Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pawar and Patel pitching for peak profile portfolios after present 'Killing' performance

Harish Gupta / DNA Wednesday, July 7, 2010 1:19 IST Email
New Delhi: After Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, it is the turn of minister for civil aviation Praful Patel to request change.

Before flying off to Johannesburg, South Africa, Patel is learnt to have conveyed to the prime minister (PM) that he be shifted to some other ministry. Though no reasons are known for Patel’s desire to be relieved of the civil aviation portfolio, he is said to have conveyed to Manmohan Singh that it has been over six years that he has been in the ministry and he feels it is time to move on.

“Please do not ask me what transpired between me and the PM. Let me come back on July 10,” Patel told DNA.

Patel is the second Union minister — that too belonging to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — to express desire for a change in profile. Patel had met the PM thrice, the last time being the inauguration of the new airport in New Delhi.

It is learnt that Pawar had raised the matter of Patel’s desire to be shifted to another ministry when he (Pawar) called on the PM at his residence on Monday morning. Apparently, when Pawar requested the PM to lighten his workload, he politely demanded that Patel be upgraded to full cabinet minister considering his seniority. “If Pawar sheds the crucial department of food and consumer affairs, he wants a cabinet rank post in return for his party. There is no free lunch,” said a senior Congress leader.

Pawar’s decision to go public soon after meeting the PM took the Congress by surprise. The party may have been eager to tame Pawar by blaming him for high food prices, but it is also fully aware that starting the process of reshuffling the cabinet before Parliament’s monsoon session will cause more pain.

If the nine-member NCP in the Lok Sabha gets two cabinet posts in the new scheme of things, why shall the 20-member DMK bandwagon compromise with three cabinet berths (A Raja, Dayanidhi Maran and M K Alagiri)? A couple of senior Congress leaders may have been indicating an impending reshuffle and gunning for the portfolios of telecom minister A Raja and environment and forest minister Jairam Ramesh (the opposition has been baying for Raja’s blood over the 2G spectrum scam).

Also, minister of new and renewable energy Farooq Abdullah probably desires to be shifted to tourism or some other ministry.
But the Congress high command and the PM are disinclined to undertake such an exercise as there are no “compelling reasons” to reshuffle the council of ministers. The Congress has 27 Cabinet posts out of 33, leaving only six for its allies; it has most of the plum portfolios as well.

However, the Congress is fully aware that the Monsoon session will be stormy, with the NDA and the Left joining hands on fuel price and the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill. So why buckle under them and sacrifice Raja, for which the DMK supremo is not ready?

The final call will be taken at the Congress core committee meeting on Friday at the PM’s residence.
After Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel seeks profile change

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