The UPA’s much-talked-about “dual power structure” appears to be in the process of being dismantled with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi decisively stepping in to take charge of a government rocked by scams and indiscretions. The forced resignation of tainted ministers Pawan Bansal and Ashwani Kumar is an indication of the dismantling process. Their sacking was a precondition set by BJP, to allow Sonia’s pet project—the Food Bill—to be passed in Parliament.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s extended protection to the two had stalled business in the House, leaving the Bill hanging. Just as a few days ago, it was leaked to the media that Manmohan brought about the situation on himself by putting his own interest above that of the government and the party. Sources said Sonia sees the Food Security Bill as her best bet in the 2014 elections. The Congress President is now counting on the promise made to her by BJP’s Sushma Swaraj that “once the two tainted ministers are sacked, the Bill will be passed”. The two joint secretaries in the PMO and Coal ministry who were involved in doctoring the CBI report will be facing the heat.
In another indication that Sonia means business, she is directly influencing the composition of the Cabinet and auditing the performance of Cabinet members. On Friday, she had called a meeting at Jawahar Bhawan around noon to discuss the need for a reshuffle without Manmohan Singh being present—a first. For the past nine years, she had left it to the Prime Minister to select his own team in spite of her reservations about some. Both she and son Rahul Gandhi had confined themselves to running the affairs of the party. But the Bansal-Ashwani controversy has changed the equation.
The Sunday Standard