The orphans of power

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The old guard is in the corner. Is it a natural sunset, a bitter break-up or kind euthanasia? Shobhita Naithani reports

WHEN ASKED about the dropping of some high-profile ministers like Shivraj Patil (former Union Home Minister) and Arjun Singh (former Union Human Resource and Development minister) from the UPA government’s new Cabinet, a senior party leader remarked, “Haven’t they already had a fine and long innings? There is a time for an entry into politics and a time for an exit.” Even if some were to think that those excluded have indeed served their term and should retire, the unchosen themselves don’t quite share the same view. Therefore, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, after completing the rigorous task of giving “adequate representation to regions and castes” in the new Cabinet, have now turned their focus to those abandoned in the Cabinet allocation.

The list includes former ministers HR Bharadwaj, Saifuddin Soz and Sis Ram Ola. They now have the opportunity to soothe ruffled feathers by filling gubernatorial posts that are falling vacant in the next few months. Thirteen governors are due to retire between June and December 2009 and the party leadership is hoping to accommodate those senior politicians who could not be accommodated in the Cabinet.

Patil and Singh are leading the races for the posts of one of the governors. Bharadwaj is also a close contender. But the name of former Union Minister for Panchayati Raj Mani Shankar Aiyar has not figured in discussion about any post so far. Aiyar would probably be hoping to win party favour through his role as the national convenor for the Rajiv Gandhi Panchayati Raj Sangathan, an almost insignificant organisation.

Youth is the buzzword for the new 78-member Cabinet, which was named after days of intense parley. There are 28 fresh faces in the council of ministers, traditionally reserved for veterans. But the old guard, perceived as non-performers, has been replaced by the young like Sachin Pilot, first-time MPS like RPN Singh and the youngest minister, Agatha Sangma. There is a new ray of hope. And the old won’t contest that.

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