PMO nixes MHA choice for Naga interlocutor

Home minister's pick Ajit Lal sidelined

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) chose Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) Chairperson R N Ravi as interlocutor for Naga peace talks, sidelining Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s choice for the position.

Singh had picked former Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) chief Ajit Lal for the position. His ministry had forwarded his name to the PMO.

The notification for the appointment was issued on Friday after clearance from the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The home minister is the second member in the ACC. Sources said Lal’s was the only name in the file, though Ravi’s name had also featured in earlier notes. Lal had handled the assignment before as JIC chief. They added that there was no need to read too much into the appointment as JIC chiefs usually held additional charge as interlocutors for Naga peace talks.

Sources also said that Ravi’s image as a tough negotiator may have prompted the Prime Minister to choose him. A specialist of the North-east, Ravi had experience working in the region as special director of the Intelligence Bureau.

Ravi’s appointment has also won disapproval in the Northeast due to his image as a “no nonsense” officer.

This is the second time the PMO has overruled the Home Minister’s choice for a top job. Earlier, the PMO had ignored the home minister’s recommendation of IPS officer Alok Singh for private secretary to the Home Minister, saying that he also worked as PS to former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

Ravi, a 1976 batch IPS officer from the Kerala cadre, was appointed JIC Chairman earlier this week. Ravi’s appointment comes about seven months after the last interlocutor R S Pandey resigned from the post, which had since been looked after by Lal.

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