Uddhav Thackeray starts the big churn at CMO
Sachin Kurve, Ashwini Joshi, seen as favourites of the former CM shunted out, old hands retained, new faces sought
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has finally appointed senior bureaucrats to run his Mantralaya office. He has made one exception though, that of retaining Bhushan Gagrani in an all-important team that the senior babu had been part of in the earlier Devendra Fadnavis government for over a year. In addition, Gagrani's four-batch junior Vikas Kharage has also been shifted to the chief minister's office from the forest department.
Gagrani (1990 batch of IAS) holds a feat that many bureaucrats can only dream of — he has worked with CMs in the previous Congress-NCP and BJP-Sena coalition governments till date. Being seniormost among IAS officers in the CMO, he will be made Principal Secretary (1), followed by Kharage as Principal Secretary (2). Both will share the department work as decided by Thackeray. Gagrani has also been given additional charge of the industries department till a full-time appointment is made.
Gagrani was brought to the CMO from CIDCO after Praveen Pardeshi was shifted to the head of the Mumbai civic body last year. His sectoral knowledge in urban development, infra, industry, information, culture and literature should come in handy for the CM. Gagrani has worked with Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Devendra Fadnavis. Thackeray will be the fourth CM who has shown trust in his administrative abilities.
Kharage's stint in the forest department has been outstanding. The low-profile officer was known for encouraging teamwork in the forest and public health departments. Kharage had also worked with Prithviraj Chavan's CMO for a brief time in 2014.
Insiders say the CM was still in the process of appointing full strength in the CMO. Shiv Sena secretary and Thackeray's long-term personal assistant Milind Narvekar and retired BMC deputy commissioner Sudhir Naik have been appointed as officers on special duty (OSD). A make-shift public relations team from the government side is working under deputy director Aniruddha Ashtaputre who has wide experience of working in the CMO. Ashtaputre was called in from Kolhapur for this purpose. From Thackeray's personal side, Sena's publicity in-charge and former journalist Harshal Pradhan is handling information.
Kurve displaced from Raj Bhavan
Sachin Kurve, who is on deputation from Uttarakhand, was shifted from the Raj Bhavan to Maharashtra Airport Development Corporation as its vice-chairman. He was seen as a trusted man of the ex-CM who had also appointed him as a secretary in the CMO before being shifted to Raj Bhavan where an additional post was created for him to share the workload during President's Rule. The decision was criticised by the Opposition which, after coming to power in the new realignment, ensured that the officer was shifted out. Yet another favourite of the previous regime, Ashwini Joshi, was transferred from BMC within six months of taking charge.
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