OdishaPlus Bureau

Manoj Ahuja, 1990-batch IAS officer of Odisha cadre, has taken over as the new chief secretary, succeeding Pradeep Kumar Jena. Jena’s term, which was extended by six months, came to an end on June 30.

This change in leadership comes with the change of government in Odisha.

Ahuja made history by being appointed as the inaugural chief secretary of the initial Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) administration in Odisha under the leadership of chief minister Mohan Charan Majhi. He now serves as the 46th chief secretary of the state, with the added responsibility of overseeing the General Administration and Public Grievance Department, as per the official announcement.

Ahuja’s appointment went off without a hitch, happening just three days after the Appointments Committee of the Union Cabinet gave the green light for his return to his original cadre at the request of the state government.

Despite being set to retire in December 2024, insiders suggest that both the state and central governments might grant him an extension, following the precedent set by his predecessors Suresh Mohapatra and P K Jena. If this happens, Ahuja will have a whole extra year to work under the Majhi administration.

Ahuja has moved up to the seventh position in the IAS cadre gradation list of the state, with Niten Chandra, who is currently on central deputation, ranking sixth. The current chief secretary holds the fifth spot on the list. Anu Garg, the development commissioner, and Satyabrata Sahu, the additional chief secretary in the Revenue and Disaster Management department, were also in the running for the chief secretary position in the new BJP government. They hold the 11th and 12th spots on the gradation list, respectively.

Ahuja graduated with a BE (Mech) degree from Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Patiala, an MBA from Punjab University, Chandigarh, and a Master’s in Public Administration (International Development) from Harvard University, USA.

He began his professional journey as the sub-collector of Dharamgarh in the Kalahandi district. Additionally, he served as the collector of Khurda district. He held various positions such as commissioner-cum-secretary in the Steel and Mines, Sports and Youth Services departments, commissioner of Commercial Taxes, and principal secretary in the Cooperation department before being deputed to the central government in 2017.

Ahuja’s experience includes working in various important ministries at the central level. In addition to his central deputation, he also took on responsibilities such as joint director (Personnel Training/Personnel & General Administration) and chairman of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).

The new Chief Secretary is expected to shake things up in the administration by reorganizing the senior officials soon, as the newly elected BJP government keeps working with the same team since June 12. There is a possibility that a few senior IAS officers who were removed from influential positions during the previous regime will make a return.

In the meantime, the state government has named Nikunja Bihari Dhal, the chief electoral officer (CEO), as the additional chief secretary in the chief minister’s office (CMO). Dhal is poised to take charge of the CMO, also referred to as the third floor, under the Naveen Patnaik administration.