The rejig in the Union cabinet announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday was a setback for two senior Congress politicians, Gurudas Kamat and Vilasrao Deshmukh even as it promoted Milind Deora, the party’s young face from south Mumbai.
Kamat, who was appointed MoS (Independent Charge) Drinking Water and Sanitation, quit following the reshuffle, hurt at not being elevated to a cabinet ministerial rank and being saddled with a less significant portfolio. The realignment also brought him at par with his political rival Murali Deora’s son, Milind Deora, who was made MoS for communications and IT.
However, a press release Kamat issued denied that he was upset. “There is no question of any disappointment over the portfolio… The reasons (for resigning) are totally personal and not any defiance of the party leadership...I will continue to be a committed Congress worker,’’ it read.
So what went wrong with Kamat? “As the city Congress president, he did a good job in 2004 and was rewarded with a berth at the Centre,” said a senior Congress functionary. “However, over the past few months, the party top brass received complaints that his supporters were running campaigns against other Congress leaders from Mumbai,” the source added.
Another senior Congress leader told HT that Kamat should have been more reasonable. “The independent charge was a promotion for Kamat. But he has not taken it in the right spirit,” he said.
Political analyst Surendra Jondhale said, “It is a temporary setback and it remains to be seen how he asserts himself politically. In the long run, he is unlikely carry his defiance too far and party will also soften its stand.”
However, with just over six months before the crucial civic polls in Mumbai, city Congressmen are worried. “The party can’t afford to have him sulking at this stage. His discontent will lead to more infighting and could hurt our chances in the elections,” said a party functionary.
On the other hand, Vilasrao Deshmukh took oath as the new science and technology minister. Sources close to him said the heavyweight from Marathwada will bide his time and make a comeback. Deshmukh said that he was happy with the new responsibility. “There is no question of demotion once you are in the cabinet. It depends on perception, and differs from person to person,” he said.