What does it take to become an independent director on the board of a profit-making government company?
For one, being a member of the ruling political party helps.
A report in The Indian Express on Friday details how the government cleared the appointment of as many as 10 leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as independent directors on the boards of top state-run companies including Engineers India Ltd, Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd, Cotton Corp of India Ltd, National Aluminium Co. Ltd and Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd.
The report lists BJP leaders including the party’s Delhi vice president Shazia Ilmi, Gujarat BJP leader Asifa Khan, the party’s IT cell convener for Gujarat Rajika Kacheria and two others from Bihar and Odisha. While Ilmi has been appointed on the board of Engineers India, Kacheria is now an independent director with Cotton Corp.
Bihar BJP leader Kiran Ghai Sinha finds herself on the board of National Aluminium while Khan is on the board of Hindustan Petroleum. The BJP’s Karnataka unit secretary Bharathi Magdum and Bharatsinh Prabhatsinh Parmar, a former Rajya Sabha member, have been appointed to the board of State Trading Corp.
BJP’s Andhra Pradesh unit Mahila Morcha head, Sarnala Malathi Rani, has been appointed as an independent director of Export Credit Guarantee Corporation Ltd. Sipra Goon, who contested the 2016 Assam elections for BJP, has been named as an independent director of Andrew Yule & Company Ltd. Shikha Roy, a former BJP candidate from Delhi, has been appointed on the board of National Handloom Development Corporation Ltd, the report said.
The UPA did it, too
This is not the first time that a ruling party is making such appointments. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, which was in power between 2004 and 2014, had also made several such appointments.
The report pointed out that the UPA regime had named CR Naseer Ahamed, a district Congress vice president in Karnataka, was appointed as a director on the board of Syndicate Bank in 2013. Union Bank of India appointed Congress politician Anusuiya Sharma on its board while Allahabad Bank had Ajay Shukla, a member of the UP Congress Committee, on its board, the report added.
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