M A I N   N E W S

Shivraj Patil goes
Chidambaram gets Home; Finance with PM
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 30
It is certainly too little and too late. The UPA government, in a desperate attempt to salvage its image in the wake of the audacious Mumbai terror attacks, today sacked its controversial home minister Shivraj Patil as pressure mounted on Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh also to step down owning moral responsibility for the massacre that will remain etched in public memory for a long time to come.

P. Chidambaram will be the new home minister while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who himself has come under sharp attack not only from the political parties but from the general public over the government’s handling of the internal security situation, will himself look after the finance ministry.

There were rumours that National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan had also offered to step down but these reports were described as untrue by sources in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). However, the possibility of some changes at the top level in the bureaucracy is not ruled out.

Official sources, meanwhile, said the composite dialogue process with Pakistan had certainly come under strain in view of the evidence gathered by the government, confirming the complicity of the elements in the neighbouring country in the Mumbai strikes.

“We will have to see whether Pakistan will match its words with deeds in the coming days and cooperate with us in investigating the Mumbai attacks,” they added.

That the UPA leadership would make Patil the scapegoat for its utter failure on the law and order

front had become clear last night itself when senior Congres members and Cabinet ministers, at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), demanded that responsibility be fixed for Mumbai incidents, which have sullied the government’s image no ends.

According to Congress sources, it was evident that Patil, who has always been perceived to be close to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, would not be able to survive this time and might be shown the door. Sonia herself set the tone for Patil’s ouster by expressing unhappiness that terrorist incidents had been taking place in the country at regular intervals, giving an impression that nobody in the government was in control of the situation. The die was cast after the home minister’s role came in for indirect but sharp criticism from other CWC members.

The sources said Patil, who came to occupy the crucial portfolio despite his defeat in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, sensed the mood of the party leadership and offered to step down. Nobody came to Patil’s rescue though he was not asked to immediately put in his papers.

But this morning, a word was sent to the beleaguered Patil to step down, ahead of an all-party meeting convened by the Prime Minister to discuss the situation arising from the Mumbai incidents.

Patil’s exit may well draw the curtain on his long political career during which he also served as the Lok Sabha Speaker in the past. The security situation in the country during his stewardship of the home ministry deteriorated to such an extent that terrorists could select their targets at will anywhere in the country. Serial blasts in major Indian cities had become almost the order of the day.

Nobody in Delhi would forget how Patil was seen on television channels wearing three different dresses within a few hours on the day when the national capital was rocked by serial blasts in September.

The Maharashtra Chief Minister is the other top Congress politician in the eye of a storm for failing to ensure the safety of the people of his state. The public anger against him in his own backyard has reached alarming proportions and if the Congress sources are to be believed he might have to go sooner than later.

There is a talk of replacing him with Union ministers Sushil Kumar Shinde or Prithviraj Chavan. Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil, who belongs to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), has virtually dug his own graveyard by his reported statement that such small incidents, like the Mumbai attack, keep happening in big cities.

It is to be seen how Chidambaram, who had served as minister of state for internal security in the Rajiv Gandhi, will meet the challenge of instilling a sense of confidence among the people in his new ‘avatar’ at a time when the public anger against the political class has reached its crescendo.



Narayanan continues to be NSA: PMO

M.K NarayananThe Prime Minister’s Office today scotched speculation about national security adviser M.K Narayanan quitting in the wake of terror strikes in Mumbai.

“These reports about resignation are wrong. Narayanan continues to be the NSA,” a PMO official said while reacting to media reports. — PTI



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