Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Sunday, Jun 30, 2002
Government - Politics
Advani made Deputy PM; stage set for reshuffle
Mr L.K. Advani
NEW DELHI, June 29
THE Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, was tonight appointed the Deputy Prime Minister, two days before the Prime Minister's proposed Cabinet reshuffle.
A Rashtrapati Bhavan communique said Mr Advani had been designated as the Deputy Prime Minister and would continue to look after Home Affairs. "The President of India, as advised by the Prime Minister, has directed that Lal Krishna Advani, Home Minister, will be designated as the Deputy Prime Minister. He will continue to look after the Ministry of Home Affairs," the communique said.
Mr Advani's designation as Deputy Prime Minister comes as part of the Union Cabinet recast being undertaken by the Prime Minister along with a shake-up in the party hierarchy.
V. Venkatesan reports: Earlier, a major hurdle in the Prime Minister's perestroika on July 1 was cleared today with the BJP President, Mr Jana Krishnamurthy, announcing in Chennai that he was willing to join Mr Vajpayee's Cabinet if invited.
As per indications in the party's central office, Mr Krishnamurthy will attend the office-bearers'meeting in New Delhi on the morning of July 1, probably after he gets an official invitation to join the Cabinet. Mr Krishnamurthy is said to have told the Prime Minister's interlocutors during the past two days that he was not willing to swap posts with the Union Rural Development Minister, Mr M. Venkaiah Naidu, on whom the senior leaders had reached a broad agreement as the next party president. Once he was promised a key portfolio (perhaps Human Resources Development), Mr Krishnamurthy had no option but to agree to the party revamp exercise.
Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister called Mr Venkaiah Naidu to his residence for a detailed discussion. After this crucial meeting, it became apparent that Mr Naidu would be the obvious choice for the post of the party president. He became the natural choice after Mr Vajpayee and the Home Minister, Mr Advani, could not agree on the other two contenders, namely, Mr Pramod Mahajan and Ms Sushma Swaraj. While Mr Advani backed Ms Swaraj, Mr Vajpayee was not so inclined. Mr Mahajan, in any case, is considered as a greater asset for the Government than the party in view of his usefulness as Parliamentary Affairs Minister in managing recalcitrant allies and the Opposition in this coalition era.
The fourth contender, the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Mr Rajnath Singh, will join the party as a general secretary, it was agreed. With Mr Naidu making it as the party president, Ms Swaraj refused to work under him in the party, and she will continue in the Cabinet.
The Minister for Law, Justice and Company Affairs, Mr Arun Jaitley, will quit the Cabinet and take over as the BJP's chief spokesperson. Mr Jaitley, even though not as enthusiastic as Mr Naidu in leaving the Government, agreed to quit following Mr Naidu's persuasion. Mr Jaitley bowed to the view among the senior leaders that the party required an articulate and media-friendly spokesperson to project a better image during the run-up to the Assembly elections in the northern States. Mr Ananth Kumar would be another Minister who would be accommodated in the party set-up.
Others from the party who could find a place in the Cabinet are the film-star and Rajya Sabha MP, Mr Shatrughan Sinha, the Rajya Sabha MP and a Dalit vice-president of the party, Mr Sangpriya Gautam, the former Gujarat chief minister, Mr Keshubhai Patel, and one of the two Delhi heavyweights, Mr V.K.Malhotra and Mr Sahib Singh Verma. From the allies, there would be four additions into the Cabinet, representing Trinamul Congress, Pattali Makkal Katchi, MGR-AIADMK, and one of the few Independent MPs, who had joined the NDA recently.
Many of the BJP's allies in the NDA appeared to have sounded its convener, Mr George Fernandes that they had no problem to designate Mr Advani as the Deputy PM. Mr Vajpayee agreed to the proposal provided the NDA partners backed it.
There is still no decision on who would be the next Finance Minister, with both Mr Jaswant Singh and Mr Murli Manohar Joshi being mentioned in BJP circles as possible successors to Mr Yashwant Sinha.
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