India burns while Shivraj Patil works on a grand plan to recruit more policemen
Over at Tehelka magazine they have a curious defence of Shivraj Patil, arguably the worst home minister in the worst government in Indian history (linkthanks Gautam John). The article tells us that “sources close to the Home Minister said that is precisely how he is expected to function — by not taking sides. They said that Patil understands his job differently: he will not speak except when seeking “balance and tolerance”. They said that Patil keeps everybody at bay.” As an example it cites how he did not make a call on whether or not the governor of Jammu & Kashmir should impose a curfew in Srinagar in the face of separatist protests. “Patil said it was for the Governor to take a call. As the man on the spot, Vohra had to decide, not Patil.”
Most people would call this evidence of high incompetence. They would think that the honourable home minister would drop everything he was doing to handle a crisis of national, not municipal importance. But according to Mr Patil, they would be wrong. According to him, his job is not to take sides. And he’s doing it admirably well. He’s not taking sides in the battle against Naxalites, in the war against jihadi terrorism, between terrorists and victims, and evidently, in Jammu & Kashmir.
But there’s more. “Patil’s zen-like mastery lies in what he does not say or do. He will act exactly in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.” The writer obviously has no idea of what zen-like mastery is but that’s not Mr Patil’s fault. But “act exactly in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution”? That’s no virtue, that’s expected. That he should think it’s a virtue speaks a lot for the values of his colleagues. But more importantly, it’s untrue: how is taking Sonia Gandhi for a free ride on an IAF aircraft in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution?
And there’s even more. Mr Patil’s main job is to “oversee Centre-State relations. If these relations haven’t deteriorated despite the terrorist attacks it is because of Patil’s calm”. There’s that little business of BJP-ruled states complaining of Mr Patil’s ministry playing partisan games with anti-terror legislation. And there’s that business of Jammu & Kashmir. Just what is Mr Patil overseeing, calmly?
The pièce de résistance is this: “Patil has concluded that things cannot improve until there are more and more policemen on the streets. Patil is working on a grand plan to change the nature of policing in India.” This would have been half-believable in 2004, when his term started. But months away from the next election, after presiding over unprecedented damage to internal security on all fronts, Mr Patil is still working on a grand plan to recruit more policemen! So why did the Supreme Court, in despair, legislate police reforms from the Bench?
Let there be no mistake—Shivraj Patil is an unmitigated disaster. The worst part is that he is just one of a constellation of individuals in the UPA government who will vie for the infamous position of having done the worst damage to India’s national interests.
The article concludes that “On available evidence, Patil has a long way to go.” Not quite. He has a very short way to go—the distance between his desk and the door.