4th extension denied to ‘Centre’s man’ DS Mishra, UP govt appoints Yogi’s close aide as chief secretary

4th extension denied to ‘Centre’s man’ DS Mishra, UP govt appoints Yogi’s close aide as chief secretary

Lucknow: Two-and-a-half years after his first service extension by the Centre and repatriation to his home state of Uttar Pradesh, 1984-batch IAS officer Durga Shanker Mishra (62) retired as UP chief secretary Sunday after being denied a fourth service extension.

The UP government appointed 1988-batch IAS officer Manoj Kumar Singh, known to enjoy the trust of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, as the new chief secretary. A part of ‘Team Yogi’, Singh holds several key positions in the UP government.

The three service extensions to D.S. Mishra in two-and-a-half years of service, seen as unusually long by the state and central government bureaucrats, had dashed the hopes of dozens of IAS officers of the 1985, 1986, and 1987 batches as they retired without getting a shot at the coveted post of chief secretary. The denial of a fourth extension to Mishra has come as “a ray of hope amid darkness” for the UP bureaucracy, a senior IAS officer told ThePrint.

Seen as the “Centre’s man” in UP, Mishra was first given a year-long service extension by the Centre on 29 December 2021, just two days before he would have retired from service. He got the second, year-long service extension on 30 December 2022, a day before retirement. His third came on 30 December 2023, a day before his second extension ended. Former IAS officers and experts termed this a “travesty of natural justice”, given that the extension came days before the general elections.

At the time, former secretary to the government of India, E.A.S. Sarma, told ThePrint that such a series of undue extensions is most likely unprecedented, and that it blocked promotion opportunities for competent junior officers and compromised the political neutrality of civil servants.

Mishra took to X Sunday to inform about his retirement and posted a picture of him handing over charge to Manoj Kumar Singh. “I have handed over the charge of chief secretary to Manoj Kumar Singh after two-and-a-half years of long, continuous service. Hearty wishes to Manoj ji for new responsibility,” he wrote.

Mishra also met the UP CM subsequently and handed him a bouquet. “Today, I met the CM and thanked him for the affection and guidance I had as the chief secretary over the past two-and-a-half years. I have been getting his blessings continuously for the state’s all-round development,” he posted on X.

Also read: Yogi govt expands gag order for officials & employees to include social media, digital news portals

Vital to ‘Team Yogi’, performer— who is Manoj Kumar Singh

Singh took charge as the new chief secretary around 4 pm. While the government did not release an official order of his appointment, official sources in the CMO told ThePrint that his appointment was full-time.

Singh served as the nodal officer for the 2019 Kumbh Mela, whose success the UP government has since highlighted several times.

“When Yogi Adityanath became Chief Minister in 2017, he identified a group of bureaucrats who not only possessed experience and efficiency but also demonstrated integrity, tenacity, and a strong work ethic. IAS Manoj Kumar Singh is one of these vital members of ‘Team Yogi,’ who, after a rigorous selection process, has now assumed the role of Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh,” a statement from the UP government issued Sunday said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Singh was initially part of Team 11 and later Team 9, which consisted of the most influential bureaucrats of UP.

Recognised as a ‘performer’, Singh holds charge of the agriculture production commissioner (APC), infrastructure and industrial development commissioner (IIDC), additional chief secretary (panchayati raj, horticulture and food processing), chairman of Pradeshiya Industrial and Investment Corporation of UP (PICUP), and CEO of UPEIDA (UP Expressways Industrial Development Authority) and UPSHA (State Highways Authority).

His contribution to planning and implementing the BC Sakhi scheme — aimed at self-reliance and financial inclusion of women — is widely acknowledged. He also gets credit for implementing child development schemes such as ‘Take Home Ration’. He was a key member of ‘Team UP,’ which travelled to various countries to promote the CM’s message ahead of the Global Investors Summit (GIS).

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What change of guard in the post signifies for UP bureaucrats

Speaking with ThePrint, CM Yogi’s loyalists said the service extension denial to Mishra indicated a weakening of the Centre’s involvement in UP.

“This appointment shows that the CM could finally appoint his man as the chief secretary and that the Centre has weakened after the Lok Sabha poll debacle,” said an official who has closely worked with the UP CM.

However, earlier on 17 June this year, a meeting between Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Mishra did spark rumours about the latter’s “future role” as whispers about the meeting spread to UP bureaucratic corridors.

Mishra’s retirement, however, has brought relief to the UP bureaucracy.

“It was an unusually long extension period and led to dozens of senior IAS officers and entire batches of 1986-1987 retiring without a single one of them getting a chance to become the chief secretary. Manoj Kumar Singh is the last officer from the 1988 batch. This has been extremely unfair to decorated and senior IAS officers who were all fully deserving contenders for the top post,” said a senior UP government official.

Another UP government official said the state government being able to install a chief secretary of its choice signals that UP will finally be able to call the shots in the state as Delhi takes a backseat, with Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath seen as being locked in a succession battle.

Mishra was associated with the PMO since he had overseen projects such as Narendra Modi’s ambitious and controversial Central Vista redevelopment during his stint at the Centre. The Swachh Bharat and Smart Cities missions were among several flagship projects implemented under his tenure at the Centre. The launch of metro rail systems in cities such as Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, and Kanpur also happened during that time. Also, the uneasiness in his equation with Yogi Adityanath, especially in the initial days of his UP posting, was no secret.

However, with Mishra getting repeated extensions, Adityanath was of late believed to have accepted his presence — a sign that political experts credited to the CM’s political maturity, given Mishra was the chief secretary during the Global Investors Summit 2023, which the CM considered important.

(Edited by Madhurita Goswami)

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