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Why India’s new Israel ambassador is the talk of the town

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In India’s new ambassador to Israel, a hint of BJP’s nerves?

The appointment of Sanjeev Singla, private secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the new ambassador to Israel has created a buzz, not just in the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), but also in political circles.

Singla, a 1997-batch IFS officer who was posted in the Tel Aviv embassy before being brought to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in July 2014, will replace Pavan Kapoor, an officer of the 1990 batch.

The plum posting for a relatively junior officer has caused heartburn among a section of IFS officers, but what has drawn the attention of politicians is the fact that Modi is letting go of his private secretary barely weeks before the general elections. Although Singla will only take over the new assignment after the elections, the Prime Minister didn’t show any keenness to retain him for his next term, which the ruling BJP has no doubts about.

Singla is only the third officer in Modi’s PMO to secure new assignments outside — the two others being Jawed Ashraf, a joint secretary in the PMO who was appointed India’s envoy to Singapore in September 2016, and his successor Vinay Mohan Kwatra, who was named ambassador to France in May 2017.

As it is, Modi’s PMO has been much more stable than Dr Manmohan Singh’s was in the last one year of UPA-I.

Two joint secretaries in Singh’s PMO — Sujata Mehta and Javed Usmani — had got good assignments out of the country towards the end of 2007.

Singh’s private secretary B.V.R. Subramanyam secured a World Bank assignment in 2008, but the Chhattisgarh-cadre IAS officer returned to the PMO during UPA-II.

Pulok Chatterjee, secretary in the PMO, also went on a World Bank assignment in February 2009, right before the Lok Sabha elections, only to return to replace T.K.A. Nair as principal secretary to the Prime Minister in 2011. Then there was Sanjaya Baru, Singh’s media adviser, who went on a teaching assignment to Singapore in 2008.

Opposition parties usually keep a close watch on transfers in the PMO, hoping to see signs of a sinking ship. Modi’s PMO hasn’t given out enough to rekindle such hopes, yet.

Also read: Israel’s NSA meets Modi, discusses security deals, technology & economic ties with India

Failed coup likely to cost Yeddyurappa dear

The BJP high command is seeking to wash its hands of the Karnataka unit’s alleged attempt to dislodge the H.D. Kumaraswamy government by causing defections in the ruling Congress-JD(S) camp.

As it was, the central leadership of the party was banking on fissures between the two coalition partners to widen, which, the saffron party hoped, would give it an opportunity to renew its offer to Kumaraswamy to switch camps.

Former chief minister and Karnataka BJP chief B.S. Yeddyurappa, however, assured the high command that he was in touch with Congress-JD(S) MLAs and would be able to get 18 of them to switch sides and resign.

That would bring the assembly strength down to 206 from 224, enough for the BJP, which has 104 legislators, to stake claim to form the government. The BJP would have subsequently fielded the rebel MLAs in bypolls to boost its numbers further.

As it turned out, Yeddyurappa’s operation failed, leaving the BJP red-faced. BJP insiders say Yeddyurappa’s failed bid has sealed his fate and the party is preparing to replace him after the Lok Sabha elections.

(Contributor: D.K. Singh)

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