Elevation of power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to Home Minister of India reveals UPA II's mindset that gives preference to seniority and not to merit. It shows that good governance has nothing to do with politics of the day otherwise no one, howsoever cynical, could justify Sushil Shinde's promotion to exalted Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on the day of the worst power outage in India
and in the recorded history of the world.
If Shinde's colleague from Maharashtra Shivraj Patil was fired for his inability to handle Mumbai attacks by terrorists on November 26, 2008, then the July 30-31, 2012 power outages was no less than 26/11 in magnitude with crores of people going powerless for two days consecutively. Maybe the only thing that was missing in the past two days were 166 deaths.
But then UPA II has turned the Karma theory topsy turvy with "you show me a person and I will show you the rule" theory.
Handing over the Power portfolio to corporate affairs minister Veerappa Moily as additional charges signals nothing else but his rehabilitation with the Congress power centers before Karnataka state assembly elections next year. Again merit and rewards theory is a loser.
While the movement of P Chidambaram to finance portfolio was much needed, given the state of Indian economy and lack of vision in the north block, the shuffle had more to do with the minister's personal desire to move as home ministry is a case of diminishing returns.
With his proposal for setting up of National Counter-Terrorism Center being shot down by Opposition state chief ministers and his idea of selective lifting of AFSPA being dismissed by defence minister AK Antony, Chidambaram exited while the going was still good.
For 70-year-old affable dyed in a wool of bygone Congress era, Shinde would have rather preferred the comfortable job of external affairs minister rather than 24X7 job as the home minister of India.
The former Maharashtra chief minister was apparently considered for home minister's job after he declined to join as the finance minister on count of sight trouble in his left eye.
Promoted to home minister now, Shinde will find that the character of the ministry has changed after Chidambaram's stint. The ministry is more focused on hard core internal security issues and less of the politics of Centre-State relations.
It was during Chidambaram's regime that both the national security advisor to PM and RA&W chief were accountable in daily morning intelligence briefings and internal security decision making processes.
While Shinde faltered as power minister even in terms of augmentation of power capacities, the Maharashtra politician should know that one wrong move in the home ministry will seriously impact India.
Remember Telengana statement of Chidambaram in 2009. Rather than continuing to entertain his electorate from Maharashtra, Shinde needs to ensure that the streamlined processes left by Chidambaram remain intact and this includes the bio-metric system to ensure all MHA mandarins are in north block in time.
Being a former policeman himself from Maharashtra, Shinde does not need to be told the threat terrorism and left wing extremism pose to India. Maharashtra has been brutally hit both by Islamists and Hindu radicals in the past decade and Naxalites are a clear and present danger in Gadchiroli area of the state.
Politically nurtured by Sharad Pawar in 1970s, the Solapur politician nowhere appears as anal as Chidambaram was while handling the home ministry. In fact the two are opposite sides of the Congress coin.
Chidambaram as a home minister was aloof, decisive and contemptuous of bureaucratic mistakes, Shinde as power minister has shown that he is approachable, affable and a consensus man--more in the SB Chavan, home minister in 1980s, mould.
While home ministry definitely needs a deft political touch to manage regional satraps, a far cry from Chidambaram's aloofness, Shinde will have to go on an overdrive if he has to succeed as home minister before the 2014 elections.
Kashmir is on the boil again over alleged killing of a youth in Bandipore, Pakistan based terror groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba are active in India according to incarcerated 26/11 accused Abu Jundal, Naxalites have started softening up urban centers as future launch pads, Telengana issue is still unresolved and water disputes among states are on the rise.
Just as Chidambaram will have to come up with radical solutions to push the projected GDP growth rate of 6.5%, Shinde will also have to think afresh on a national scale and not confine himself to Maharashtra politics.
As a home minister he will have to deal not only with national strategic issues with international ramifications but also on trivial issues like fire in north block. Chidambaram knew and Shinde should know that complexion of the game changes in five minutes in the home ministry.