This is good news, at last.
Palaniappan Chidambaram has been made India’s home minister, replacing Shivraj Patel. He is one of India’s most focussed and analytical politicians, and he was a wasted resource at the Finance Ministry, now that the international financial crisis has switched the economic focus to Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, himself a former finance minister, and his office (PMO), along with Montek Singh Ahluwalia who runs the Planning Commission.
Chidambaram had security responsibilities as minister of state in the 1980s, so he knows his way around the security apparatus. He is also a top international lawyer, so can bring that skill and knowledge to the job.
He is not the most tactful of politicians, nor always the most polite, but these are not traits that are needed at this time. What is needed is that he establishes himself as the sole top authority on security and that he commands those down the line to follow his directions and perform. He then needs to put effective security systems in place and ensure they are implemented efficiently
This would be a tough test for any minister and Chidambaram needs to be allowed to get on with it, without interference from the PMO or other departments.
News that has emerged in the past day or so indicates that an attack from the sea had been expected for some time before Wednesday night’s terrorist assault on Mumbai, and that the waterfront Taj Hotel had warnings that it was likely to be a target.
This indicates that there was disastrously poor direction and management from the Home Ministry and PMO down to the targeted buildings. There were reports this afternoon that M.K.Narayanan, the national security adviser who works in the PMO, offered to resign, but PMO sources say he is staying.
As an aside, it is worth noting that dynastic considerations (see my last post) have not played a part in these changes. Patil was protected for a long time because Sonia Gandhi saw him as a Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist – whereas Chidambaram, who was once part of a breakaway Congress party, is an outsider.
I wonder who is influencing Sonia Gandhi to make such a decision.
And who persuaded her to allow Sheila Dikshit, Delhi’s Congress chief minister, to play a leading role as the apparent chief ministerial candidate in the current Congress Party’s state assembly election campaign? Usually Congress politicians have to wait for the elections to be over before being announced by what is euphemistically known as the “high command”
Is Sonia Gandhi’s son Rahul, who is a general secretary in the party, influencing such events? It’s good news if he is.