Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government, in a late night order issued Wednesday, transferred IAS officer Navneet Sehgal — troubleshooter and confidante of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath — to the relatively low-profile sports department. Sehgal had been handling the key information and public relations department.
Sehgal’s transfer came hours after another top civil servant and Yogi confidante, the 1987 batch IAS officer Awanish Awasthi, retired Wednesday.
Awasthi, perceived as one of the most powerful IAS officers in the state, was in charge of important departments like home, visa & passport, jail administration, vigilance, energy and religious affairs. Many of these cabinet portfolios are held by CM Adityanath himself.
Right till the time that he actually bid farewell, it was speculated that Awasthi — once called the “mini CM” in UP power circles — may receive an extension of service, but that did not happen.
While the buzz now is that Awasthi may return in an “advisory role,” sources in the UP government said it has to be ensured that the government is not seen as giving undue importance to an officer who has faced attacks from the opposition in the past for his “proximity” to the BJP.
Awasthi himself told the media Wednesday that it was not the right time to talk about his next assignment.
Meanwhile, Sehgal’s transfer came as part of a reshuffle in the roles of 16 IAS officers serving in the UP government.
The transfer order also relieved principal secretary to the CM, Sanjay Prasad — considered to be another very powerful IAS officer in the Yogi dispensation — of a few of Awasthi’s departments that he had earlier been given charge of. Additionally, he was given charge of the information and public relations department, hitherto handled by Sehgal.
Prasad will also handle charge of the home, visa & passport, and vigilance departments. He has been relieved of additional charge of the departments of religious affairs, jail administration, energy and that of the CEO of the Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA) and UP State Highways Authority (UPSHA).
The charge of the department of religious affairs — which has witnessed a thrust under the Yogi-led BJP government — has been handed over to IAS officer Mukesh Kumar Meshram, while energy has gone to Mukesh Kumar Gupta, who was working as principal secretary to the governor.
IAS officer Kalpana Awasthi has been appointed as the principal secretary to the governor.
Meshram, who had been serving as principal secretary tourism and culture, will continue to hold that charge and has been given the additional responsibility of the department of religious affairs.
Controversial IAS officer Amit Mohan Prasad, who has been facing probe for alleged irregularities in the medical health department, has been relieved of the charge of that department and been given the micro, small & medium enterprise (MSME) department. This was also being handled by Sehgal until Wednesday.
‘Trusted’ by many CMs
Viewed as one of the most influential IAS officers in UP, who enjoyed the trust of former CMS like Mayawati and Akhilesh as well as present CM Adityanath, Navneet Sehgal being relieved of the charge of key departments like information and public relations, MSME and export promotion, handlooms and textiles and khadi and village industries, and being moved to sports, has come as a surprise to many in government circles.
The 1988-batch officer was also viewed as a “troubleshooter” in the aftermath of the UP government facing widespread criticism around the Hathras rape case and is known for his astute media management, said sources in the government.
While he served as secretary (information) in the Mayawati government, for her entire five-year term between 2007 and 2012, Sehgal was again roped in as principal secretary by the Akhilesh government for crisis management following the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots and also had charge of Yadav’s ambitious Lucknow-Agra Expressway project.
After initially shunting him out from his position, Adityanath had turned to him in the aftermath of the Hathras case and Sehgal was seen as being close to him ever since.
“The reshuffle sends a message, but the transfer of a seasoned IAS officer who was handling the media management for so many years is very surprising. It may be challenging for the successor since the status quo is disturbed,” an IAS officer working in the UP government told ThePrint, not wanting to be named.
Other officers who saw reshuffles in their roles Wednesday include IAS officer Arvind Kumar, who had been serving as principal secretary of the infrastructure & industrial development, electronics and NRI departments, and has now been given the additional charge as CEO UPEIDA and UPSHA.
Rajesh Kumar Singh-I (so referred to in official parlance since there is another officer of the same name), who had been serving as principal secretary (horticulture and food processing) has been relieved of the charge and put in charge of jail administration.
IAS officer in dy CM’s crosshairs relieved of medical & health dept
Amit Mohan Prasad, who has been facing probes since UP deputy CM Brajesh Pathak wrote to him in April-May alleging that the transfer policy was not being followed in the medical and health department, was relieved of its charge Wednesday.
The letter going viral had signaled a major rift between the deputy CM and the additional chief secretary, in-charge of his department.
Soon after Pathak’s letter to Prasad went viral, Mahesh Chandra Srivastava, who identifies himself as the legal consultant of the R. Cube Group of companies, which deals in healthcare and fire protection equipment and services, wrote a nine-page complaint addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the public grievances portal of the ministry of personnel, public grievances & pensions.
In the complaint, accessed by ThePrint, Srivastava — whose wife and daughter currently serve as the directors of R Cube Healthcare Industries Private Limited, Lucknow and R Cube Fire Protection Services Private Limited — had alleged that the government had not released money for projects allotted to these companies, owing to “hostility” of Amit Mohan Prasad.
Taking cognizance of Srivastava’s complaint dated 27 June, the PMO had written to UP chief secretary Durga Shankar Mishra, “for action as appropriate”.
The Lokayukta had also sought Prasad’s reply on another complaint by BJP worker and activist Rajesh Khanna, who alleged corruption in purchases made by the UP Medical Supplies Corporation in 2020, and accused Prasad of favouring three companies in the tendering process, which allegedly got the contract for supplying reagents “without issuance of tender by UP’s chief medical store depot”.
Speaking to ThePrint, Khanna called the reshuffle a vindication of his complaint and an attack on the “syndicate running in medical department”.
Prasad now has the charge of the departments of MSME and export promotion, handloom and textiles and khadi and village industries, held by Sehgal until Wednesday.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)