Thursday, July 14, 2011

Where is the Vision?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's latest cabinet reshuffle was an excellent opportunity for him to change the rather soiled reputation of his Government. Instead, he chose to do very little and might have added a little more grime.

The biggest shock from the reshuffle is the fact that Jairam Ramesh was removed from the MoEF and sent to Rural Development as a full Cabinet Minister. Now, some might argue that he's been upgraded; I disagree. He was an exceptionally good Minister, one of the few in the UPA, and he had much more to do. Removing him gives a sense that the PM has succumbed to corporates who dislike Ramesh's style of functioning (and honesty), which is rather unfortunate.

Then there is the Veerappa Moily affair. The former Union Law Minister was shifted to Corporate Affairs. Now, this is a clear downgrade and is probably due to the repeated troubles the UPA has been facing in the Supreme Court. However, Mr. Moily did some good work at the Ministry and if he had his way, the problem of lengthy trials could have been within striking distance of a solution. The new Minister, Salman Khursheed, has not given any reason in his previous avatar for anyone to hope that he can do the same things that Mr. Moily did.

Another surprise was the fact that Kapil Sibal retained both his portfolios of HRD and Telecom. This is disturbing becase both ministries are important enough to have their own, full-time minister. It's well known that the Congress expects Mr. Sibal to douse the 2G flames, but it is also well known that Mr. Sibal himself has some big plans for HRD. At the end, this seems to be a compromise, which speaks poorly of the PM's leadership. Almost as if to compensate, a new MoS was sent to HRD.

There were some positives, though. BK Handique, who has delivered a lackluster performance at DoNER, was sounded out, while the admission of KC Deo can be construed to be a positive move. However, these positives are eclipsed by the massive dark cloud of Railways, which went to a Trinamool man, thus remaining in Mamata Banerjee's kitty. Although coalition politics can be attributed to this, the sad fact is that the PM could not show any ability to enforce his rights as PM by dropping Mukul Roy from the Council after his extremely condemnable behaviour over the derailment in Assam.

The biggest problem with the reshuffle is that it lacks foresight. With no changes at the very top (Home, Defense, Finance and External Affairs), it was going to be a half-hearted affair anyway, but it seems as though more performers have been punished than non-performers. There is no reason to believe that the new team can do anything about the loss of credibility and initiative that the UPA faces.

Another pointless game of cards.

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