now.