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APN’s sister-concern India Legal had predicted in its October 16 edition that revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia will be appointed as the next finance secretary

His recent absence from the corridors of power following his comments over the need for a “complete overhaul” of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime may have led to speculation over him falling out of favour with Prime Minister Narendra Modi but contrary to rumours, Hasmukh Adhia, credited as the brain behind the idea of demonetisation, is back with a bang.

The revenue secretary who was reportedly tasked by the Prime Minister to go beyond his remit and be the government’s troubleshooter on the issues arising out of demonetisation, and later the GST rollout, has finally been rewarded. The 1981-batch IAS officer from the Gujarat cadre was, on Monday evening, designated as the new finance secretary.

APN’s sister-concern, India Legal, had in the Delhi Durbar column of its October 16 edition predicted that Adhia, “the government’s star performer in calming the nerves of India Inc., in the light of prevailing economic tailwinds”, was set to be appointed as the next finance secretary.

Click here: Delhi Durbar

With Adhia’s elevation as the seniormost bureaucrat in the finance ministry, the Modi government’s team for Union Budget 2018-19 is now said to be complete. His elevation also comes at a time when it is largely rumoured that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could announce a major economic reform – with the stated goal of curbing black money circulation – over the next few days. The reform, rumoured to be a stringent law against benami properties, would be Modi’s second strike against supposed hoarders of illicit wealth after his demonetisation move.

Curiously, more than finance minister Arun Jaitley, it has been Adhia who proactively engaged with the media, India Inc. and other stakeholders in repeatedly explaining the government’s often contentious economic reforms agenda – especially the much criticised demonetisation move and the controversial GST rollout.

The new finance secretary may not necessarily share a personal rapport with his Executive boss – finance minister Jaitley – but in the power circles of New Delhi, the Gujarat cadre bureaucrat is known to have the ear of the Prime Minister. Adhia had served as Principal Secretary to Narendra Modi from 2003-06, when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.

It is widely believed that Modi’s politically polarising demonetisation decision – which is set to complete its first anniversary on Wednesday – was a brainchild of Adhia and that, as revenue secretary, he had also led a small team that oversaw the process that led to the flushing out of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes – a staggering 86 per cent of the currency in circulation till November 8, 2016 – from the Indian economy.

As secretary to the department of financial services, it was Adhia who spearheaded the Centre’s Indradhanush scheme for recapitalision of public sector banks and banking reforms.

Adhia takes over as finance secretary from Ashok Lavasa who had retired on October 31.

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