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PM, Sonia have shot themselves in the foot

Last updated on: October 31, 2012 17:00 IST

Renu Mittal in New Delhi

The manner in which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demoted Jaipal Reddy and promoted Salman Khurshid has done little to salvage the reputation of an already tarnished United Progressive Alliance government, writes Renu Mittal

Through Sunday's reshuffle of the council of ministers Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi set out to erase the image of a government steeped in scams and corruption.

Instead, they have succeeded in reinforcing the perception that the government is only too willing to surrender to corporate pressures and alleged corruption.

That the 'honest' prime minister is willing to sacrifice a minister of integrity on the altar of corporate convenience, Dr Singh has given the likes of Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal and the civil society bandwagon enough ammunition to charge the government with punishing honesty and integrity and rewarding corruption.

Former Petroleum Minister Jaipal Reddy is unhappy at the very public put down he has received from his prime minister for doing his job well and saving the nation thousands of crores of rupees.

On Sunday, he was shunted to the science and technology ministry -- considered infra dig by any minister worth his salt.


PM, Sonia have shot themselves in the foot

On Monday morning, Reddy did not go to welcome his successor Veerappa Moily to the petroleum ministry,  and took charge of his ministry much later in the evening at 5 pm.

Moily went to meet Jaipal at his residence in what is being seen as an attempt to mollify him.

A senior leader, who has seen many such battles being waged in the government, said the issue was very shoddily-handled.

He said that with elections approaching it is no secret that the clout of Reliance Industries Limited chairman Mukesh Ambani cannot be wished away, but the prime minister while removing Reddy should have made it look as though he was promoting him for the good work he had done and given him a much better portfolio.

Now it looks like Big Brother Ambani wanted the message to go through that they have hit back at Reddy with a vengeance.

The senior and seasoned Reddy has also succeeded in sending the message across that he has been ill-treated, that he is upset. But by taking charge he has limited his protest and not uttered a single word in anger. He said that he did not believe in discussing portfolios, but is focused on issues and believes in ideology.


PM, Sonia have shot themselves in the foot

With the media writing about the impending axing of Reddy due to corporate influence, the perception is that the issue should have been more sensitively handled, said an AICC functionary.

Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has taken up the matter and asked the government whether it is working under corporate pressure. However, the BJP, which is not clean in these matters, has not mentioned Reliance in their remarks. Their spokespersons have merely been stating that 'one business house' was behind Reddy's removal.

Meanwhile, Kejriwal said that the UPA government was rewarding corruption. His target was Salman Khurshid who has been promoted after charges of alleged corruption surfaced about him and his family members.

The Uttar Pradesh government is already conducting an enquiry regarding the money spent by trust run by Salman's family and the inquiry report should be finalised soon. It is learnt that parts of the enquiry have already been completed.


PM, Sonia have shot themselves in the foot

It is interesting that Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose party has extended outside support to the UPA, has come out with a stinging criticism of the government for promoting Khurshid as external affairs minister at a time when allegations have been levelled against him and an enquiry is on.

For the prime minister the twin decisions on Reddy and Khurshid have done the damage to the government, say party insiders, as it has laid bare the manner in which decisions are taken and for what considerations, that too in full public domain.

As the UPA government enters the last few laps of its tenure, the prime minister wanted the reshuffle to reinforce his priority of bringing in further reforms in sectors which had so far been left attended and at the same time generate revenue and push up the growth rate.

Hence his decision to place such ministers in key infrastructure sectors where the PMO would use its hand to "guide them and advise them" and ensure that the reform track is not derailed.

Looks like that's a tall call!

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