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Union Budget for 2011-12 imprints by two finance secretaries
December, 22nd 2010

The Union Budget being drafted for 2011-12 may have imprints of two finance secretaries.

The government is not keen to give extension to Finance Secretary Ashok Chawla, a Gujarat-cadre IAS officer, on his superannuation on January 31.

Unlike the past practice of retaining the finance secretary who starts preparing the budget from October up to its passage by Parliament in May for the sake of continuity, the Prime Minister's Office has already initiated the process for selecting Chawla's successor.

The 57-year-old Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar, a 1975 batch Union Territory IAS officer, is tipped to be the new finance secretary in a major reshuffle in the top echelons of the bureaucracy early January.

Sources in PMO said that Khullar's name was dropped by the prime minister himself while discussing his plans to give a fresh look to his team of senior bureaucrats and ministers in the new year.

Khullar, a Delhi-ite and a doctorate in economics, enjoys confidence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Khullar was Singh's private secretary in the 1990s because of the team work he encourages and his sharp responses on economic issues.

Sources said the prime minister has already consulted Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on moving Khullar to the finance ministry in the midst of the Budget preparations.

There are plans to accommodate Chawla elsewhere after his retirement, they said.

They said that Chawla has been told to involve Khullar in drafting the Budget to ensure continuity in the final document that will be presented to Parliament on February 28, a month after he (Chawla) retires.

Sources said the PMO has approached Khullar to understand how far he would be able to cope with the gigantic task of presiding over the Budget preparations in view of his recent health problems.

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