High & Mighty: Power-Crats

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General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Defence Staff and Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog on India Today’s High & Mighty List 2021 of administrato

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.

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.

—by Sandeep Unnithan, Shwweta Punj, Anilesh S. Mahajan, Kaushik Deka and Sonali Acharjee

  1. P. K. Mishra: Numero uno

  2. Ajit Doval: Security Czar

  3. Rajiv Gauba: The deliverer

  4. Ajay Kumar Bhalla: Policy pundit

  5. General Bipin Rawat: Command and control

  6. Tarun Bajaj: Money manager

  7. Amit Khare: Man with a plan

  8. T. V. Somanathan: PMO point person

  9. Randeep Guleria: Covid strategist

  10. Amitabh Kant: Can-do Chief Executive

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