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Yes, Prime Minister - The Statesman

The Editorial ()
March 22, 1998

Title: Yes, Prime Minister
Author: The Editorial
Publication: The Statesman
Date: March 22, 1998

In her customary, if somewhat better deserved, front-row seat at
the swearing-in ceremony, Congress president and CPP leader Sonia
Gandhi was spotted presenting a freezing shoulder to Prime
Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who promised that the Bofors probe
will be expedited. Perhaps the Congress president was more
relieved later in the day when Mr Vajpayee named his Law
Minister. Mr M Thambi Durai was Deputy Speaker in the 1984-89 Lok
Sabha, when AIADMK was a Congress ally and Rajiv Gandhi was the
supreme leader. And he had been Jayalalitha's propaganda
secretary. Certainly well trained to flesh out indefensible
intentions. And a good demonstration of the inhospitable
conditions under which Mr Vaipayee put together his cabinet.
This piece of political furniture had to be ,spacious; it is,
with 43 ministers and space for a total of 70. Some items with
large egos had to be tucked in comfortably and, therefore, some
others got cramped. Thus George Fernandes got Defence, S S
Barnala, Chemicals and Fertilisers, Buta Singh, Communications
and Rama Krishna Hegde, Commerce, while Ram Naik, five-time M P
for the BJP and a senior leader is a minister of state, as is Uma
Bharati. But Mr Vajpayee's carpentry was most compromised with
Yashwant Sinha in Finance. The Prime Minister, it appears, tried
gamely but vainly to hold off the Swadeshi axe-wielders. The
Sensex, which rose early on Singh, dipped when he did not hen the
Prime Minister mused on would have fairly crashed had the
markets been open when Mr Sinha was appointed.

The brokers disappointment is more widely shared than the low.
Widely noticed too has been Jayalalitha who made her point, with
no suspicion of subtlety. Seven ministers from Tamil Nadu, four
in the Cabinet, three in the second rank. Six ministers are their
father's sons, Navin Patnaik and P R Kumaramangalam leading the
band. And it cannot comfort any Prime Minister that the colleague
with the longest ministerial experience, Buta Singh, is a
turncoat-turned Independent.

An A team, therefore, Mr Vajpayee's Council of Ministers is got.
But consider this: the Prime Minister had to keep nearly a juggle
with demands and priorities within his own party and the
political family to which its belongs, keeps an eye on both
domestic industry, sections of ion, sorry, swadeshi, as well as
on international investors who cannot be allowed to get overly
nervous, and reckon with the fact that the Opposition, parts of
which to their lasting disgrace boycotted or failed to turn up at
the swearing-in ceremony, lies in being ever-ready to do anything
to break his government. That Mr Vajpayee managed to put together
a team at all by Thursday night is an achievement. As is his
distribution of unhappiness: dissatisfaction spread more or less
evenly is a good strategy for a chief executive burdened with
many claims. It is also proof of a wise head. And a wiser head of
government than Mr Vajpayee this country does not possess at this
moment. That is an essential point to remember as a government
led by a party considered untouchable till a few months back and
unelectable less than five years ago settles down to rule India.

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