Sunday, Jun 30, 2002
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By Harish Khare
The redesignation marks the beginning of a new phase in the four-year-old National Democratic Alliance experiment, signalling the beginning of the end of the Vajpayee innings and the consecration of Mr. Advani as the power behind the prime ministerial throne. The expectation was that the redesignation would come about simultaneously with other changes arrivals and departures in the Union Council of Ministers, scheduled for July 1. However, the unexpected announcement indicates the intensity of pressure Mr. Vajpayee found himself under.
The Advani redesignation coincides with the staffing of the Bharatiya Janata Party with known "Advani acolytes.'' Perhaps, the BJP leadership has served notice on the allies that they better prepare themselves for the Advani era by the time of the next Lok Sabha elections.
For most of the day, the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, remained preoccupied with his proposed "comprehensive'' Cabinet expansion, scheduled for Monday. Apart from a search for a new Finance Minister, his exertions centred on finding replacements for those Cabinet colleagues who may be leaving to take up organisational assignments in the BJP.
Mr. Vajpayee had comprehensive consultations with his senior colleagues and aides, including Mr. Advani, the External Affairs Minister, Jaswant Singh, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Pramod Mahajan, and the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Brajesh Mishra.
The final word is still not said on a possible replacement for the Finance Minister, Yashwant Sinha. The air is thick with speculations about a "swap'' between Mr. Sinha and Mr. Singh. In case Mr. Singh does become Finance Minister, he would also be expected to have with him the crucial department of "Company Affairs.''
Mr. Vajpayee would have to find replacements for the possible departures from his Cabinet of the Rural Development Minister, Venkaiah Naidu, the Law Minister, Arun Jaitley, and the Urban Affairs Minister, Ananth Kumar.
It appears that Ravi Shanker Prasad, Minister of State for Coal, may be shifted to the Ministry of Law (with independent charge).
The almost certain arrivals include the outgoing BJP president, Jana Krishnamurthi, the former Gujarat Chief Minister, Keshubhai Patel, the actor, Shatrughan Sinha, and the Trinamool Congress leader, Mamata Banerjee. It is reported that Ms. Banerjee is still being persuaded to settle for a portfolio other than the Railways.
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