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Saturday, Oct 23, 2021
Outlook.com

Queen Side Castle

Sonia takes domestic. The PM’s club takes foreign. A bad idea.

Queen Side Castle
Illustration by Sorit
Queen Side Castle
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Five months into the UPA’s second term, controversy continues to dog South Block. The Sharm el-Sheikh misstep, the ministerial hotel capers, the controversy over Pokhran-II, the allegations of Chinese incursions and the government denials—all this compels a re-examination of the role of the prime minister’s office (PMO) and the Union ministry of external affairs (MEA).

In 2004, Sonia Gandhi sidestepped assumption of power and created a hybrid cabinet system, keeping real power in her own hands while giving the country its first CEO-PM An economist-bureaucrat, palpably honest and devoid of a political base, Manmohan Singh seemed tailor-made for the job. Sonia, however, had two political constraints: one, the party needed to harmonise the new PM’s pro-reform past with the Congress’s pro-poor slogan; two, the NDA’s US tilt needed to be moderated, both because the Communists were supporting the UPA and because of the Congress’s non-aligned heritage. P. Chidambaram was made finance minister to stave...

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