Here, the former bureaucrat and JD(U) Rajya Sabha MP speaks about the Congress sending feelers to JD(U) to join the government. He also takes a swipe at Murli Deora for being incompetent and wonders whether Mukesh Ambani had anything to with the former’s induction into the cabinet. There is a reference to Praful Patel as “minister for Naresh Goyal of Jet Airways” and “now the minister for Vijay Mallya of Kingfisher Airlines”.
N.K. Singh: Jitin Prasada has made it good because he’s got petroleum as the MoS where he can do a lot because the incompetence of Murli (Deora) is proverbial. Every time a question comes up in any House of Parliament he is more busy trying to appease that questioner. Perhaps Mukesh (Ambani) has swung it for him because there is a continuity in the petroleum ministry. But Murli is an incompetent minister, he may be a good man. So, hopefully, there is a chance for Jitin Prasada to do something. That’s the other comment I have. Otherwise, in terms of the finance ministry, it’s pretty much...I was all the time convinced that Montek will not make it.
Niira Radia: Yeah.
NK: Because he tried much earlier, you know, during the transition...and didn’t cut ice. And this time pitted against Pranab (Mukherjee), there was no chance.
NR: What about Planning Commission? Will he go back to that?
NK: Yeah, yeah, he’s been told he will go back to some cosmetic changes there and bide time. I mean the best bet for him would be if he can try the Rajya Sabha ticket of Jaiprakash Aggarwal which will be one seat in Delhi which will be vacant. If he can’t do that, then in August, there are seven nominated MPs whose posts are falling vacant. One of them is Bimal Jalan (former RBI governor) and unhesitatingly, Montek is as much of a professional economist as Bimal.
NK: And so I think, you know, he can try for that, of course, if you become a nominated MP, you cannot become a minister, doesn’t prevent him from becoming a deputy chairman so that’s the thing there to be seen and watched. Jairam has a very good assignment. I spoke to him in the morning and Environment and Forests is going to be a very important responsibility in the next two years with Copenhagen and the world in general becoming more conscious about global warming and expecting us to undertake a lot of measures, so that’s that.
NR: Is he happy with it? I was told he may not be happy.
NK: He is very happy. But let me tell you there are a couple of things. There is a degree of temporariness in this because the sparring between the Congress and the ncp will increase in the next two months as you draw close to the Maharashtra elections. As it is, yesterday on the TV, there was sparring between Prithviraj Chauhan and Praful Patel. By the way, Praful would be very unhappy, because every old guy has been given an elevation, leg up. But he has been kept waiting. He could have been made cabinet minister for civil aviation.
NR: But he has destroyed the sector. I am sorry....I do have a view on this. He hasn’t done justice to the sector.
NK: I think he has worked as a minister for Naresh Goyal (Jet Airways).
NR: Now he works for Mallya. That’s it. Look at the way he has destroyed the national carrier.
NK: The national carrier has gone into decline. In my view they should have shuffled him around a bit. But I guess this shuffle would come depending on the dynamics in the next two months on how they do the Maharashtra (assembly) thing...so this is one area to be watched. The other area to be watched is the mercurial behaviour of Mamata, she is as it is against disinvestment, privatisation, so she may act as a carrier of many of the ideas which were earlier attributed to the Left. Their interest in us continues in a manner of things because Jairam asked me what’s JD(U) deciding to do and the fact that they have virtually zero presence in Bihar is an indication of...of...keeping...
NR: ...the door open?
NK: Yeah, because they had an option taking Laloo and Raghuvansh. (But) they kept the door open. They had an option of taking that fellow Digvijay Singh who won as an independent. They didn’t, so that option remains open. But we have to make up our mind and the strategy...we are going to brainstorm—you and me—one of these days. Haan, okay?
NR: Sure, sure.