Home for failed Shinde, Finance for tainted Chidambaram
By Aditya Pradhan
JUST look at the drift in the government. The Time magazine calls the Prime Minister an ‘underachiever’, the London-based Independent calls him Sonia Gandhi’s poodle and The Economist calls Pranab Mukherjee’s election to the President’s post to be a ‘kick upstairs’ after his dismal performance as Finance Minister. And now comes the icing on the cake – P. Chidambaram whose tenure as Union Home Minister could be considered the worst ever in history has been given the Union Finance Minister’s position without demur. While Sushil Kumar Shinde, whose report card has been consistently bad even as Chief Minister of Maharashtra, has been given the all-important Home Ministry.
Shinde was Chief Minister of Maharashtra from 2001 to 2003 when he cleared many files including allotment of land to Adarsh Society which is now mired in sweet-heart deals between the political leadership in the state and many government approval agencies. The two-member Adarsh Commission probing the Adarsh Society scam had issued notice to Shinde on June 23 this year to appear before it as a witness in the case.
The appointment of tainted Union ministers gains significance because the Union Home Ministry is the nodal agency in many of the investigations into real estate scandals as well as terror attacks. The Samjhauta blast investigation, which swings between one extreme to the other only to pander to political bigwigs in Delhi, is another case in point. The ATS had publicly declared that the blasts in Samjhauta Express were planned and executed by Pakistan based terror outfits like Jamaat-ud-Dawaa, known as the political cover of terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba. The organisation was active in delivering medical assistance to Pakistani survivors on board the Samjhauta Express on their arrival in Pakistan. The organisation is a hardline outfit which is organically linked to LeT, a terror group banned by US and other countries.
Even the United Nations has found Pakistan’s involvement in Samjhauta Express blast. UN Security Council Resolution indicted Lashkar-e-Taiba for organising the Samjhauta Express bomb blast. For that reason the UN banned the Lashkar and designated it a terrorist organisation. It named the four perpetrators of the blast. It named the mastermind in Karachi who allegedly financed the operation and UN froze his assets. But after Chidambaram was made Union Home Minister the investigations made a U-turn. Now there is so much confusion because of political interference into important terror cases that the new National Investigation Agency (NIA) has exactly gone the CBI way. Very soon Team Anna would be asking for an independent NIA to be unencumbered with political influence in investigations.
What is even more shocking is that for over two days the entire north India was reeling under power failure owing to the mismanagement of power utilities. The Power Minister was Sushil Kumar Shinde who got promoted to Home ministerhip the day after the world’s biggest power outage happened. BJP’s reaction to the developments was cut and dry: “on the day the power grid failed, which put 23 states and 64 crore people in darkness, Union Power Minister Shinde was given an instant reward by the Prime Minister when he was made Home Minister. Such reward for inefficiency is unparalleled,” BJP spokesman Prakash Jawadekar said.Chidambaram, on the other hand, is facing grave charges in the Aircel-Maxis deal controversy.
Even industry is not impressed with the latest Union cabinet makeover. The stock markets kept yo-yoing and closed flat till the end of trade on August 2, 2012 though it touched a few new depths after the news of the cabinet reshuffle broke.
But the victory of Pranab Mukherjee in the Presidential polls was best summed up by the Economist which said: “on rare occasions, the presidency has moments of great power. A hung Parliament is almost certain after the next general election in 2014, when the President may pick which party tries first to form a coalition. Those tentacles (Shri Mukherjee’s) could prove handy for a diminished Congress”.
It has become quite clear that the UPA government at the Centre is only bidding time till the next elections. Even after haranguing industry leaders told the government to perk up the act and remove the ‘policy paralysis’ the situation is not changing simply because the government does not care.
Investment bankers say that Indian companies are flush with funds and waiting to invest. But the policy paralysis has completely taken industry by surprise. Uncertainty and indecision prevails in almost all the sectors of industry. The 100 biggest corporates in India have doubled their cash holding to Rs 104-billion since 2009. When the rupee depreciated recently most Indians looked towards foreign investment companies to shore up the rupee with their dollar investments. But Indian companies are also bidding their time sitting on cash instead of investing in their businesses. Such large investments by Indian firms could turn the tide in economic growth drastically, even as inflation will come down and interest rates will slump.
Every which way you look at today’s economic situation it is grim. And we only have talentless Union ministers leading all the important ministries. As IG Patel, former RBI governor said quite succinctly, “Dr Manmohan Singh is an overestimated economist and an underestimated politician”. Guess that applies to all the Prime Minister’s men.