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Why this marriage of son of non-IAS babu, earlier in Gujarat, became an event in Kerala

AK Vijay Kumar

Many say, marriages are made in heaven. However, as a confirmed non-believer, I don’t seem to think that way. But if one were to believe that marriages are indeed made in heaven, would the guests who are invited in some of the high-profile weddings also decide the destiny of the newly weds? I don’t know. Yet, the fact is, the competition to invite guests at such weddings is something I noticed after I came to Ahmedabad in 1993 to join as assistant editor of the Times of India.
The occasion was the marriage of the son my colleague, who was covering Gandhinagar then (and whom I replaced in 1997, and remained there till early 2013), Ashraf Syed, an amenable senior journalist who is known to have broken many a story. At the reception itself, I found my colleagues in the TOI reporters’ section, as also my editor, late Tushar Bhatt, counting out who all had attended the reception.
All major political leaders, including those whom Syed had targeted during his stint as journalist, ranging from Congress chief minister Chimanbhai Patel to opposition BJP leader Keshubhai Patel, attended the reception. This apart, several senior bureaucrats, including chief secretary HK Khan, if I remember correctly, attended the ceremony. At least a thousand people must come over.
This was hardly an exception. I have found lesser known journalists waiting in the wings for hours to personally hand over invite to Narendra Modi, after he became Gujarat chief minister in October 2001, to “ensure” he attended and blessed their ward. I have little clue as to who all would finally attend such wedding receptions, but surely the names would be counted out.
Suresh Prabhu: In blue kurta
Be that as it may, the display of closeness to the powers-that-be, interestingly, becomes even more prominent when it comes to marriages of their sons and daughters organised by IAS and non-IAS babus. I may have attended very few of such such receptions, as I would be busy with my work as journalist till late in the evening in Gandhinagar. But anecdotes around who all attended would always reach up to me.
Three of the marriages which I remember attending were of the son of a very senior IAS bureaucrat, Maheshwar Sahu, industries secretary (he would organise Vibrant Gujarat business meets); the daughter of KG Vanzara, a non-IAS official who headed a backward classes board; and the son of another non-IAS official, Harsh Brahmbhatt, till a few years ago in charge of IAS transfers. At each of these, top officials, IPS and IAS babus, and senior ministers attended, suggesting the “clout” they have had. As I was at the reception for a very short period, I don’t know if Modi – who must have been invited – attended any of these.
The latest in the series of such events which made me curious was the recent marriage of the son of a rough and tough non-IAS babu, who is known to have been picked up Modi, then Gujarat chief minister, to be appointed as special commissioner, Investment Promotion, Government of Gujarat, in Delhi, more than a decade ago. I don’t know why he was picked up, but someone must have advised Modi about his “competence” in getting things done. He has also served at Gujarat PSUs – as special director, Gujarat State Petronet Limited (GSPL), and executive director, Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC), then known to be state blue chip companies.
The occasion was AK Vijay Kumar’s son’s marriage, which took place in far off Guruvayoor in Kerala, at the Lord Shree Krishna Temple. I was invited, and I received a message from him stating that he “regretted” he missed me. Not only have I known Kumar as a journalist, I have done a few stories on how he was sought to be sidelined by a former GSPC managing-director, a polished senior IAS official, who found fault with the manner in which he was entertaining people, with things reaching a point where he was compulsorily retired on the basis of a disputed date of birth.
The fight between the two, which is said to be rooted in some dispute 1990s, reached such a point that Kumar was forced to approach the Gujarat High Court for quashing an FIR filed against him by the IAS-controlled PSU management for alleged irregularities worth – imagine! – Rs 5.33 lakh over five years at the GSPC's Delhi office, where he served. “In all GSPC spent Rs 1.83 crore to investigate in the case”, a source claimed, adding, “The GSPC management even sent someone to Kumar’s village in Kerala to find out what was his real birthday.” The case continued for three long years, and following an inquiry, the state government accepted Kumar’s version.
The FIR was transferred to CID crime, and was quashed following the submission of “A summary” report to the court, as "no evidence" was found against Kumar. The court cases were withdrawn. According to sources, the settlement was reached at the intervention of JN Singh, Gujarat chief secretary, who also happened to be chairman, GSPC; MM Srivastava, former additional chief secretary, finance, who later came to serve as chairman, Gujarat State Petronet Ltd (a GSPC subsidiary), and T Natarajan, who was MD, GSPC. I was told, flutter around Kumar’s case was talk-of-the-town in Gandhinagar. Rough and tough, Kumar is known to have made fun of the FIR, especially spending on entertaining people for around Rs 5 lakh over five years.
I don’t know what made Kumar to choose Shree Krishna Temple in Guruvayoor for the marriage of his son. Was it because it happened to be the first temple to be visited by Modi? I don’t know. Be that as it may, politics does not seem bother this non-IAS official. Handpicked from the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) decades ago by one of the most competent Gujarat chief secretaries, HK Khan, Kumar’s rough-and-tough ways of getting things done has not been to the liking some Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrats, one reason why he decided to move out of Gujarat.
Even as the dispute around his date of birth continued, following his superannuation in 2015, Kumar was appointed by the Andhra Pradesh government as Officer on Special Duty for Investment Promotion. Despite the bifurcation of the state, Andhra Pradesh became No 1 in Ease of Doing Business. Word is learnt to have gone around, among those who “contributed” to this included Kumar.
Following this, Kumar worked as coordinator of the Government of India’s GAIL pipeline project in Kerala as executive director. It is the same pipeline which Modi recently inaugurated. Thereafter, finding him industry-friendly irrespective of political persuasion, his service was requested on pro-bono basis by the Kerala government for developing the state’s aviation and transport sector.
Not without reason, the marriage of Kumar’s son at the Lord Shree Krishna Temple, at Guruvayoor, saw a large number of top dignitaries attending it, including Suresh Prabhu, Prime Minister's Sherpa for the G-20 summit, former Chief Justice of India and Gujarat High Court KG Balakrishnan, former Supreme Court Justice Radhakrishnan, who was also Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court, several secretaries of the Government of India, who flew down to Kerala, Kerala chief secretary VP Joy, DGP Loknath Behra, former judge of the Gujarat High Court (designate) and Kerala advocate general Dhanda Pani, top Kerala IAS bureaucrats, IG Thinuvananthapuram, additional DGPs Ramada Chandra Sekhar and Vijay Sakhre, district police chiefs and collectors.
I was forwarded these details – which included top executives of Government of India PSUs and private sector companies – by someone I know in Kerala and also attended Kumar’s son’s marriage. “Among those who attended included KV Mohandas, chairman, Guruvayuoor Devaswam; Krishna Das, chairman, Guruvayuoor Municipality; and Breejakumari Kumari, administrator Guruvayuoor”, he told me. Anyone from Gujarat? The reply was: “All that I know is, the current GSPC MD sent a special emissary with a message of greetings. Others also may have attended, but I couldn’t recognise them.”
I phoned up Kumar to congratulate him and convey my love to the young couple. He was indeed very happy the way things took place, though regretting I couldn’t attend, and sent me video links of the marriage (click here and here).

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