Manoj Ahuja’s Potential Appointment as Odisha Chief Secretary: Key Reasons and Implications


The imminent appointment of senior IAS officer Manoj Ahuja as Odisha’s next Chief Secretary has stirred discussions in bureaucratic and political circles. With current Chief Secretary P.K. Jena’s extension ending soon, Ahuja’s selection appears to be almost certain. Here’s a look at the key factors that likely influenced this decision:

Seniority and Experience

Ahuja, along with his colleagues from the 1990 batch of the Odisha cadre—Nitin Chandra, Sanjeev Chopra, and Gudey Srinivas—is among the senior-most IAS officers eligible for the post. While all are currently on central deputation, Ahuja stands out as the preferred choice. Notably, his wife Arti Ahuja, also a 1990 batch officer, has already retired. This suggests a blend of seniority and timely availability as significant factors in his favor.

Reforming Odisha’s Bureaucratic Image

In recent years, Odisha’s bureaucracy has faced criticism for perceived partisanship, especially under the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) regime. Some bureaucrats, dubbed as “BJD babus,” have been seen as too closely aligned with the ruling party. The case of V.K. Pandian, a 2000-batch IAS officer who resigned to join BJD in November 2023, exemplifies this issue. The new government seems inclined towards appointing an officer like Ahuja, who represents the archetype of an impartial, classic bureaucrat, thus aiming to restore the bureaucracy’s neutral image.

A Reputation for Integrity

Ahuja’s career has been marked by his strict adherence to rules and a reputation for integrity. He has held significant roles in Odisha, such as Commissioner-cum-Secretary in the Steel and Mines and Sports and Youth Services departments, and Commissioner of Commercial Taxes. At the central level, he has served as Chairman of the Central Board of Secondary Education and as Secretary of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare. His unblemished record and disciplined approach make him a strong candidate for Chief Secretary.

Central Government’s Influence

Ahuja’s prospective appointment is also seen as a strategic move by the BJP leadership to install a trusted and reliable team in Odisha. With the BJP forming the government in the state for the first time and many ministers being newcomers, having a Chief Secretary who enjoys the confidence of the central leadership and has a good rapport is crucial for smooth governance and effective administration.

Possible Extension Beyond Retirement

Though Ahuja is set to retire in December 2024, his appointment as Chief Secretary could likely lead to an extension, a precedent seen with his predecessors, Suresh Mohapatra and P.K. Jena. This potential extension would provide continuity and stability to the state administration, aligning with both state and central government interests.

In summary, Ahuja’s appointment as Chief Secretary of Odisha is influenced by his seniority, impeccable track record, and the strategic needs of both state and central governments. His leadership is anticipated to bring a balanced and impartial approach to the state’s bureaucratic and administrative landscape.

(With inputs from agencies)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *