Ghulam Nabi Azad shunts out honest officer for ‘tainted’ favourite

He was removed as he had objected to the appointment of a ‘tainted’ official in the Medical Council of India (MCI), who was close to the former MCI chief Ketan Desai. Desai had himself faced a number of criminal charges during his tenure as the MCI chief, including being booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act by the CBI in 2010, eventually facing arrest, for allegedly accepting bribes to allow a Patiala-based medical college to recruit a new batch of students without developing enough facilities to support the pupils.

Our sources tell us that central health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was hell bent on appointing this tainted official in the MCI and had a major showdown with the health secretary over the matter.

The grandson of former president of India, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Desiraju didn’t succumb to Azad’s pressure tactics. So, the latter got Desiraju removed from the union health ministry to ministry of consumer affairs. This decision was taken well in advance, but Tuesday being Pulse Polio Day, the minister and his secretary had to put a united front for the last time.

Desiraju’s transfer has created a huge turmoil within the cabinet. A prominent cabinet minister with a completely clean image, and perceived to be close to 10 Janpath, had raised a serious objection over this transfer to the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and prime minister Manmohan Singh. But his reaction failed to cut ice with the PM.

In another development, urban development secretary Sudhir Krishna has filed a complaint with the cabinet secretary as well as his own minister against union finance minister P Chidambaram for ‘humiliating him in front of other officers’. Krishna alleged in a letter to cabinet secretary Ajit Seth that on Wednesday afternoon the FM was very rude to him and ridiculed him. ‘I’m not following your English. So kindly speak in Hindi. My officers will translate it,’ Chidambaram reportedly told Krishna. Krishna complained that the tone and tenor of the finance minister is unacceptable to him.

Also on Wednesday, in the cabinet committee on economic affairs meeting, which was attended by the PM as well, another powerful minister Sharad Pawar walked out after a spat with KV Thomas over food security law and its patron Sonia Gandhi. Pawar said, ‘If you do not agree with me, what is the point of being in the meeting?’
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