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'Fault in engine, bogies changed', Congress quips about Cabinet rejig

Many senior leaders insist that PM’s lack of wisdom and 'autocratic' style of functioning are at the root of the government's 'disastrous performance'
Narendra Modi

Sanjay K. Jha   |   New Delhi   |   Published 08.07.21, 01:27 AM

The Congress said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his big three — home minister Amit Shah, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and defence minister Rajnath Singh — wouldn’t have survived had performance been the criterion for Wednesday’s cabinet reshuffle.

“The fault is in the engine but bogies are being changed,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, referring to the dropping of several ministers.


Many senior Congress leaders who have decades of ministerial experience insisted that Modi’s lack of wisdom and “autocratic” style of functioning were at the root of the “disastrous performance” of the government. They said the much-hyped reshuffle was a case of wrong diagnosis followed by wrong medication.

Alleging that the exercise was merely an attempt to accommodate defectors and redistribute the spoils of power, Surjewala said: “If performance and governance were the criteria, then the first person to be sacked should be the Prime Minister himself.

“He has brought governance and the entire country to a standstill. Progress, peace and harmony have been thrown into the dustbin. The Prime Minister would be remembered as an autocrat who decimated India’s economy, who ensured India was pushed into an abyss of unemployment. Modi undermined India’s potential to become a superpower.”

The Congress spokesperson continued: “If performance was the criteria, then defence minister Rajnath Singh, under whose watch China has occupied Indian territory and is refusing to vacate it, should be sacked.

“Home minister Amit Shah should be sacked as Naxalism and terrorism are continuing unabated and repression of human rights has become the norm. Custodial death of activists has become the practice. Mob lynching is the new mantra.

“Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman should be sacked for destroying the economy. Manmohan Singh had left the GDP growing at almost 8 per cent and now it is minus 8 per cent. She only created unemployment, inflation and deficit. She has no comprehension of the word finance.”

The Congress also pointed to agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who has been indifferent to the farmers’ movement in which over 500 peasants have died, and petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, accusing him of looting the public at a time the prices of petroleum products had shot through the roof.

The Congress wasn’t that acerbic about health minister Harsh Vardhan, who was among those who resigned, saying the devastation perpetrated by the pandemic was the result of the lack of vision of the Prime Minister and the home minister.

Veteran leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted: “Poor Harsh Vardhan, a good man has been made a scapegoat for the monumental failures at the highest level — nowhere else.”

Former finance minister P. Chidambaram said: “The resignation of the Union health minister and the MoS (minister of state) health is a candid confession that the Modi government has utterly failed in managing the pandemic. There is a lesson for ministers in these resignations.

“If things go right the credit will go to the Prime Minister, if things go wrong the minister will be the fall guy. That is the price a minister pays for implicit obedience and unquestioning subservience.”

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said: “Ministers should understand that posts and positions come and go. They should never stoop so low as Harsh Vardhan did by writing a nasty letter to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to please Modi. They should understand that bouquets are reserved for Modi and the brickbats will fall on them. The new ministers must not describe day as night in sycophancy and should rather tell the truth before the Prime Minister.”

She argued that the much-hyped reshuffle would draw people’s interest only if it helps the government lift the economy, ensure more vaccines, make women safer and generate jobs.

While turncoat Jyotiraditya Scindia’s cabinet inclusion was dismissed in one sentence as “adjustment of defectors”, former Congress leader Narayan Rane’s induction generated much curiosity in the party.

A senior leader told The Telegraph: “Rane becoming a central minister under Modi is such a relief. It has immense political significance. Rane is Shiv Sena’s pet aversion; this signals the BJP’s readiness to needle the Sena in Mumbai, which Uddhav Thackeray will never digest. Those who had imagined a Sena-BJP patch-up should learn to read messages correctly.”

The Congress, which launched a weeklong nationwide protest against the savage hike in petroleum prices, also contested the efficacy of the BJP’s plan to bolster its prospects in election-bound states by inducting leaders from those places.

“Performance matters more than symbolism. If Modi thinks promoting a Hardeep Puri will salvage the situation in Punjab, they are naive. People will not forget the shocking misgovernance in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat only because lots of ministers from these states took oath,” a Congress leader said.

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