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Shinde must get his priorities right

As home minister of a country facing several challenges, Sushilkumar Shinde has been outstanding in his incompetence. This latest display of callousness only adds to an inglorious track record.

comment Updated: Oct 30, 2013 07:18 IST

A person who has become something of a political bone of contention in recent times is Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India's first home minister and a great unifier. Both the BJP and the Congress have been engaged in a bitter war of words over the legacy of the late leader.

But both would do well to look at his impeccable track record as home minister of a young and fractious nation. Today, the office of home minister has been and is occupied by people who have brought disgrace to the office.

The first person who comes to mind is Shivraj Patil, a former home minister. Known for his sartorial elegance, his record as home minister was dismal. Under his watch Laskhar e-Taiba sleeper cells proliferated, the activities of the Indian Mujahideen increased and he was like a deer caught in the headlights when the ghastly 26/11 attacks in Mumbai took place.

Of course, we have had competent home ministers, but the current incumbent is a worthy successor to Mr Patil. On a day when the bomb blasts took place in Patna even as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was about to speak, Sushil Kumar Shinde seemed to display little concern.

In fact, he answered what he called the tug of his heart and went to attend a music launch event. The foreign minister's rather bizarre explanation that Mr Shinde has a life beyond Patna added insult to injury.

People died in these blasts, many were injured, miscreants demonstrated that they could strike at will and Mr Modi is a high security risk individual. Yet, Mr Shinde thought it fit to grace the music event.

If for nothing else, at least for the sake of propriety and perception, he should have cancelled this frivolous engagement. The home minister of a country which faces a multitude of terror threats and challenges surely has other priorities.

With assembly elections and the general polls round the corner, the lives of public figures are very much under the scanner. Mr Shinde smilingly beatifically at a music event while the families of the injured and dead were grieving was hardly a salubrious sight.

In fact, we must ask why our politicians, many of them in high office, feel the need to attend common and garden social events as chief guests. It is unlikely that high ranking politicians, say in the US, will turn up to launch a record label at the best of times. Our leaders were elected to serve the public good, and this includes security.

Mr Shinde has been outstanding in his incompetence. This latest display of callousness only adds to an inglorious track record. Since Sardar Patel is the flavour of the season, it might be productive for our worthies to emulate his example, his conduct and his work ethic.