Government shakeup; home minister resigns (Roundup)November 30th, 2008 - 8:36 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Nov 30 (IANS) A day after India’s 60-hour terror nightmare in Mumbai came to an end and the nation heaved a sigh of relief, political reverberations were felt in New Delhi. Home Minister Shivraj Patil Sunday resigned in the wake of demands that heads must roll for the failure of security and intelligence agencies to protect the people against the bloody carnage that claimed at least 183 lives.Patil sent his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He had offered to step down at a late-night meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) - the highest decision-making body of the principal party in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) ruling coalition - Saturday after colleagues demanded stern steps from the prime minister to salvage the image of a weak government.
There were also reports of large-scale shakeup in the top echelons of internal security establishment even as opposition parties asked Manmohan Singh to resign and own up the “collective responsibility” of the government for its inability to protects its citizens.
While Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is the new home minister, there were reports that the powerful National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan, a close aide of the prime minister and a key architect of the nuclear deal with the US, also offered to resign.
Initial reports indicated that Narayanan put in his papers, also taking blame for not anticipating the Mumbai attack, but Manmohan Singh rejected his resignation, official sources said.
“He (Narayanan) will not be stepping down as the NSA,” a home ministry official told IANS.
Chidambaram’s shift indicates that the internal security crisis has taken priority over the economic crisis to warrant a change in the stewardship of the finance ministry.
The finance portfolio will be handled by the prime minister, who is a renowned economist himself and the architect of India’s economic reforms as finance minister during 1991-96.
Congress party leaders saw Patil’s resignation as a damage control exercise by the party-led government.
“Yes, he (Patil) has taken the moral responsibility and has decided to quit,” said Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan.
“(What happened in Mumbai) is horror and the government is taking it very, very seriously. It was an outrageous attack on India’s sovereignty,” she said.
Many cabinet members had said that “strong action” was required at the highest level following the most brazen and bloody terror attacks India has ever seen.
Throughout his stint, several cabinet ministers and even bureaucrats in the ministry saw Patil as weak and dithering and unable to confront the huge internal security challenges facing the nation, including terrorism and the Maoist insurgency in huge swathes of the country.
And during his tenure, terrorist attacks kept mounting across the country. There have six major terror attacks in the last nine months that killed around 500 people.
“Public outrage was mounting after the Mumbai attacks and there had to be some accountability,” a cabinet minister told IANS, wishing not to be named.
Railway Minister Lalu Prasad said Patil’s resignation came “very late”.
“He offered his resignation very late. Whatever is happening in the country is our priority… the ministerial post doesn’t matter,” the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief told reporters here after Patil submitted his resignation.
Following Patil’s resignation, there was speculation that Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and his deputy, Home Minister R.R. Patil, have been asked to quit by the Congress but the party denied this.
Tags: congress working committee, finance portfolio, manmohan singh, mumbai terror attack, national security adviser, p chidambaram, prime minister manmohan, prime minister manmohan singh, principal party, renowned economist, resignation official