Side-lined by Mehbooba, Sahai gets prize posting in Modi’s government
Cabinet committee on appointments clears the J&K cadre IPS officer for post of Joint Secretary in National Security Council Secretariat
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Oct 17: The Union Cabinet’s committee on appointments has cleared Shiv Murari Sahai, the 1987 batch IPS officer of J&K cadre, for the coveted position of Joint Secretary National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) where he will be working with Prime Minister's Office, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Deputy NSA and retired Director of Intelligence Bureau Asif Ibrahim, who is functioning as PM's special ambassador on counterterrorism.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was not reportedly comfortable with Sahai while his functioning as Additional Director General of Police (CID) after the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani and two other militants were killed in an encounter with Police and security forces at Bamdora, Kokernag, in Anantnag district, on July 8 this year. Though there was no official order, Sahai was unofficially acting as DGP on that eventful day as DGP, K. Rajendra Kumar, was on leave in Hyderabad.
According to highly placed government sources, Chief Minister was not happy with the selection of delegations for their meeting with the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on July 23 at Nehru Guest House. It was only after the Divisional Commissioner Asgar Samoon expressed his helplessness that ADG CID was assigned with the task of arranging some delegations for meeting Rajnath Singh. Samoon was removed as Divisional Commissioner in five days.
Some of Rajnath’s visitors are understood to have spoken highly of Sahai’s achievements as IGP twice in crucial circumstances and stressed on his appointment as DGP, though he was junior to six IPS officers on the ladder who included three potential contenders for DGP post — S.K. Mishra (1985), S.P. Vaid (1986) and V.K. Singh (1987).
Even as some reports insist that Chief Minister was not happy with the Bamdora operation which, she believed, had been planned and executed by some J&K Police officials in close coordination with Army and Intelligence Bureau, sources told STATE TIMES that she was not happy with the way Sahai attempted to promote himself for the post of DGP. Rajendra, who subsequently got extension of three months to his service, was scheduled to retire on September 30.
Sources said that when Rajnath Singh wished that “someone competent like Sahai” should be appointed as DGP to deal with the political turbulence, CM told the union Home Minister that she had already decided to send him on Central deputation. Rajnath Singh, on that occasion, asserted that he would then like Sahai to serve in CRPF.
Subsequently, Mehbooba’s government cleared Sahai for Central deputation but the Centre did not process the recommendation of his posting for several weeks. Finally when the impression gathered that the J&K CID had been crippled under uncertainty as the ADG was “disappointed and demoralised”, Ms Mufti’s government shifted him to an insignificant posting in the office of Principal Resident Commissioner of J&K in New Delhi.
Interestingly, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah too had shifted Sahai to the same place but got him back as IGP Kashmir in the most challenging situation of the summer turmoil in 2010. Sahai and his team are credited with failing that turmoil in two months.
Previously, one of Sahai’s politically incorrect statements on television had turned Chief Minister furious as he claimed that Ms Mufti was, in advance, aware of the operation in which Burhan Wani was killed. She quickly claimed that she had no knowledge of the identity of the holed up militants who were killed in the encounter subsequently. She told mediapersons that if she would have been aware of Burhan's presence in Bamdora, her forces would not have killed him for the interest of "peace and a flourishing tourist season" in the Valley. Under pressure from the top, Sahai later changed his statement and claimed that operational details in advance were not shared with anybody including Chief Minister.
With a high profile in intelligence and counterinsurgency, Sahai has had a vast network of contacts and informers in Kashmir's separatist organisations and militant outfits. SIM cards provided by him to some militants in Pakistan were once found in possession of the LeT militants who carried out terror strikes in Mumbai on November 26, 2008.
With his new assignment at Sardar Patel Bhawan as Joint Secretary NSCS, Sahai will be directly working with Prime Minister’s Office under Deputy National Security Advisor and retired Director IB Asif Ibrahim and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. He will be one of the most important advisers on the strategic policymaking on Jammu and Kashmir that includes dealing with political turbulences, like the one of 2016, besides the counterterrorism.
[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]