Bureaucrat falls prey to Cong courtier culture

The story of removal of Keshav Desiraju, a 1978 batch IAS officer of Uttarakhand cadre, as health secretary and his transfer to the non-descript consumer affairs ministry is not only being seen about the influence of former MCI boss Ketan Desai but more importantly of Congress' courtier culture. In the process, Desiraju, considered one of the finest officers known for his work in education and health sectors, paid the price. 

According to highly placed sources aware of the sequence of events, Desiraju, as additional secretary in the health ministry, had played a key role in the cleaning up of the Medical Council of India that led to the ouster of Ketan Desai. But for the past few months, Desai and his men have been working hard to make a comeback. 

Desai, who faces two chargesheets filed by the CBI for his alleged bungling in MCI affairs and gross financial irregularities, was nominated to the MCI by Gujarat University. 

Even as the health ministry was taking a view on the matter, a senior opposition leader wrote a letter to health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad requesting him to accommodate Desai in MCI. But Desiraju resisted the move and told Azad that it would be impossible to give place to a charge-sheeted person like Desai. 

Desiraju suggested that the law ministry's opinion be taken on the issue. But even before the law ministry's view could come, he was transferred. Sources said the law ministry is yet to send its opinion. 

Asked about the developments, Azad first asked why is there so much interest in Desiraju's transfer. "His transfer is a routine administrative matter. He had done three years in the ministry. He is one of the four secretaries in the ministry." Azad claimed it is he who sought law ministry's opinion three months back which is yet to come. "I have not met Desai since he was arrested. Normally we accept state's nominee blindly but in this case we consulted law ministry," he said. 

Here the plot thickens. Sources said a senior cabinet minister, who knows Desiraju, asked Azad as to why he was removed. The senior minister is also believed to have praised Desiraju. But the health minister told his cabinet colleague that Desiraju has been allegedly making comments against UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. "Once the names of Sonia and Rahul were invoked, it became clear that even the PMO will not oppose Desiraju's transfer. It became a good ploy," said a PMO official well-versed with the developments. In the PMO, a powerful official did the rest in shifting Desiraju, sources said. 

However, Azad said, "It is a total nonsense. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have nothing to do with it." 

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