Know Reasons Behind Manoj Ahuja’s Appointment As Odisha Chief Secy

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government on Friday notified the appointment of senior IAS officer Manoj Ahuja as the next Chief Secretary.

While the bureaucracy and political circles are agog with speculation about what tilted the scales in Ahuja’s favour, here are a few plausible reasons behind his elevation:

One of senior-most IAS officers: Incumbent Chief Secretary P K Jena, whose six-month extension ends on June 30, belongs to the 1989-batch. Ahuja along with Nitin Chandra, Sanjeev Chopra and Gudey Srinivas belongs to 1990 batch of the Odisha cadre. Though all of them are on central deputation, the government picked Ahuja over others. His wife Arti Ahuja also belongs to the 1990 batch but she has retired.

⁠Image makeover for Odisha bureaucracy: The bureaucracy in Odisha especially in the last few years of the BJD regime was considered partisan with some of them branded as ‘BJD babus’. The case of V K Pandian, who belonged to the 2000-batch of IAS officers and resigned from the service to join BJD in November 2023, in a way affected the babudom’s image of being impartial and too big for their boots, making the new government perhaps to go for an officer who stereotypes a classic bureaucrat.

⁠Stickler for rules: Ahuja has served in different capacities in the state – Commissioner-cum-Secretary in the Steel and Mines and Sports and Youth Services departments and Commissioner, Commercial Taxes – and at the Centre as Chairman of Central Board of Secondary Education, Ministry of Education, & Secretary, Agriculture & Farmers Welfare. He is known to be a stickler for rules and enjoys a clean image.

Role of PMO: His appointment as the next Chief Secretary is being viewed as a move by the BJP top leadership to put in a new team which enjoys its confidence and has a good rapport. This is considered imperative considering that the party has for the first time formed the government in Odisha and several of its ministers are first-timers.

Ahuja is due for superannuation in December 2024 and there is a strong possibility that the state and central governments would give him an extension as was in the case of his predecessors Suresh Mohapatra and P K Jena.

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