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Believe It Or Not

Nobody knows if the FM's 'resignation' was fact or fiction

Believe It Or Not
A classic instance of the political rumour—motivated, timely and credible because it was based on fact—was that of finance minister Yashwant Sinha's recent 'resignation'. Reuters put out a story on the morning of May 9, saying as much.

It all started on May 5, when the prime minister visited Gwalior with a senior journalist from a vernacular daily in tow. En route, they spoke of many things, one being the attack on Sinha by bms founder and rss leader Dattopant Thengadi on April 16.

On May 7, the vernacular daily carried a story suggesting that the finance minister was on his way out.

The following day, May 8, Sinha met correspondents of a financial daily and another vernacular daily. He said he was ready to throw in the towel and had, in fact, already written out his resignation on April 17 (the day after the rally). He spoke of requesting the PM to post him as ambassador to Santiago, far away from the Sangh affiliates, where he could drink wine and do a bit of reading.

The stories were carried next morning, May 9, with Sinha's full knowledge and consent. Reuters put out a report saying Sinha had quit. The stockmarket dipped as phones across the country and abroad started ringing. In the meantime, a cabinet meeting cleared sweeping financial proposals, including opening of defence production to the private sector. The finance minister met with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani after the meeting. Subsequently, Sinha declared that neither had he quit, nor was he contemplating any such thing.

Were the stories a "plant" by Sinha to pre-empt his ouster? After all, at the bjp parliamentary party meeting on April 17, the PM and the law minister had strongly praised his performance and rubbished Thengadi's allegations. Or is he an unwilling incumbent?

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