Has Pandian’s likely exit in 2021 necessitated Balakrishnan’s ascension as Naveen’s advisor?

DOPT circular very clearly has stated that the upper limit for an IAS to stay as PS to CM/Ministers should be 10 years

Bhubaneswar: With the appointment of retired bureaucrat Rajeev Balakrishnan, an Odisha cadre IAS officer but a native of Tamil Nadu, as Chief Advisor to CM Naveen Patnaik, speculations are rife that since the all powerful private secretary now to Naveen, VK Pandian, may be out from the post in 2021, Naveen has, therefore, brought in Balakrishnan prior to his confidante’s departure.

The Department of Personnel Training (DoPT) in 2013 had issued a detailed circular that guides the norm and tenure of appointment of Private Secretaries(PS)/OSDs to CM, Ministers et al. The circular (given below) very clearly states that an IAS officer appointed as PS/OSDs (it termed such appointments as working in political executive), should have a maximum term of five-year with the upper-limit of 10-years.

Here lies the catch. Since VK Pandian was appointed as Naveen’s PS in 2011, his upper time limit expires in 2021. Observers link this to the appointment of Balkrishnan as Chief Advisor to Naveen.

An analysis of Naveen’s CM tenure reveals that the CM always appoints an advisor to guide him on issues confronting the State politically and administratively.

Prior to IAS Pandian, retired IAS and former Principal Secretary to Biju Patnaik, late Pyarimohan Mohaptra, was the political advisor to Naveen Patnaik. Interestingly, Pandian was appointed as PS to Naveen in 2011 and the State had witnessed the bitter fallout between Naveen and Pyari in 2012.

The appointment of R Balakrishnan has many subtle hints, which need not be overlooked. Balakrishnan’s profile shows he has expertise in disaster management and election management. Even, he had served as Deputy Election Commissioner in the office of Election Commission of India (ECI). There was a buzz that Balakrishnan could be appointed the State Election Commissioner (SEC) in June 2019, when the year will be witnessing the all important urban polls.

However, incumbent Chief Secretary AP Padhi was appointed as SEC and Balakrishnan has been appointed as Chief Advisor to CM Naveen Patnaik. It has been observed that Naveen selects one as his PS or Advisor who is adept in micro-management.

The point of pertinence here is Naveen needs adroit management of both (disaster & election) to ensure a win in 2024, especially when BJP under Brand Modi has emerged as major challenge for his BJD.

Though the present ‘bonhomie’ between the BJP and BJD has been  the talk of the state, the recent attack on Naveen Patnaik by BJP’s former MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan clearly cites how the BJP is going to become a formidable challenge to the BJD  in the 2024 state polls.