30 May-2014, Abhishek Bhalla: Nripendra Misra, a 1967-batch IAS officer, would have been the cabinet secretary in 2004 had NDA returned to power. His hopes were dashed with the Congress-led UPA sweeping into power. But the Uttar Pradesh-cadre officer played a significant role even in the UPA government in ministries such as commerce, chemicals and fertilisers and telecom. And now, he returns as the top officer in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office. By appointing him the principal secretary in PMO, Modi has signalled that he is not looking for loyalists but bureaucrats with experience and a proven track record. The principal secretary to the PM is a key post and acts as the main link for coordination among PMO, Cabinet Secretariat and secretaries of the various ministries.
Misra retired as telecom secretary and was subsequently appointed chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in 2006 in what turned out to be the most crucial phase of his bureaucratic career because then-telecom minister A. Raja allotted 2G telecom licences in an arbitrary fashion, causing a loss of Rs.1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer.
Misra, who was privy to the proceedings, was made a prosecution witness in the case. He contested Raja’s stand that the telecom regulator supported the first come, first served policy and stated that TRAI had recommended that there should be a process of auction but it was ignored by the minister. In his deposition in court, he cited a letter written to him by then-telecom secretary Siddharth Behura that the UPA government’s allocation was in accordance with the established policy. The decision to appoint Misra principal secretary in PMO was not devoid of controversy since the TRAI Act, 1997, prohibits its chairman and members from taking up any other job in the Central or state governments after demitting office.
An Allahabad University graduate and a master’s from Harvard University, Misra in his over four-decade-long career held important positions not just at the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government but has also had stints with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank. He had also served as principal secretary to Kalyan Singh when he was the Uttar Pradesh chief minister.
(Input source: India Today)