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What use a gentleman PM?

What use a gentleman PM?

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: November 29,2004
URL: http://www.samachar.com/features/291104-editorial.html

So it is not only the leftists of various persuasions who routinely twist the arms of the gentleman Prime Minister to extract their pound of flesh. No, even other still smaller constituents of the ruling UPA are aping the Commies to bully the politically frail Manmohan Singh to carry out their dictates. The latest case in point is the re-induction of the tainted Shibu Soren into the Union Cabinet. The JMM leader virtually forced his way back into the Cabinet after it was made known that the self-same gentleman- PM had strong reservations against his return.

Hours before Singh caved in to the pressure to take back Soren in the Government, the JMM executive passed a resolution criticising the UPA Government. Clearly, the message was that you make Soren a minister or else the JMM would create problems for the Government. The JMM pressure was doubly reinforced by the proximity of the Assembly elections in Jharkhand which are due early next year. Since the Congress Party was keen to ride to power in the State by hanging on to the coat-tails of the JMM, it per force had to meekly surrender to Soren.

But it was the same Soren who had figured as a prime accused in a multiple murder case and who was only recently enlarged on bail after he had spent some time in jail. Even otherwise, he did not have the requisite administrative experience or political skills to merit a berth in the Cabinet. The few months he was a member of the Singh Government before being obliged to quit, he did not exactly cover himself with glory. Reports of sleaze and scandal were beginning to filter out of the Coal Ministry just when the issuance of a non-bailable arrest warrant in the above-mentioned multiple murder case had sent him scurrying for cover.

The Government of gentleman- PM recorded a first in the annals of parliamentary democracy when one of its own Cabinet Ministers went underground. Despite vociferous demands from the Opposition, there was no-one, not even Singh, able to inform the Lok Sabha about the whereabouts of the `missing' Coal Minister. Reportedly, Singh himself was completely in the dark about the whereabouts of his own Cabinet colleague! Now, Soren will give company to other tainted ministers, including his comrade-in-crimes, Mohammed Taslimuddin, in the Union Government headed by the gentleman PM, Manmohan Singh.

Again, there was great pressure at work in the allocation of a portfolio, at long last, to the Telengana Rashtra Samiti leader, K. Chandrashekhara Rao. He was given a portfolio alright when he was first inducted into the Cabinet last May, but was made to part with it due to the public fuss created by the DMK leaders who refused to join the Government unless they were given what they had set out to get from this government of gentleman- PM.

All these months Rao was a Minister Without Portfolio, drawing his salary and enjoying all the attendant perks without any responsibility, which given what most ministers with heavy-duty charges do may not have been such a bad thing after all. But with his patience wearing thin, the TRS served notice on the Government, threatening to boycott the UPA meeting later on Friday. Also, it threatened to launch an agitation for the fulfillment of their demand for the creation of a separate State of Telengana after carving out a portion of Andhra Pradesh, a demand the Congress Party was very reluctant to concede even though it had given public assurances to do so during the parliamentary campaign last May. Rao will raise the ante over the Telengana issue but only after enjoying the gains of ministership for some more time.

As a result of these cumulative pressures, the gentleman-PM was obliged to resort to tinkering of portfolios in order to find something worthwhile for Rao to handle. The TRS leader would now get Labour and Employment. The incumbent Labour Minister, Sis Ram Ola of the Congress Party, would have to make do with the Ministry of Mines which has now been created by hiving off the Department of Mines from the Coal Ministry. Such chopping and chipping of departments might entirely lack any administrative rationale or even the benefits of synergies which, for instance, had led to the departments of Coal and Mines to be clubbed under one Ministry in the first place.

But such a clumsy ad hock arrangement had become necessary in order to accommodate various ministerial aspirants whom Singh could hardly say no to given his own vulnerability to the minimum of pressure from the Congress Party's allies. When the pursuit of power supersedes all other norms and concerns, what you get is a government led by a gentleman PM who is answerable to so many bosses beginning with his maker in 10 Janpath to her minions in the Congress Party and further afield in every small faction and group that forms part of the hydra- headed animal called UPA. Truly, the NDA was an experiment in good governance, especially when compared to this headless wonder called the UPA Government.

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