Modi enthusiast Arvind Panagariya likely to head NITI Ayog

Arvind PanagariyaWell-known economist Arvind Panagariya is all but certain to be appointed vice-chairman (in effect head) of the NITI Ayog, the new body that will replace the scrapped Planning Commission.

The NITI Ayog, or National Institution for Transforming India, will, like the plan panel, be headed by the Prime Minister, but the vice chairman, like the Planning Commission deputy chairman, is expected to effectively hold charge with cabinet rank.

Surprisingly, the first hint that Panagariya could be the functional head of NITI came from the Gujarat capital of Gandhinagar, and not from New Delhi. Gujarat is of course Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state.

The NITI Aayog, as was announced on Thursday, will comprise both full-time and part-time members, as well as up to four union ministers and a chief executive officer of secretary rank.

The NITI Aayog will work towards evolving a shared vision of national development priorities; to foster cooperative federalism; to develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans at the village level; and to focus on technology upgradation, among other things.

Panagariya is the Jagdish Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy at Columbia University. He was the chief economist at the Asian Development Bank and holds a doctorate degree in economics from Princeton University.

He is an unabashed backer of Modi and his development model.