Dec 1, 2008

India - Chidambaram is new Home minister

Vinay Kumar

Prime Minister Manmohan to look after Finance Ministry

President, on a visit to Indonesia, accepts Patil's resignation

Patil owns moral responsibility for failure to prevent terror attacks

NEW DELHI: Four days after unprecedented terror attacks shook Mumbai, Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Sunday replaced Shivraj Patil as the new Home Minister.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh entrusted Mr. Chidambaram with the responsibility of overhauling the country's internal security set-up in the wake of increasing terror-related attacks in the recent past and finally the one that jolted Mumbai on November 26-28 and took nearly 200 lives and left about 300 people injured.

It was the first political fallout of the terror attacks, mounted by well-trained and equipped cadres of the Lashkar- e-Taiba who unleashed a reign of terror at about a dozen places in Mumbai, including two luxury hotels. It took a 60-hour commando operation to flush out the terrorists.

President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, who is on a visit to Indonesia, has accepted Mr. Patil's resignation from the Council of Ministers with immediate effect.

"Further, as advised by the Prime Minister, the President has directed that Mr. P. Chidambaram be allocated the portfolio of the Minister of Home Affairs and the Prime Minister shall look after the Ministry of Finance," a Rashtrapati Bhavan press communiqu‚, issued from Jakarta, said on Sunday.

Mr. Chidambaram served as Minister of State for Internal Security in the Home Ministry in the Rajiv Gandhi Cabinet in 1984. He took charge of the Commerce Ministry before becoming Finance Minister during the United Front government rule in 1996 and has been guiding the affairs of the Finance Ministry since 2004 when the United Progressive Alliance government took office.

Enough indications were available that Mr. Patil would have to go following strong criticism at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on Saturday for his handling of internal security situation. The highest decision- making body of the Congress advocated zero-tolerance towards terrorism and reiterated the party's resolve to give a "befitting and hard-hitting reply" to those who dared to challenge the sovereignty of the nation. On Sunday morning, Mr. Patil decided to step down and submitted his resignation to Dr. Singh, owning moral responsibility for the failure to prevent terror attacks such as the one in Mumbai. Sources close to Mr. Patil said he did not want the party and the UPA government to suffer because of the terror attacks and decided to quit.

Senior party leaders and some Union Ministers strongly felt that accountability at the highest level should be fixed for the Mumbai terror attacks, described as "India's 9/11."

Mr. Patil faced criticism for his statements on earlier terrorist strikes - be it at Varanasi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi - or situation in the North-East, Jammu and Kashmir or naxal violence in more than a dozen States.

Informed sources in the government did not rule out the possibility of some more heads rolling as the UPA government, with a few months left in office, goes about the business of revamping the internal security set-up and intelligence machinery.

NSA not quitting: PMO

PTI reports:

The Prime Minister's Office denied media reports about National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan quitting in the wake of the terror attacks in Mumbai. ``These reports about resignation are wrong. Narayanan continues to be the NSA,'' an official

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