Nirmala Sitharaman likely to back J Manjula as next DRDO chief


Nirmala Sitharaman likely to back J Manjula as next DRDO chiefWith the race for the next head of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) heating up, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman is believed to be putting her weight behind a surprise candidate — Jillelamudi Manjula, the first woman director general of the body.

Government sources said that though Manjula — currently posted as the director general electronics and communication systems — is junior to several other scientists in DRDO, her name is in consideration after a strong push by the minister.

A decision on the next DRDO chief is expected to be taken by the appointments committee of the Union Cabinet in the next few days.

The research body has remained headless – though defence secretary Sanjay Mitra has been accorded additional charge – since incumbent S Christopher retired in June.

Manjula, who belongs to Andhra Pradesh, is not as experienced as other competitors, who have been shortlisted for the appointment but is the first woman scientist to be appointed to the senior post.

If selected, she will have an unusually long tenure as the chief that can stretch up to eight years, given past precedence when DRDO chiefs have been given an extension till the age of 64 years.

Among top contenders for the post are missile scientists G Satheesh Reddy, scientific adviser to the defence minister and Sudhir Mishra, head of the Brahmos missile complex.

Another name doing the rounds is that of Pravin K Mehta, who heads the armament cluster of the research organisation in Pune.