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Smile and you sin

india Updated: Oct 19, 2009 01:05 IST
Kumkum Chadha
Kumkum Chadha
Hindustan Times
Union Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal

Union Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal is an old timer.

A typical Congressman of the past, he thinks smiling is a sin. Chatting is alien to him. In his scheme of things being serious means being in control.

During his last tenure as minister of state for home affairs, Jaiswal had a high-profile but controversial boss, Shivraj Patil. Then despite the ministry being in the news on a daily basis, Jaiswal was not.

He would be tapped only when Patil was not available but whatever he said had little relevance to what the government was actually thinking. Even then he said little and smiled even less. Yet, if the BJP’s Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is to be believed, Jaiswal often shot his mouth off. “He would be quick to give a sound-byte on television. Political differences apart, Jaiswal is a good man,” Naqvi told HT.

This time around, Jaiswal has come out on his own. He has got independent charge of two ministries: coal, and statistics and programme implementation. None is likely to be in the eye of the storm to bring Jaiswal centre stage. So despite his elevated status, Jaiswal will remain a low-profile politician.

Jaiswal’s education came to an abrupt end when his father, Ganga Prasad, suffered a heart attack. He had to handle the family business: selling pulses. Though Jaiswal followed his father in business, he deviated from him in his thinking. Ganga Prasad Jaiswal was a freedom fighter but refused a pension on the grounds that in public life you serve but do not expect, ask or accept remuneration. His business, he said, was enough to sustain him and his family.

Son Jaiswal deviated from the course his father charted. He served the government but also enjoyed the salary and perks: “There is,” justifies Jaiswal, “a distinct difference. My father worked for the country. I work for a government.” With his businesses, pulses and manufacturing to be precise, he says he continues to ensure financial stability. His take: Without that clean politics is not possible.

Starting off on Indira Gandhi’s bandwagon, the first political office Jaiswal held was that of Kanpur city’s mayor. He lost his first election as MP in 1998, won a year later and is currently a third-term MP and second-term minister. Within the party he has handled crucial assignments including heading the Congress’ state unit. A force to reckon with in Kanpur, he has very few critics there. While his opponents say this is more out of fear than following, Jaiswal appears to be on a strong wicket on grounds of his clout in Delhi and the powers that be.

Delhi may be happy with Jaiswal but Kanpur is not. The BJP’s Satish Mahana said: “During the elections Jaiswal made wild promises of putting industry and textile mills back on track. Nothing has happened.”

Not the one to get into the numbers game, Jaiswal is smug because he says the people are with him, given that they return him to Parliament.


Sriprakash Jaiswal (65) Minister of State (Independent charge) Coal; Statistics and Programme Implementation
Inspiration: Jawaharlal Nehru
Dream: To attain heights politically
Fear factor: A tarnished image