With the tenure of the chief of Defence Research and Development Organization Christopher (DRDO) ending next month, the officers eyeing his post have started meeting bureaucrats and politicians to push their candidature.
Even Christopher, who was given a one-year extension on 29 May last year, is interested in another tenure with the premier defence organisation and is banking on Defence Expo 2018, the largest land, naval and internal homeland security systems exhibition in the Asia-Pacific region, which will be held in Chennai from 11 to 14 April.
The defence expo, which will be inaugurated by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, will also see the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 12 April.
Sources said it is during this event that Christopher intends to showcase the “impressive work” done by DRDO under his leadership, ever since he took over as the chief of the organisation in May 2015, to give a message to the PM that he deserves another extension.
The other officers who are fighting it out to lead the DRDO, which has an annual budget of close to Rs 17,900 crore, include P.K. Mehta, who is presently Director General for armament and combat engineering system in the organization; Dr Sudhir Mishra, who is the Director General of BrahMos missile system division of the DRDO; and G. Satheesh Reddy who is presently serving as Director General (Missiles & Strategic Systems) and Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister.
Mehta, according to sources, is being backed by a very powerful leader from a western state, while Mishra is getting the support of some members of Niti Aayog.
Reddy’s appointment, according to sources, was almost finalised last year.
Last year, Christopher, who was given an extension at the last moment, had directed all the labs to remove his photographs from the lab, just two weeks before he was to retire.
Christopher in an internal communication had stated that “Old colonial practice followed by the Services, to display prominently, photos of their Chiefs and Commanders, is followed inadvertently by some of the labs. This practice is also not required. I request all DRDO establishments to display the photos of the President and Prime Minister of India only, and not the Chairman of DRDO. This may please be implemented at the earliest and not later than 15 May 2017”. He had stated that he was among the first few officials in the MoD who never used a red beacon, much before PM’s recent directive came. Sources within the organisation said that all the four people who were in the fray, had an exceptional profile.