The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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How the cards fell on the table

Pramod Mahajan: Mahajan is out; caught and bowled by a wireless loop.

The high-profile minister had survived several confident appeals before despite his name being constantly dragged into the Shivani Bhatnagar murder case. But this time, the main umpire, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and square-leg umpire, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, have both upheld vociferous appeals for his scalp to send him back to the pavilion.

His protégés within the Vajpayee establishment and his powerful business house mentors will surely lose their voice. He made too many enemies within his own BJP. Ominous signals were coming for him from the PMO for some time. Did he not lose his job of being the spokesperson for Cabinet briefings to Sushma Swaraj recently' A subordinate party post under Venkaiah Naidu could help him realise where he stands, though he insists his rehabilitation in the party is not a demotion.

Jana Krishnamurthi: He came and went out of the ministry, eased out to make way for Advani confidant Arun Jaitley’s return to the law ministry. In the run-up to the general elections, the government wants the Ayodhya stay order of the Supreme Court challenged — it thinks Jaitley is better for the job. He did not get along with the top duo. Six months ago, Jana had to vacate the top party post for not getting along with either Advani or Vajpayee.

Uma Bharti: The ever restless sanyasin minister is finally out, headed for an equally promising restless innings to bolster the BJP’s bid to unseat a well-entrenched Digvijay Singh in Madhya Pradesh. As on previous occasions, she tried to cling on. But her plea before Vajpayee and Advani that ministerial profile will add to the aura of poll campaign back home in Madhya Pradesh in the run-up to the November Assembly election has not clicked this time. Her resignation was used to pressure another reluctant quitter, Vasundhara Raje, to leave for Rajasthan.

Vasundhara Raje: Like Uma, she has been reluctant to quit the cushy job, though pressure has been mounting on her to exit and take her Rajasthan party job full-time. She was forced to fall in line.

Rita Verma: This Jharkhand representative has been shaky for some time. Has been counted among “non-performers”. Perhaps, she had to pay the price for caste-driven politics in neighbouring Bihar of which C.P. Thakur is the main beneficiary.

Raman Singh: The man put in charge of the Chhattisgarh BJP for the November polls simply followed the order, seeing Uma and Raje bow out.

Arun Jaitley: Jaitley did not want to come back into the Cabinet and was riding on the Gujarat poll success. Six months ago, this Advani loyalist had left the government as a reluctant warrior for taking up party work. He enjoyed it and saw himself building a sound base for himself in the party. But this was not to be. Once Vajpayee and Advani decided to drop Mahajan and send him to the party, Jaitley had no choice but to oblige the top leadership by rejoining the Cabinet. It is partying time now for Jaitley. He wrests the law ministry from Jana with whom he did not have the best of personal rapport.

C.P. Thakur: Thakur’s Bhumihar pill promises to work for the BJP in containing its poll headaches in caste-driven Bihar politics. It is not surprising that Thakur returned to the ministry in Vajpayee’s very first shuffle after he was shown the door in mid-2002.

Dilip Singh Judev: Brought in as Raman Singh’s replacement from Chhattisgarh. It had to be Judev from the election-bound state. Besides being the party’s tribal face, he also prominently represents the Hindutva face by his involvement in “reconversion” of tribals.

Bhavnaben Chikalia: The four-time MP from Junagarh in Gujarat has been an aspirant for long. She made it, thanks to the reluctance of her leader Keshubhai Patel to join the ministry. As Keshubhai’s nominee, she will be the Patel community’s face.

Dilip Gandhi: The first-time parliamentarian from Maharashtra might have found a place in the ministry because of the exit of Mahajan and Ved Prakash Goel — both from the state.

Sangh Priya Gautam: A surprise inclusion in the pack. The Rajya Sabha member is a prominent Dalit leader from Uttar Pradesh and it suits to project him in view of the Sangh parivar’s new-found attraction for Ambedkar’s political legacy and the BJP’s attempts at a second social engineering in the state in Mayavati’s company.

Shatrughan Sinha: The only time good things were written about minister Sinha was the day he assumed charge of the health portfolio six months ago. Otherwise, he found very little time to spend in his office or attend to his parliamentary work. He has managed to retain his place, though not the health portfolio.

Sushma Swaraj: Sushma has lost her portfolio in a shuffle once again. This time she is out of the high-profile I&B ministry. She was offered a swap with Mahajan’s portfolio of infotech and communications. She refused, saying she did not want to do to Pramod what he did to her earlier — getting her out of the Cabinet and grabbing her portfolio of I&B and telecom. Health ministry is a politician’s ministry — if you perform well, you get noticed. If you don’t, you go out unceremoniously like Sinha.

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