Modi and Rajnath Singh are not just rivals, but adversaries - TOI
The patch-up between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh is only on the surface. The rift between them did not start with the rumour-mongering about Rajnath’s son Pankaj and the tales-told-in-hushed-tones of how Modi summoned and scolded him.
It’s a personality clash between two ambitious politicians which began in the early days of the NDA-II government. The fact that Rajnath gets to chair cabinet meetings in Modi’s absence, a pseudo-formal designation as number two only barely masks the actual powerlessness that Modi has reduced Rajnath to.
For one thing, Modi operates not through his home minister but through the minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju, the young MP from Arunachal West whose only previous experience in governance was indirect: he had left BJP in 2009 to join Congress in his home state and serve as an adviser to the re-elected Arunachal chief minister Dorjee Khandu (who died in a helicopter crash a year and a half later).
Since coming to North Block, Rijiju has enjoyed a far higher profile than Rajnath. The junior minister regularly crosses the road over to South Block where he reports directly to Modi.
During the recent clashes on the Assam-Nagaland border, which left nine dead and approximately 10,000 homeless, Rijiju was deputed to visit the area and arrange the deployment of central forces (and also refute Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s politically-motivated charges of inaction). Rijiju has been fielding Parliament questions on Chinese incursions into India; while this may be justified as concerning his state, it is a hot-button issue on which Rajnath has asked the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to urgently and regularly keep him posted. And within the first month of office, Modi sent Rijiju to Bangkok, Thailand, for an Asian ministerial conference on disaster risk reduction. Rijiju actively travels domestically as well, be it to inaugurate a solar plant in Chandigarh or to visit the National Police Academy in Hyderabad.
Rajnath has conspicuously tried to carve a space for himself with regard to India’s oldest political problem, Kashmir. On August 11, in a reply to a Rajya Sabha debate, he said that in order to find a permanent solution to the Kashmir problem, the government was willing to have a dialogue within the ambit of insaniyat (huma-nity) — a formulation made famous by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in April 2003, while extending a hand of friendship out to Pakistan.
The very next day, Modi went to Kargil and harangued Pakistan; a week later he cancelled the foreign secretary talks because their high commissioner had chatted with separatist Kashmiris. Rajnath’s “insaniyat” pledge — again, on the advice of IB — has been dumped in the bin, with a message to Rajnath to boot.
One might wonder whether Modi’s proxy home minister with regard to J&K is party president Amit Shah — Rajnath’s replacement as party president and perceived to be Modi’s alter-ego — seeing as how Shah’s Mission 44, the strategy and aim for the coming J&K assembly election, is driving government policy both on Kashmir and on Pakistan. (Incidentally, the home minister was to visit J&K this weekend, and this has been postponed due to the PM’s trip to Japan.)
Then there is the widely-reported reduced role of Rajnath in the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet. ACC decides on all top-level posts in government, PSUs, banks and financial institutions; it comprises the PM, the home minister, and the minister directly concerned with the appointment. ACC meets on file only. Modi has reversed the order of the movement of that file so that he selects the official; there is a token consultation with the concerned minister, and Rajnath signs on what is a fait accompli. This may be in line with Modi’s style of functioning, but it cannot be said to set a healthy trend so far as the consultative functioning of the cabinet is concerned.
The all-important Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) currently has only four members, since Arun Jaitley holds both the finance and the defence portfolios. Jaitley, the closest person in government to Modi but who is perceived by Rajnath as his rival for the number two position in government, outvotes the home minister, so that the CCS is also less consultative than it ought to be. (The other CCS member is foreign minister Sushma Swaraj.)
Personality clashes in government are not new. The first men to hold Modi’s and Rajnath’s posts in independent India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, were rivals and had fundamental differences on Kashmir and Tibet (and on the Congress party itself). Yet the two never parted ways or undermined one another; their differences were noted in letters which are now part of our historical record.
Similarly, Vajpayee and his home minister (and later deputy) L K Advani were not always in sync; the Pakistanis have claimed that Advani torpedoed the 2001 Agra summit, where Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf nearly inked an accord. Yet Vajpayee and Advani never fell out; in fact, the hardliner Advani was deployed to conduct the government’s dialogue — within insaniyat — with the separatist Hurriyat Conference.
Rajnath is ambitious and according to those close to him, he wants to make his mark with something substantial. Modi’s suffocatingly tight grip on government makes that unlikely. Recent cooing aside, the chasm between the two looks only to grow. more
TNN | Sep 2, 2014, 04.08 AM IST
NEW DELHI: Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju on Monday rejected the suggestion that he enjoyed a higher profile than his senior, Union home minister Rajnath Singh.
He clarified that he worked under the "complete understanding, coordination, cooperation and guidance" of the latter.
Responding to an article in TOI titled, "Separated at birth", Rijiju said, "I carry out all works in the ministry as per work allocation which is approved by the home minister. I also enjoy full confidence of my home minister at official level and at a personal level since a long time."
Denying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's alleged preference to send Rijiju to Bangkok for a conference and their frequent meetings was on account of the PM's preference of Rijiju over Rajnath, the junior minister said the PM's approval of his tour was strictly as per rules.
"PM being the head of the government, ministers may be required to call on him for political and other purposes," he added. He said factually incorrect reports appeared to be aimed at "creating a misunderstanding in cordial relations which I enjoy" with Rajnath Singh. more