The Final Shuffle of the UPA Ministerial Pack
The next general elections may take place sooner rather than later, considering the political situation and the serious credibility and image deficit that the present Govt. suffers from.
There is talk of impending reshuffle of the Cabinet and this may be the last chance for Manmohan Singh to shuffle the pack. Of course, the UPA is obligated to their new found allies who voted for the Govt. in the Trust Vote, and its first priority is naturally to allocate Ministries as Just Rewards to some of these allies.
At the same time if, - with a Big if - he has the courage to do so, he would do well to introduce some critical changes in the present Cabinet even at this late stage, including changing senior Ministers in key Ministries to lift the Govt.'s rapidly falling ratings.
The first change he should consider is to designate Pranab Mukherjee as the Deputy Prime Minister. Throughout the crisis-ridden period of the Govt. either with the Left parties or during the events prior to the Trust Vote, Pranab has shown exemplary maturity and ability and tremendous perseverance. Despite the strong public perception of embarrassment caused to him by the statement of the Prime Minister on the Nuke Deal, while he was talking at a different pitch with the Left parties, he never flinched. Even during the Trust Vote, he made a spirited defense of the Govt. position on the Nuclear Deal to the best of his ability. If anyone deserves the position of a Deputy Prime Minister in the present Cabinet, it is he alone.
Time for newer pastures
As far as the changes of senior Ministers are concerned, the Ministries that deserve attention are Agriculture, Home and Finance, which are three key Ministries where Govt.’s failures have brought so much misery to the people.
It is a given, considering the internal security situation which has steadily deteriorated to the extent that it is now dangerously close to complete collapse, that a new Minister is long overdue in the critical Home Ministry. Sharad Pawar appears to be a possible choice, IF he agrees to move from a Ministry where he has more power. He is a seasoned Minister and he has already shown his abilities at quickly handling a potentially explosive situation in Mumbai when he was the Chief Minister in Maharashtra. If it matters, he is also from Maharashtra as Shivraj is. At the same time, his replacement in the Agriculture Ministry may be able to do at least some good even if the time available is too short. The problem would be that Pawar may not find the time to look into the affairs of the Home Ministry in view of his prior commitment to the cause of Cricket. Hopefully, at least a further deterioration in the internal security situation may be prevented by his presence at the helm. Apart from these two Ministries, it is also high time that Chidambaram is given an opportunity to try his genius in another Ministry. The Prime Minister himself can surely take additional charge of the Finance Ministry during this short but extremely critical time for the economy.
It remains to be seen how well the Prime Minister utilizes his prerogative for the last time before the elections.