Noun – a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g., faith unfaithful, kept him falsely true).
While ridiculing the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as part-time Defence Minister in the wake of anger on the beheading of Indian soldiers by Pakistan Army, many forgot the basic clash of interests that come when a Finance Minister is also the Defence Minister. One can’t get enough money and the other can’t give any money! We would be curious to know as to who wins the battle when Defence Minister Arun Jaitley fights with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley over funding! Though it is the prerogative of Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi to allot Cabinet portfolios, in this case, he squarely erred in giving the Defence portfolio to the Finance Minister.
As Defence Minister, Jaitley will approve what his staffers and Armed forces say and as Finance Minister he will be in a dilemma, when staffers in Finance Ministry put each proposal from the Defence Ministry under a microscope.
What seemed like a temporary arrangement has drawn out to close to two months (Parrikar left on the 13th of March, 2017). By not effecting a Cabinet reshuffle right after the recently concluded state elections, PM Modi has squandered the political capital he gained with the resounding victory in Uttar Pradesh. The one change, that of easing out Manohar Parrikar also raised a few eyebrows. Perhaps for the first time in the history of independent India, a political party (MGP) gave “conditional support” for a “specific person to be the Chief Minister” of the majority party (BJP) to form a government in Goa.
This is a huge administrative problem apart from a clash of interests and morality. Defence Ministry is the biggest expenditure ministry and Finance Ministry’s main job is to monitor the expenditure of all Ministries. Finance Ministry is responsible for cutting the pie so no one goes hungry. In the current scenario, it is difficult to imagine how this will be achieved.
As Defence Minister, Jaitley will approve what his staffers and Armed forces say and as Finance Minister he will be in a dilemma when staffers in Finance Ministry put each proposal from the Defence Ministry under a microscope. That is why in the past the Finance Minister is always shielded from being given other portfolios. Even though some service ministries such as Corporate Affairs or Registrar of Companies were kept with Finance Ministers on some occasions, no expenditure item is kept with the Finance Ministry.
The BJP has 338 Members of Parliament (MP) – 282 in the Lok Sabha and 56 in the Rajya Sabha. Can’t Modi find a single MP or other Minister in his Cabinet to handle Defence? Recall that Defence was also in part-time mode with Jaitley for six months when Modi became the Prime Minister in May 2014. Why was that done? Why assign two important portfolios to a person who lost Lok Sabha elections with nearly a two lakh margin, when most of the BJP candidates won on the Modi wave?
Strangely, the Opposition, which will disrupt proceedings in the Houses at the drop of a hat has not even issued a whimper of a criticism over this dual role.
One more thing. Why was former General Vijay Kumar Singh, who won as a BJP candidate with more than five lakh vote margin not given the Defence Ministry? Can anybody else claim to be a better expert than him in Defence Ministry related affairs in the BJP?
Let us take a look at his credentials… He is a retired Chief of the Indian Army, lived his whole life as a soldier and won with more than five lakh vote majority. What more does he need? The only disqualification for the General is that he has many detractors in the Arms lobby and some brokers and journalists engaged in “enabling” arms business. So an honest person is not eligible to hold this powerful office?
These Lutyens’ Delhi secrets will come out only when someone writes his/ her memoirs on why Modi gave Defence part-time charge to Finance Minister Jaitley. As Jaitley is the biggest darling of media, they will keep quiet on this questionable decision of the Prime Minister. Strangely, the Opposition, which will disrupt proceedings in the Houses at the drop of a hat has not even issued a whimper of a criticism over this dual role.