The bomb blasts in the Capital last week led to an unusual situation in which both the opposition as well as some members of the ruling dispensation demanded that Home Minister Shivraj Patil be dropped from the Union Cabinet. Patil was accused of being soft on terrorists. The BJP naturally grabbed this opportunity to score brownie points against the government since it has always held that the UPA’s policy towards terrorists was ineffective and wishy-washy. It is another thing that the BJP’s own record on the issue was never exemplary. In fact, at times it was extremely embarrassing as witnessed during the fiasco which led to the release of militants in the wake of the IC-814 hijacking.
But what came as a surprise was that some members of the UPA in general and the Congress in particular decided to comment on Patil’s abilities in public. That too in the aftermath of the bomb blasts. It was obvious that many in the coalition wanted to project an image of blamelessness while seeking to make a scapegoat of the Home Minister. To add insult to injury, all kinds of comments on Patil’s fetish for changing clothes took precedence over concern for restoring normalcy in the city where at least 22 persons died on that fateful Saturday.
It was clear that political one-upmanship within the UPA and the Congress had begun, the first salvo being fired at the Home Minister. Reports were leaked to the electronic media that a meeting to assess the internal security situation had been convened at 10, Janpath and that Patil was not amongst those who had been invited. Speculation on TV channels followed on who would replace him and whether the UPA would go in for a new minister for internal security.
<b1>What was unfortunate was that those who were sitting on judgment on Patil had little to be proud of themselves. Some of the Congress leaders, for instance, who attended the meeting to express concern over the situation had rendered dismal performances while they were looking after various states prior to the state assembly polls. They had got away with their failures since accountability has not been the strong point of either the party or the government. Even allies like Laloo Prasad Yadav who had been demanding the lifting of the ban on organisations like SIMI did not hesitate to make insinuations against their own colleague. In many ways, it was a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
One may not entire agree with it but cynics would have happily recalled Akbar Allahabadi’s famous couplet, ``Barbaad Gulistan karne ko, ek hi ullu kafi hai, har shaakh pe ullu baitha hai, anjame gulistan kya hoga?’’ (One owl is enough to destroy a garden, but what will be the fate of the garden if there is an owl on every branch?).
The pertinent point is that Patil cannot be held singularly responsible for the current or earlier terror attack situations. Some of the intelligence agencies are under him on paper, but report to the PMO. There are two ministers of state, namely S.P.Jaiswal and Shakeel Ahmed who are his subordinates. They too cannot absolve themselves of responsibility. In any case, if Patil was found to be inefficient, the Prime Minister could have quietly dropped him at some other time. Making a demand for his ouster at the time when the country was reeling under the impact of the terror attacks was both politically incorrect and stupid. As things panned out, the government gave the opposition a handle to beat it with. Worse still, the terrorists would have been most pleased to see the back of the Home Minister. They would have considered this a victory and would have been encouraged to strike again.
But one thing has to be clearly understood. Patil is as efficient or inefficient as any other minister in this government. Or, for that matter, the previous one. Those who were asking for his resignation should try and recall as to how many ministers have quit their positions on moral grounds. Every one cannot be like Lal Bahadur Shastri and Madhavrao Scindia. Did Advani resign after the attack on Parliament? Did Laloo put in his papers after a major train accident?
Obviously, there was more to it behind the demand for Patil’s resignation. Many in the Congress see him as a home minister picked up by the party president, Sonia Gandhi and, therefore, a possible contender for an important position in the future also. Taking advantage of the blasts, they saw an opportune time to get at him. It was all a part of the internal power play within the Congress where at one time, a proposal was being pushed to appoint a deputy Prime Minister. Like in the previous case, this time too, Sonia saw through this political game in advance and nipped the move in the bud.
Now a talk has started about a MoS for internal security. It is being said that no young person could be found who is suitably equipped to deal with the job. The demand also presupposes that both the present Ministers of state are not up to the mark to assume this position. If the party is serious about appointing a minister for internal security, it does not need a young person but an experienced one. Someone like Nikhil Kumar, Lok Sabha MP from Aurangabad. He was special secretary, internal security, and has been the NSG chief besides serving in the BSF and Delhi police. But then finding the right man for the job was not the objective of this demand. It was that some people wanted to get rid of Patil. Fortunately, these machinations did not work in the end. Between us.