Friday, January 21, 2011

Shuffling Cards

It was like waiting for a giant tsunami and ending up with a timid little wave. The UPA Government's first Cabinet reshuffle since it began its second term in power was nothing short of a travesty, coming at a time when the Congress party is full of proposals and promises and the masses are furious over unabated corruption.

While the key posts - Defense, External Affairs, Home and Finance - were left untouched, just three new faces were inducted while others were promoted (or demoted, depending on how you see it). The only real positive was replacing Murli Deora with Jaipal Reddy in the MoP&NG.

The biggest shock is the reward given to Vialsrao Deshmukh, the former Maharashtra CM who was removed after he took a movie producer around the Taj Mahal Hotel just after 26/11, and was rapped by the Supreme Court was abusing his powers to protect a moneylender in Vidharbha. Ironically, he has been given the Rural Development Ministry, which managed the MGNREGA and is supposed to ensure that farmers don't need to go to moneylenders in the first place!

Kamal Nath, UPA-1's Commerce Minister who put up a bold stance in the WTO talks, has been shifted from the high-profile Surface Transport Ministry to the minor Heavy Industries Ministry (replacing Mr. Deshmukh in the process). Three new MPs have been inducted into the executive, but that's more electoral politics than remorse for a non-performing team.

The problem with shuffling a pack of cards is that you still land up with the same 52 cards, albeit in different places. That's precisely the problem with this reshuffle. Non-performers have remained but they're not non-performing in "less important" ministries. Kapil Sibal is still on top of two full-time Ministries, although he might just be fire-fighting in the Telecoms Ministry while he sets Indian Higher Education on fire.

The Prime Minister has promised another, more substantial reshuffle after the budget session. But in politics, a full session of Parliament is a very long time and the political climate is uncertain, particularly since important State elections would have passed by then. What we'll get then is best left to another date, but this is a wasted opportunity.

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