(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
November 04, 2012
Cabinet Reshuffle: More of the Same
THE cabinet reshuffle undertaken last week involving the induction of 17 new persons is widely seen as a last ditch effort by the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi to refurbish the sinking image of the UPA government. While this may be true, the real purpose of this exercise is to ensure that the prime minister’s pet neo-liberal agenda gets implemented in the remaining tenure of the government.
The removal of Jaipal Reddy from the petroleum ministry is the most significant indicator of this agenda. The KG gas block, contracted out to the Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), has a long sordid record for the manner in which the Reliance has been gold plating the costs, extorting higher prices and earning windfall profits with the connivance of the government. In the recent months, the RIL has been demanding an immediate increase in the price of natural gas even though a revision is due only in April 2014. The petroleum minister had refused to yield to this demand, despite the pressure from the prime minister’s office. The minister also had the audacity to question why gas production was falling steadily in the KG gas fields which was resulting in falling revenues for the government.
The KG basin gas issue has been raised many a time by the CPI(M) MPs in parliament and through letters to the minister for petroleum and the prime minister over the past five years. The gold plating to artificial increase in the costs, the increase in the price of gas to $ 4.12 per unit in favour of RIL and disreputable role of the then director general of hydro carbons were all raised. The CAG report on the audit of the production sharing contract for KG basin case vindicated the stand taken by the CPI(M) since 2006 and exposed the nexus between the UPA government and Reliance Industries.
Jaipal Reddy has had to pay the price for defying the country’s biggest corporate. This episode has starkly brought out the tentacles of big business in the appointment of ministers. With this reshuffle, the process of putting persons in key economic ministries who are committed to corporate interests and the neo-liberal policies that the prime minister is bent upon pursuing has been completed. The “animal spirits” that Manmohan Singh wants to unleash got a fillip with the appointment of P Chidambaram as the finance minister after the post fell vacant when Pranab Mukherjee became the president. With Anand Sharma in the commerce ministry, Kapil Sibal in communications, Praful Patel in heavy industries and the newly appointed HRD minister Pallam Raju and minister of state for power with independent charge Jyotiraditya Scindia, the circle is complete. All of them represent corporate interests.
The second notable feature of the cabinet reshuffle is the disdain shown by the Congress for the charges of corruption and dubious dealings of its ministers. Salman Khurshid has been given the important portfolio of external affairs at a time when an enquiry is being conducted by the Uttar Pradesh government on charges of malpractices by a trust which he is heading. Shashi Tharoor had to resign from the ministry in 2010 when he got involved in the business dealings for the IPL Kochi team and negotiated a “sweat equity” for his then fiancé. Two years hence, the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi seem to have concluded that this was a minor misdemeanor and brought him back into the ministry.
The cabinet reshuffle was also meant to fill up the vacancies which were created by the resignation of two DMK ministers facing corruption charges and also due to the exit of the Trinamool Congress ministers. With the sole exception of a NCP minister, all those sworn in were from the Congress party. With this reshuffle, the UPA government is now predominantly a Congress ministry. The reshuffle has put the Congress imprimatur on the big business-politician-bureaucrat nexus which is flourishing in the Manmohan Singh regime. More concessions to big corporates and foreign capital, more assaults on the livelihood of the people and more corrupt deals are in the offing. This calls for more intensified resistance by the working class and all sections of the working people. The people of the country will have no other option but to ensure the exit of this government when the next Lok Sabha elections are held.
(October 31, 2012)