Sunday, June 30, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Advani appointed Deputy PM
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 29
In a far-reaching development, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee appointed Union Home Minister L.K. Advani as the Deputy Prime Minister, paving the way for a smooth succession in case the need for it arose.

An emotional Mr Advani received the good tidings tonight at a marriage reception. He was overwhelmed and observed that he was grateful to the Prime Minister and the allies of the NDA to have bestowed upon him this privilege and honour.

On the recommendation of Mr Vajpayee, Rashtrapati Bhavan issued a communique elevating Mr Advani as the Deputy Prime Minister with immediate effect.

Mr Advani would continue to oversee the Home Ministry and share the burden of the Prime Minister. The new Deputy Prime Minister was expected to be given charge of several other key areas in keeping with the desires of the Prime Minister.

Mr Advani’s appointment as Deputy Prime Minister had the concurrence of all alliance partners of the BJP-led NDA. Defence Minister George Fernandes, also convener of the NDA, had held intensive discussions with all partners of the NDA and conveyed the widespread acceptance within the coalition government of appointing Mr Advani as the Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Advani is the seventh leader to hold this position. The practice of appointing a Deputy Prime Minister has been revived after a gap of 12 years. Devi Lal, who was Deputy Prime Minister in VP Singh’s Cabinet and was later sacked by him, was again appointed to the post when Chandra Shekhar succeeded him in 1990. Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel was the first Deputy Prime Minister under Jawaharlal Nehru and later Morarji Desai was a deputy to Indira Gandhi. Morarji Desai himself had Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram as Deputy Prime Ministers between 1977 and 1980.

Mr Advani said the Prime Minister had discussed with him the issue of Deputy Prime Minister on Thursday. “When my colleague George Fernandes talked and took suggestions from other members of the NDA and when it was brought to my notice, I got the impression that some steps were being taken.” He said there would be no change in his job profile as such. “I have been doing similar kind of work before but now the responsibility and accountability is lot more. In the eyes of the public and my Cabinet colleagues, however, my responsibilities have increased.” He said his new assignment only formalises the role and responsibilities he was already handling.

Earlier, NDA convener and Union Defence Minister George Fernandes had held wide-ranging consultations in this regard with the constituents of the NDA. The necessary groundwork had been done before the sweeping and long-awaited reshuffle-cum-expansion of his Council of Ministers scheduled to be held in Rashtrapati Bhavan at 6 pm on July 1.

Mid-way through his five-year term, Mr Vajpayee is embarking on a multi-pronged strategy. First, the effort is to consolidate and iron out the fissures in the disparate and unwieldy NDA grouping for future electoral battles. It is in this context that the succession, issue which has remained simmering all along, assumes significance. It is intended to counter and silence other aspirants, if any, for the Head of Government’s job.

Secondly, it is to strike a delicate balance between the hawks and the moderates in the saffron brigade in the wake of a section building pressure that the baton of the country’s leadership should be passed on to Mr Advani smoothly and without hiccups.

Inexorably woven in the reshuffle-cum-expansion scheme is the gearing up of the BJP organisation by bridging the generational divide. Clearly, the Prime Minister wants to overhaul the party by bringing in younger people with a proven track record.

The Vajpayee government and the BJP has suffered a grievous blow following the February 27 Godhra carnage in Gujarat and the subsequent communal clashes in various parts of the State.

The BJP think-tank believes it needs a party President who is in tune with the politics of the Hindi heartland as that is central for the party’s future plans. The BJP’s presence in the South is negligible. It is in this context that the outgoing BJP president Jana Krishnamurthy was found wanting.

Mr Krishnamurthy, who has been offered a berth in Mr Vajpayee’s Cabinet, submitted his resignation to the Prime Minister late last night.

SATISH MISRA ADDS: Earlier in the day, Mr Vajpayee held extensive consultations with senior BJP leaders and NDA convener George Fernandes on Cabinet reshuffle-cum-expansion exercise slated for Monday.

Indications are that Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha may have to go and External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh may be the new Finance Minister. Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, K.C. Pant, is being tipped to be the next External Affairs Minister.

At the same time, the Prime Minister is seriously thinking to keep the External Affairs portfolio with him on the lines of country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. While the ministry would have a Minister of State, he may also create a post of Secretary-General in the External Affairs Ministry.

Rural Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu, Mr Arun Jaitley and Mr Ananth Kumar are likely to be drafted for party work. Others from the BJP whose entry into the Council of Ministers is certain include Mr K Jana Krishnamurthi. Among those likely to be dropped are Health and Family Welfare Minister C P Thakur and Animal Welfare Minister Maneka Gandhi.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Vijay Goel and Officer on Special Duty in the PMO Sudheendra Kulkarni have been in touch with Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee who is still pressing for the Railways portfolio, the portfolio she held before opting out of the NDA on the eve of elections in West Bengal. However, informed sources said, Mr Kulkarni has categorically told her that her wish cannot be entertained and she should either accept some other portfolio or remain outside the government.

Another round of consultations is likely to take place in the evening. Mr Ramdoss of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), which is yet to get representation in the ministry, has been invited by Mr Vajpayee for talks.

Rural Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu is likely to be appointed the new BJP President.

Mr Naidu and his predecessor in the party Jana Krishnamurthy, who has already resigned as BJP President, are also expected to switch roles with Mr Krishnamurthy being tipped to join the Cabinet as Rural Development Minister, informed sources said.

Three to four ministers from the BJP are likely to be shifted to party work and their places will be filled by new faces, including that of film-star-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha, former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, Mr Lakhsmi Narayan Pande, Mr S S Chauhan, Mr Balbir Punj, Mr Kailash Meghawal, Mr Baliram Kashyap, BJP Vice-President Sangh Priya Gautam, Delhi MPs, Mr V.K. Malhotra or Mr Sahib Singh Verma. Besides, Mr Naidu, those who are likely to be drafted for party work include Law Minister Arun Jaitley.

Urban Development Minister Ananth Kumar may later be asked to head the Karnatka unit of the BJP and he may not be dropped from the Cabinet at present but may be shifted out of the Ministry of Urban Affairs.

Similarly, Union Minister for Sports Uma Bharati and Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Ramesh Bais may also be asked to take over the state units of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, respectively.

From the NDA allies, the Trinamool supremo and Trinamool dissident Ajit Panja and two from Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), Shiv Sena leader Ananth Geethe will find places in the Council of Ministers.

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
122 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |