TILL Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister, it used to be the prerogative of the prime ministers to choose the cabinet colleagues. He has surrendered that privilege to not just Sonia Gandhi—she after all is the president of the largest party in the coalition—but also to her son.
Rumours are afloat about yet another cabinet reshuffle.Nothing elaborate. Just a few changes perhaps to accommodate the buddies of Rahul Gandhi. After a lot of speculation by the puppy media on ‘will he-won’t he’ it seems certain that he is not joining the cabinet but is only playing a mentor role. Is he old enough to don the mantle of a mentor? asks an anchor anxiously. Won’t it help Congress better if Rahul Gandhi came into the cabinet, poses another.
The point to be underlined is, it is not the Prime Minister who is deciding these issues. So much so that he cannot meet the President of India on his own. Sonia Gandhi would accompany him. Two of the topmost constitutional powers in democratic India cannot meet and execute business without intervention from a foreigner, a person who enjoys no constitutional authority and someone who is not accountable to the people of the country.
The clout of Sonia Gandhi can be gauged from the fact that when her son-in-law was accused of land grabbing and business malpractice, the cabinet ministers vied with each other to give sound bites to TV channels to show their loyalty, one outdoing the other. Salman Khurshid took the cup in that, he offered to give his life for Sonia Gandhi. The usually unspeaking Prime Minister made snide remarks about the media being obsessed with corruption and exposure. A sudden silence descended when matters appeared to be getting out of hands, as more and more cases of alleged corporate malpractice tumbled out of the cupboard. Demands for investigations were brushed aside as juvenile antics of the opposition and the India Against Corruption (IAC) group, which blew the whistle on Robert Vadra. Effectively the story is out of public discussion now.
Then came the Salman Khurshid’s scandal, of having reportedly thieved public money meant for the disabled. The Cabinet Minister for Law and his wife put up a grandiose show on TV, pretending exaggerated innocence. Everyone heard Khurshid threatening to play with blood in retaliation for the IAC’s campaign against him. Again no question of any inquiry. Nonsense, the Congress said. Khurshid is as white as lily, it asserted.
A cartoon in one of the websites showed Prime Minister saying ‘money does not grow on trees.’ Congress leader from Himachal Pradesh Vir Bhadra Singh refutes the Prime Minister and says his money actually grew on apple trees! That is the story of Vir Bhadra, who is in the circle of suspicion over the payoffs he allegedly received from a PSU under his ministry.
Actually, the list of criminal transgressions by the ministers of the UPA government has daily updates. Some enterprising netizens are compiling an encyclopeadia of scams under the UPA, going to multiple editions.
It is in this background, the news of cabinet reshuffle came in, promising to bring ‘new faces’ to remove the several discredited ministers. But it now transpires that the reshuffle is going to be ‘minor’ and only a cosmetic act. The Prime Minister has once again let down his position and lowered further in the estimate of the people of this country. Can headlines in newspapers and soundbites on TV save the UPA from definite defeat in the upcoming assembly polls?