Anyone looking for the grand design, conspiracy theory or a coherent political plan in the recent changes in the Union cabinet is bound to be disappointed. For there is none. There is instead some amazement even in the party whose government has carried out the changes. An SMS circulating within Congress circles goes thus: “The man whose stint as finance minister saw the economy shrink from 9.5 per cent to 5 per cent is rewarded with the presidency; the man whose son is being investigated by the ED is rewarded with the finance ministry; and the man who oversaw India’s worst power breakdown is rewarded with home....”
So what’s the back story to P. Chidambaram again getting finance on the eve of the monsoon session of Parliament? Since the PM could not hold on to finance personally (although he briefly considered it), Chidambaram was both his choice and that of Sonia Gandhi. He was seen as a good FM by India Inc and at this time the government wants to, more than anything else, send a positive signal to industry. Besides, it’s been no secret that Chidambaram was keen to return to finance. Yet, it is odd that he should be chosen when his son Karthi Chidambaram’s role in the Aircel-Maxis deal (linked to the 2G scam) has been made an issue of by the Opposition.
So why trouble trouble till trouble troubles you? A well-placed government source says, “At this stage, the government is getting into the slog overs before 2014. They have a huge image deficit and also believe that whatever happens the Opposition will raise a ruckus. So it’s a case of not caring beyond a point and daring the Opposition to do the worst they can.”
Investigators at the Pune blast site
Sources also reveal that the calculation within the government is that significant legislation will not be allowed to be passed by the Opposition and regional parties in Parliament. Now that the presidential election is settled and the government has time to catch its breath, they have come up with a “quickfix” strategy to end the policy paralysis by executive orders. Sources say that FDI in retail will be implemented through an executive order after cabinet clearance. Commerce minister Anand Sharma has reportedly told the PM that as many as 11 chief ministers are on board. He is said to be working to persuade Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav, whose support for this would be critical since West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee is so famously opposed to the move. There are some in government who indicate that the FDI order could come even before the monsoon session begins on August 8 (a more likely scenario is after it ends in September). It’s obviously something the Manmohan government is rather keen to do.
Meanwhile, it’s Chidambaram who is the cat who got the cream. A government source analyses his growing importance in the government after the exit of Pranab Mukherjee: “As long as there is a decision to just move around the old guard, he is seen as someone who very efficiently applies to the task at hand. The PM needs efficiency when an attempt has to be made to address economic issues.” Besides returning to finance, after Pranab Mukherjee’s exit, Chidambaram heads the maximum number of seven GoMs (group of ministers) of the existing 15, besides heading two EGoMs (empowered group of ministers).
Now, as far as the coming monsoon session is concerned, will this mean another series of stalled proceedings with the new finance minister as the issue? There are different views within the BJP about disrupting the House or engaging in a debate on issues to embarrass the government. But given past experience, stalling of proceedings seems the likely outcome. Meanwhile, leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley told Outlook, “The Congress suffers from a self-induced talent deficit. Most parties would promote youngsters. In the Congress, a whole batch of youngsters is condemned to insignificant MoS jobs. Meanwhile, they juggle around the same old faces. First Moily is removed from law and sent to corporate affairs. After the worst power breakdown, he is given additional charge of power. Shinde should have been sent home after that blackout. Instead, he is given home. In Chidambaram’s case, they say tina. So is it the case that no one else in the party understands economic affairs?”
That’s the sort of attack the government is going to face. The point now is, do they really care, as long as they can have their way on some things, and keep the numbers going to pull along till 2014?
On the UPA reshuffle (Troubled Shooters, Aug 13), it is a mercy and a coincidence that in PC’s case, the reward went with merit. As for the ED case, since when have such things mattered in the UPA?
N.S. Rajan, Bangalore
An SMS joke quotes a statement by Manmohan on the power grid failure: “Dear countrymen, I wanted you to experience for eight hours what I have experienced for eight years...no power.”
Arun Maheshwari, Bangalore
I think it is more BJP's inability to provide a viable alternative to Congress. Ultimately, the common everywhere is taken for a ride. Hard times ahead for all INDIANS.
Just got an SMA joke ... Statement by MMS on Power Grid failure:- "Dear Countrymen, I wanted you to experience for 8 hours what I have experienced for 8 years ..... No Power.".
Poor Saba, whole Assam is burning in communal riots and she is assigned with PC-Shinde story. Come on Saba we want a investigative story from you on Assam. Why are you hiding your face now. If it is Gujrat you have lots of readymade stories. Pl oblige us.
You seem to have given too much credit for a deep and logically thought out process before these three changes were made. Actually, it is all very simple: LOYALTY. That is the benchmark. Proceeding from there, these gentlemen practically choose themselves for their new portfolios, as it were.. Competence and ability are primarily non essentials. Thus, Home cannot be given to just any Superman, even if there are any in the Congress. Finance would have become another 'Power', with anyone else. 'Power' cannot fall any lower, so it does not matter who or, whether an additional charge. Only a cataclysm could shift the loyal Shivraj Patil from Home. Thus, some positions can only be entrusted to diehard loyalists. It is a mercy and a coincidence that in PC's case, the reward went with merit. As for the ED case,since when did such things matter in the UPA?
Why blame Congress? Isn't it a fact that a person as reputed as Tasleemuddin had once graced thsi post. And he was not appointed by Congress. Did anyone from the media object to this? If Arun Shouri had not taken up the issue this person could have continued in that post.
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