Who is Nripendra Misra?
Born in 1945, Mr. Nripendra Misra is a 1967 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) Officer from the Uttar Pradesh cadre. Apart from a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Mr. Misra also has a Masters Degree from the Allahabad University. Mr. Misra was also the Chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) between March 2006 and March 2009. As the Chairman of TRAI, Mr. Misra found himself at the heart of rapidly changing technology and the need to adapt both telecom and broadband to suit the consumer’s changing needs. It was during his era, however, that the TRAI recommended that the 2G spectrum not be put up for auction, leading up to the multi-crore scam of 2007.
With Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi coming to power, Mr. Misra was appointed as the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister on May, 28 2014. The appointment has been highly contested and staunchly opposed by a number of political parties.
According to Section 5(h) of the original TRAI Act, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairperson was to be deemed ineligible for employment with the Central government or any of the state governments following his/her tenure. Also, for a period of two years following the cessation of tenure, he/she may not accept any commercial employment. This section had initially disqualified Mr. Misra from being eligible for appointment as the Principal Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office.
The TRAI Act passed in 1997 was amended in 2000 and the clause ruling out the appointment of regulatory body’s chief by the Central government was introduced to maintain integrity and impartiality. PM Mr. Narendra Modi is believed to have met and decided on Mr. Misra’s appointment before the NDA moved to again amend the Act.
To facilitate the appointment of Mr. Misra, the NDA government promulgated an ordinance on May 27, 2014 – in a matter of just about 11 days after the election results were declared. The ordinance was drafted by the Law Ministry and cleared by the Union Cabinet in its very first meeting. It received the President Pranab Mukherjee’s stamp of approval.
In India, an ordinance is a law passed by the President on the advice of the Cabinet when the parliament is not in session. For the ordinance to remain effective the parliament needs to pass it as a bill within 6 months of its convention or reassembly. Opposition to the amendment of the TRAI Act came from some major political parties including the Congress, AAP, RSP, RJD, and the CPI-M. Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury moved a statutory resolution seeking to disapprove the bill before it was taken up for discussion at the Lok Sabha. The move was defeated and the bill passed by the lower house of the Parliament on July 14, 2014 reaffirming the majority’s assent with the appointment. The Congress and other opposing parties staged a walkout following the passage of the bill. The Congress also posed a strong opposition at the Rajya Sabha where it is still the single largest party. Despite this, the Rajya Sabha passed the bill on July 15, 2014.
Why does Modi Want Misra?
Mr. Misra is known to be a resolute bureaucrat – an administrator with a reputation for fearlessness and firm decisions, not unlike the image Prime Minister Modi himself has been endeavoring to build up. The Indian PM is exceptionally choosy about the bureaucrats who work with him. As Chief Minister of Gujarat Mr. Modi set the precedent for carefully handpicking candidates for the administrative offices he could appoint. Mr. Misra is known to score high on parameters of integrity and discipline. Mr. Misra has also been known not to curry favour with political honchos – certainly a reputation that must have counted in his favour. Lastly and most importantly, prior to his appointment Mr. Misra was asked to submit a blueprint for the restructuring of the governmental machinery in the NDA regime. We may now safely assume that this plan was liked by the NDA chiefs. The government backed the amendment of the TRAI Act on the grounds that it brought the service terms of the TRAI chairperson at par with the service conditions of the heads of other regulatory bodies. According to the terms of Mr. Misra’s appointment order, his term will be of the same duration as the tenure of the current prime minister.