The Economic Times reported on 9 March that former finance minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha has been asked by the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi to help them finalize the state budget, due on 28 March. Sinha has accepted the offer.
The news is expected to be of some embarrassment to the BJP, coming as it does on the back of Sinha's public criticism of the Modi government. In November last year, he was part of the senior team that had issued a statement criticizing the party's top leadership after its abysmal defeat in the Bihar elections.
The other signatories of that statement, Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, are part of the 'margdarshak mandal', an old boys' club created to accommodate the seniors after Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister. But apart from making serial protests, they have little say in party affairs. Sinha is not even part of the mandal.
It is rather ironical that Sinha should be so vocal in his criticism, since his son, Jayant Sinha, is the junior finance minister in the Modi Cabinet.
It is rather ironical that Sinha should be so vocal in his criticism, since his son, Jayant Sinha, is the junior finance minister in the Modi Cabinet. Normally, politicians are happy to keep their reservations to themselves if their offspring are accommodated.
It is widely known in media circles that Sinha was pissed off by Modi's refusal to appoint him chairman of the nascent BRICS bank, whose first head was supposed to come from India (KV Kamath finally made the cut). In March 2015, it was speculated that Modi would select one of two BJP stalwarts for the post, Sinha or Arun Shourie.
He chose neither. While reasons for why Shourie was dropped are unclear, in Sinha's case, it is believed that Modi was wary of giving him the post because Sinha's son was already in the Cabinet. As Aditi Phadnis writes in Business Standard:
Recently, when former finance minister Yashwant Sinha tore into the government's economic management, top BJP leaders told Business Standard it was because he was disgruntled: "He wanted to become the chairman of BRICS bank--and the PM said he would not give him that position while his son was in government (Jayant Sinha is minister of state for finance). If we also started doing what the Congress does--accept the principle of family rule--what would be the difference between the BJP and the Congress?"
Modi's reason for refusing him a post is perfectly in line with the party's policy of "one man, one post"...
It is telling that both Shourie and Sinha have since been vociferous in their criticism of Modi. Shourie has criticised the government on multiple occasions for its concentration of power in the Prime Minister's Office and for the hijacking of the economic growth narrative by extremist elements in the party. Besides, he is said to be the writer of the anti-leadership notice that the seniors released in the aftermath of the Bihar debacle.
While Shourie's concerns may seem genuine--he seems to have become a victim of the convoluted shenanigans at the BJP's top--it is curious why Sinha should feel so. Modi's reason for refusing him a post is perfectly in line with the party's policy of "one man, one post"; it's a policy that gives it some traction at a time when the opposition Congress is little more than a family-run private enterprise.
To be sure, no one should have reservations about Sinha assisting AAP with Delhi's budget. If the arrangement works, it can herald a new set-up in policymaking in which state governments take inputs from seasoned politicians cutting across party lines. This will be an unmitigated good in our polarised times.
For all the problems with Modi, it must be acknowledged that he has not used his brute majority to ride roughshod over government appointments.
But given Sinha's recent statements, it is reasonable to assume that he has taken up the job to cock an unsubtle snook at the Modi government. And this brings us to the other crucial aspect of the case: Jayant Sinha's continued presence in the Cabinet.
For all the problems with Modi, it must be acknowledged that he has not used his brute majority to ride roughshod over government appointments. For someone who is routinely portrayed as an egomaniac in sections of the media, the very presence of Jayant Sinha in his Cabinet (the recent budgetary exercise was proof that Jayant is very much part of the government's inner circle) indicates that Modi is able to look at things in perspective and not use his position to settle scores. For that alone, the Prime Minister should be commended.
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