It seemed like a done deal. On May 28, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi seemed set to become the Attorney General of India, the government’s chief legal advisor. The media widely reported Rohatgi himself confirming that his name had been cleared for the post. He went on to announce what he intends to do as the AG. Even Wikipedia asserts that Mukul Rohatgi is India’s Attorney General.

Yet, more than a week later, the government is yet to officially notify a successor to Goolam E Vahanvati, who resigned as the Attorney General after holding the post for a decade. On Saturday, the government officially appointed Ranjit Kumar as the Solicitor General – the second-most important legal post – but made no mention of the AG’s appointment.

Suddenly in the press and in Delhi’s legal circles, there are murmurs of other names being considered. A pair of octogenarians, former Attorney General Ashok Desai and constitutional expert Anil Diwan, are back in the fray, as well as pre-eminent lawyer Harish Salve. A meeting is likely to take place today to discuss the appointment – and Rohatgi might yet be appointed – but the ungainly process nevertheless stands out after smoothly managed decisions elsewhere. Here’s a look at what might have been happening behind the scenes.

Angry Modi
Repeated so often that it’s already become a cliche two weeks into the Modi era, all major decisions appear to be coming directly from the Prime Minister’s Office. The Attorney General post, as the senior-most law officer for a government that will certainly have plenty of legal battles to fight, is a crucial one that Modi is certain to approach with care.

One theory thus suggests that Modi is unhappy that Rohatgi jumped the gun in announcing to the press about his own appointment. Another one doing the rounds is that Rohatgi had been told it was a done deal, even though the PMO had yet to officially give its nod, leaving the appointment in limbo as it were.

Whichever is true, considering Modi’s directives to his own ministers on not talking to the press, it is likely he would not have been happy to see Rohatgi listing out his agenda in the role before any official announcement had been made.

Black Currency
Ram Jethmalani may not be in the government currently, but he still holds plenty of sway, particularly on the legal front. So when it emerged that the former law minister had written a “strongly worded” letter to the prime minister asking him not to appoint Rohatgi to the position, that became the semi-official reason for the holding up of the appointment.

According to the Indian Express, Jethmalani “asked Modi to not appoint anybody who is opposed to the move to bring back black money from foreign accounts to any post. It will send a wrong signal since one of the major reasons for the electoral victory of the BJP was the reluctance of the previous government to take effective steps to bring back black money.”

Modi is known to be particularly strict on issues of corruption. He might feel free to include Sanjeev Baliyan, accused of involvement in last year’s Muzaffarnagar riots, in his cabinet, but he kept out others like Rajiv Pratap Rudy because of their perceived connections to business houses.

There have also been suggestions that Rohatgi has represented a number of corporate interests and plenty of other parties that would lead to a conflict of interest, forcing a recusal whenever those matters come up in the court – which would reduce his efficacy as a law officer expected to give opinions on important legal matters.

Even if Jethmalani’s claims or the conflict of interest issues hold little water, they could end up being a useful fig leaf for what will certainly be an embarrassing decision if Rohatgi is indeed kept out of the AG’s seat.

Internecine Warfare
The relationship between Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley is a complex one. The two have stuck by each other, to the extent that some have called them the successors to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-Lal Krishna Advani combine that ruled the last National Democratic Alliance government. Yet, Jaitley is also part of the Delhi establishment that Modi is said to be opposed to and also lost his Lok Sabha election, prompting some to suggest that the prime minister would not want to give him too much power.

Most of the names that were floated for the Attorney General, Solicitor General and Additional Solicitor General posts were all Delhi High Court lawyers believed to be close to Jaitley. The new Solicitor General, Ranjit Kumar, as well as Rohatgi are not only Jaitley's Lodi Garden walking companions, they also visited Amritsar earlier in the year to campaign for him.

This was apparently brought to Modi’s attention once the names were floated, causing him to rethink whether he wants to staff the entire legal team with those believed to be in the Jaitley camp. It has also caused some consternation to Ravi Shankar Prasad, the law minister, who wouldn’t want it to seem like Jaitley is back lording over the law ministry as he did in the earlier NDA innings.

The stickler here, however, appears to be the lack of an appropriate alternative. Rohatgi fits right into the 60-something generation of most of Modi’s appointees, and the only real other options seem to be octogenarian former AGs. The one name that stands out as being neither too old, nor in any particular camp is Harish Salve, a former solicitor general, but as of now it is unclear whether the prominent lawyer even wants to take up a government position.