By appointing Sushil Kumar Shinde as the Union home minister, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seems to have used the Indira Gandhi formula of giving the coveted position to a former chief minister.
Gandhi’s preference for a former chief minister was based on her belief that since the home ministry deals extensively with states, it was important to have someone heading this portfolio with the wider background particularly since it concerns the sensitive matter of Centre-state relations.
Singh appears to have been influenced by this logic and has gone for Shinde after having two non-chief ministers — Shivraj Patil and P Chidambaram — as his home ministers.
Shinde who was the Maharashtra chief minister is expected to bring in his experience to his new job.
Shinde has also been governor of Andhra Pradesh, a Congress general secretary, the Congress vice-presidential candidate against Bhairon Singh Shekhawat during the NDA regime as well as the Union minister for power.
Gandhi too had some non-chief ministers as home ministers but settled mostly for those who had headed state governments.
Her list of home ministers who were former chief ministers include Yashwantrao Chavan, K Brahmanand Reddy, Giani Zail Singh and PV Narasimha Rao. Her son, Rajiv Gandhi who succeeded her did make a departure from her preferred formula when he appointed Buta Singh as his home minister in the late eighties.
After assuming the office of PM in June 1991, Rao — who had trained under Indira Gandhi — saw reason in her practice and brought in Shankarrao Chavan as his home minister.
The practice after Rao was discontinued since none of the home ministers who followed Chavan had a background of working in states.
Other former chief ministers who rose to become home ministers include Morarji Desai and Gobind Ballabh Pant.
India’s first home minister Vallabhbhai Patel was the most illustrious and was also designated as the deputy to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
Shinde brings in a wealth of experience and has risen up in the organisation through hard work. Despite being a Dalit, he repeatedly won from Sholapur from a general seat. Singh could have also chosen from among other former chief ministers in his government/party, including Vilasrao Deshmukh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Veerappa Moily, AK Antony, Digvijaya Singh and Sharad Pawar but has opted for Shinde.
There is also strong speculation that Shinde is in the running for the post of Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha after Pranab Mukherjee’s elevation as President.