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Two ex-journos in race for President's press secretary

With Ashok Malik's two-year term as the President's Press Secretary coming to an end, several names are doing the rounds as likely successors, including two from the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), the think-tank that veteran journalist Malik had joined in 2015.
Two ex-journos in race for President's press secretary

Malik, a journalist for 20 years before he joined ORF as Distinguished Fellow and Head of its Neighbourhood Regional Studies Initiative, declined an extension of the two-year term, necessitating search for a successor.

The names of Gautam Chikermane, Vice President at ORF and a former journalist, is doing the rounds, as well as that of Hindol Sengupta, Senior Fellow at ORF, an award-winning author and former journalist.

Chikermane, whose latest book is "70 Policies That Shaped India", was formerly Executive Editor (Business) Hindustan Times; Editor Special Projects The Indian Express; Executive Editor The Financial Express; Executive Editor Outlook Money. His primary area of research is the economy and politics of India.

He also tracks the international economic affairs, particularly the G20 nations, and is a Director at CARE India. He was earlier New Media Director at Reliance Industries Ltd.

A Jefferson Fellow at the East-West Center (Fall 2001), Chikermane has authored other books: "1947 to 2017", "Independence to $2.5 Trillion"; "Tunnel of Varanavat"; "The Disrupter: Arvind Kejriwal and the Audacious Rise of the Aam Aadmi"; "Five Decades of Decay", according to the ORF website.

Hindol Sengupta, also a former journalist, works at the intersection of sustainable development, society, culture and policy at ORF.

An award-winning author of nine books, he is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and a Chevening scholar at the University of Oxford. He has been a Knight-Bagehot Fellow at Columbia University. His forthcoming book on India-Pakistan relations is The Truth About Neighbours.

In 2018, Hindol was awarded the Wilbur Award given by the Religion Communicators Council of America for his book Being Hindu, and in 2015, he was shortlisted for the Hayek Prize given by the Manhattan Institute. He has also been awarded the PSF prize for public service, according to the ORF website.

When the government named Malik as Press Secretary, it was made clear that the appointment was for an initial term of two years.

Earlier, it had been the norm for the press secretary's term to last as long as the President's.

Information Service Officer Archana Dutta had served as press secretary to President Pratibha Patil for her full term, while senior diplomat Venu Rajamony was press secretary to President Pranab Mukherjee. Once Mukherjee demitted office, Rajamony went back to being an envoy.

Besides Rajamony, Pavan K. Varma was also from the Indian Foreign Service to serve as Press Secretary to the President of India.

The IFS lobby is reported to be keen to get one of its own to the post of press secretary, as an IFS would know how to handle the diplomatic dealings of the President of India. With the Modi government increasing its diplomatic outreach majorly, the President of India has a full-time job travelling abroad as the country's top emissary, and outlining the country's vision. This is equally true of diplomatic meetings and dinners that the President of India hosts for visiting dignitaries.

It is here that a seasoned diplomat would know what to say, and the wordings of the speech something that one saw during President Mukherjee's term when Venu Rajamony stressed on the important points of his diplomatic engagements.

( With inputs from IANS )

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