Jaswant proposes, Atal disposes                         Virendra Kapoor

External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh seems to have made a habit of it -- proposing something and then being shot down by the PMO, that is.

This time it's about the appointment of the next foreign secretary. Singh's preference is for Kanwal Sibal, till recently India's ambassador in Paris.

But the PMO said no. And plumped Chokila Iyer, currently India's emissary to Ireland.

The senior-most IFS officer around will, thus, succeed Lalit Mansingh. That gentleman, for his part, will move to Washington to replace Ambassador Naresh Chandra whose extended tenure ends that day.

Though Singh had openly preferred Sibal, his appointment would have ruffled feathers all over. He superseded as many as 16 IFS officers.

Which, let's assure you solemnly, was good enough for more din in bureaucratic circles than in even Lok Sabha.

Politically, too, it would have had repercussions. For Kanwal is Congress MP Kapil Sibal's elder brother.

As against this, Iyer's appointment kept with the rules. Her being the first woman to head the Foreign Office was an added bonus. So was the fact that she is a tribal from Sikkim.

But of course… that was NOT the real reason!

A little bird -- a reliable one, mind you -- tells us that what got her the job was her 'pliability.'

Where Sibal owned a mind and stiff backbone of his own, the avian rep claims Iyer could be pushed around.

Which boils down to the fact that Principal Secretary in the PMO Brajesh Mishra will continue to play Super Foreign Minister.

Meanwhile, the FO has given the green signal to Vijay Kumar, a middle-level IFS officer, to take over as India's high commissioner in Mauritius.

Appears the proposal to post a civilian associated with the Sangh Parivar fell through because he, ambitionless chap, sought another far more high-profile foreign assignment!

A Bhavan for Chhattisgarh

Some time last month, guests staying at the well-appointed Madhya Pradesh Bhavan in the capital's plush Chanakyapuri woke up to find that the multi-storey complex had been re-named Chhattisgarh Bhavan.

What happened, you see, was that Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh surrendered one of the two bhavans at his disposal to the new state carved out from MP.

Singh also parted with one of the three aircraft at his disposal.

In contrast, the UP government has parted with just one helicopter from its fleet of some six big and small aircraft for Uttarakhand. Its excuse is that the hill state has no airport.

Since the BJP rules both states, the matter is likely to be resolved soon by the party's central leadership.

What will Nandu do?

What will become of N K Singh aka Nandubabu, secretary in the PMO, when he retires on January 31?

Given his reputation for survival, he is sure to land one assignment or other. To begin with, he is very good at his job.

At one time he was tipped to be the next Indian high commissioner in London, if not the ambassador in Washington. Or else, be sent as our ambassador/permanent representative to WTO in Geneva.

Now it seems that Nandubabu has reservations about Geneva. He would rather that his current assignment is extended.

Considering Atal Bihari Vajpayee's propensity to bless all who come to his door, it is more than likely that he will continue undisturbed.

Commissioned deposits

There are any number of ways to make easy money.

Some in the Board of Control for Cricket in India have broken no rule while doing something unusual: parking the Bombay-based BCCI's millions with their favoured banks located in Jaipur or Calcutta.

Well, reason they, if the banks are willing to pass on certain benefits (without of course breaking any law), why shouldn't they enjoy it?

Probably no commission of inquiry will reveal the real reason why Bank A was preferred to Bank B in this matter. But those in the trade know it fully well.

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