Nov 30, 2008

India - Chidambaram appointed Home Minister

New Delhi (PTI): Finance Minister P Chidambaram was on Sunday appointed Home Minister after incumbent Shivraj V Patil resigned owing moral responsibility for the Mumbai terror attacks, the worst the country had seen.

Sixty three-year-old Chidambaram, who has had a stint as Minister of Internal Security under the late Rajiv Gandhi in late 1980s, was shifted to the Home Ministry after amidst demands for the ouster of Patil, who had come under severe attack for his handling of internal security matters.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, himself an economist of repute, will hold the Finance portfolio at a time when the country is suffering from the ripple effects of the global recession. Singh had held the Finance portfolio for five years under the late P.V. Narasimha Rao.

A Rashtrapati Bhawan communique announced the appointment of Chidambaram as Home Minister after acceptance of Patil's resignation. It said the Prime Minister will hold the additional charge of Finance.

Indications that Chidambaram would be given the new responsibility came when he was called as a special invitee to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) late Saturday and he met the Prime Minister on Sundat morning to discuss the situation arising out of the Mumbai terror attacks.

After recommending Patil's resignation to President Pratibha Patil, who is away in Indonesia, the Prime Minister spoke to Chidambaram formally conveying the decision to give him the new assignment.

The appointment also came hours before the start of the all-party meeting convened by the Prime Minister to discuss the Mumbai attacks and evolve a consensus on how to combat terror.

Shortly after his appointment, Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta gave him a briefing on the ministry, especially in the current context of tackling the menace of terrorism.

A Harvard-educated MBA and an eminent lawyer, Chidambaram brings to Home Ministry his vast experience as a political administrator he had gained during his various stints in the government at the Centre.

He started as a Deputy Minister of Personnel and Training in 1985 and was promoted as Minister of State within a quick time. Then he was made Minister of State for Commerce with independent charge in the Narasimha Rao government and had teamed up with Manmohan Singh in the post-1991 economic reforms era.

Later, he held the Finance portfolio in the United Front government under H D Deve Gowda and I K Gujral, a ministry he got again when the Congress-led UPA came to power in 2004.

Chidambaram, who has the confidence of Sonia Gandhi, was also responsible for trying to get ahead with economic reforms in the face of strong opposition from the Left allies in the coalition. He was in the thick of matters handling the situation arising out of first the global meltdown and later the deep recession.

After he came under the scanner in the CWC meeting last night, when he had offered to resign, Patil met the Prime Minister this morning and handed over his resignation owning moral responsibility for the audacious Mumbai terror attacks.

Shortly later, Chidambaram met the Prime Minister to take stock of the situation and the strategy to be adopted at the all-party meeting.

Chidambaram is believed to have suggested to the Prime Minister that a consensus resolution should be piloted at the meeting on the lines of the one the BJP-led NDA government had prepared in the wake of the terror attack on Parliament in 2001.

Like the Congress extended support to the NDA government then, the BJP could now now be persuaded to toe the all-party line.

Once the decision was taken to change guard at the Home Ministry, the procedural formalities of effecting the change took a little time because of the President's ongoing visit to Indonesia.

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