India's Home Minister quits as first political fallout of Mumbai attacks

Monday, December 1, 2008

P. Chidambaram, India's new Union Home Minister

The Union Home Minister of India, Shivraj Patil, has resigned a day after the Mumbai attacks came to an end. Patil submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which was later accepted by the President of India. It was the first political reverberation that was felt in the UPA-led government of India.

Finance Minister of India P. Chidambaram has been appointed the successor of Patil. Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh would be handling the finance ministry now. Chidambaram has earlier served in internal security under the administration of Rajiv Gandhi in late 1980s. On Sunday, an all-party meeting was also convened by the Prime Minister to discuss the Mumbai attacks and evolve a consensus within all political parties on how to combat terror.

Shivraj Patil was already facing stiff criticism from Indian media and India's main political opposition party Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). The key allies, such as Rashtriya Janata Dal of the ruling Indian National Congress, had already begun to raise voices for the home minister's resignation. The inefficiency of India's security and intelligence agencies to protect the people against a series of terror attacks in the past six months was one reason for Patil's resignation.

Patil's resignation comes after the Congress Working Committee (CWC) met, in which Sonia Gandhi had made it clear by expressing unhappiness over the terrorist incidents taking place at regular intervals. The meeting was hostile towards Patil, as many other Union ministers spoke against him.

Chief Minister of Maharashtra Vilasrao Deshmukh had also come under fire in the meeting. Indian media agencies have reported that he would soon follow Patil and may have to resign under pressure. The Minister of State in the office of Prime Minister (PMO) Prithviraj Chavan is reported to become the chief minister if the Congress party high command decides to replace Deshmukh.

This is too little, too late. One disaster has been replaced by another proven disaster.

—Rajiv Pratap Rudy of the BJP

Patil was a former Speaker of Lok Sabha but had lost the 2004 parliamentary election from Latur constituency in Maharashtra. His proximity with Congress president Sonia Gandhi managed to get him elected to Rajya Sabha in July 2004. In 2007, Patil was a serious contender for the post of president after A P J Abdul Kalam retired.

Meanwhile, the Indian government is considering to stall the five-year old cease-fire with Pakistan and to end the dialogue process in order to send strong diplomatic signals.