Goyal hints Jait­ley may re­sume charge of fi­nance min­istry

Mint ST - - VIEWS -

and Mint­ing Cor­po­ra­tion of In­dia Ltd, which prints cur­rency notes and mints coins.

A fi­nance min­istry of­fi­cial, how­ever, said un­der con­di­tion of anonymity that Jait­ley is un­likely to re­sume of­fice dur­ing the cur­rent ses­sion of Par­lia­ment which ends on Wed­nes­day. “Piyush Goyal will re­ply to the de­bate on the in­terim bud­get in Par­lia­ment,” he added.

It is also un­clear who will ad­dress the board meet­ing of the Re­serve Bank of In­dia (RBI) sched­uled for 18 Fe­bru­ary in New Delhi. It is cus­tom­ary for the fi­nance min­is­ter to ad­dress the boards of RBI and the Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Board of In­dia af­ter pre­sen­ta­tion of the bud­get wherein RBI mem­bers of­ten place their queries on the bud­get be­fore the fi­nance min­is­ter and other min­istry of­fi­cials.

On Sat­ur­day, Jait­ley tweeted: “De­lighted to be back home”.

Soon af­ter, Goyal tweeted: “De­lighted to wel­come back re­spected Shri @arun­jait­ley ji. Very grate­ful to him for his sup­port, guid­ance and lead­er­ship.”

Rail­ways and coal min­is­ter Goyal was as­signed the ad­di­tional charge of fi­nance min­istry on 23 Jan­uary, while the bud­get prepa­ra­tion was in full swing, as Jait­ley flew to the US for med­i­cal con­sul­ta­tion. Last year too, Goyal was tem­po­rar­ily given charge of fi­nance while Jait­ley un­der­went kid­ney trans­plant at the All In­dia In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Sciences in Delhi.

Jait­ley was des­ig­nated “as min­is­ter with­out port­fo­lio dur­ing the pe­riod of his in­dis­po­si­tion or till such time he is able to re­sume his work as min­is­ter of fi­nance and min­is­ter of cor­po­rate af­fairs”, a state­ment from the Pres­i­dent’s of­fice had said. niche for it­self.

More­over, the Congress’s or­ga­ni­za­tion in the state is thin on the ground. It has been al­most three decades since the party was in power in UP. Mil­lions of vot­ers are now used to a po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment with­out the Congress. The party lacks young work­ers on the ground to in­flu­ence vot­ers. Se­nior Congress ac­tivists and work­ers have a lim­ited cir­cle of in­flu­ence.

Not only this, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi him­self is there as the main ri­val. He is the mem­ber of Par­lia­ment from Varanasi. He is fir­ing on all cylin­ders to en­sure an­other shot at power. True, the BJP doesn’t en­joy as much pop­u­lar­ity as it did in 2014, but Modi has suc­ceeded in sal­vaging his rep­u­ta­tion by pre­sent­ing an at­trac­tive in­terim bud­get and of­fer­ing reser­va­tions for the poor among the up­per castes.

Not only this, the BJP also has Amit Shah as its pres­i­dent whose or­ga­ni­za­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties are un­ques­tion­able. Shah has been vis­it­ing booth work­ers across dif­fer­ent parts of the state even be­fore Priyanka en­tered the arena. Modi ad­dresses the peo­ple directly, whereas Shah con­sol­i­dates booths by mo­bi­liz­ing party work­ers.

It’s clear that Priyanka has to grap­ple with var­i­ous is­sues. The prospects look dif­fi­cult, but pol­i­tics is a game of pos­si­bil­i­ties. As I have said be­fore, per­son­al­i­ties are be­com­ing the face of ide­olo­gies in these dif­fi­cult times. Priyanka is no ex­cep­tion and the party has ap­pointed Jy­oti­ra­ditya Scin­dia as in-charge of western UP to help her. Scin­dia is an ar­tic­u­late leader with an im­pres­sive per­son­al­ity. The Congress is go­ing to ad­dress the coun­try’s largest state on the strength of these two faces. It’s im­por­tant to note that in Bi­har, the party did not have any such im­pres­sive per­son­al­ity. De­spite this, the Congress or­ga­nized a mas­sive rally in the state on 3 Fe­bru­ary. The rally was con­sid­ered the big­gest the party has held in 28 years.

Af­ter the vic­tory in three as­sem­bly elec­tions in De­cem­ber, the Congress has def­i­nitely been re-en­er­gized. But it will have to re­ally work hard to re­gain lost ground in the Hindi belt. In this sense, this week will prove to be de­ci­sive.

Shashi Shekhar is ed­i­tor-in-chief, Hin­dus­tan. His Twit­ter han­dle is @shekarkahin

RAMESH PATHANIA/MINT

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