New Delhi : It now seems Dr Manmohan Singh’s combative “the opposition wants to force mid-term polls” wasn’t a one-off political missile. Amidst taunts from the BJP that there is a huge governance deficit, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has offered to make senior BJP leader L K Advani `acting prime minister’ while he is away touring earthquake-hit areas in Sikkim on Thursday.
The offer created ripples in Lutyens’ Delhi and Sonia Gandhi rushed to 7, RCR to demand an explanation. Dr Singh’s argument was that his number 2, Pranab Mukherjee is very busy giving explanations in triplicate for why he wrote the office memorandum on 2G. The other top man, P Chidambaram is in a sulk while A K Antony is like the invisible Mr India. The PM clarified he did not ask Rahul Gandhi since he may turn down his offer yet again.
“But why Advani ji? He is not even a member of the Congress party or any of our allies,” said a livid Sonia Gandhi. She reportedly asked him if she should interpret it as a subtle threat that he could hand over the keys to the government to an opposition man.
Dr Singh patiently explained that he felt sorry that the perennial PM-in-waiting was now likely to be pipped at the post by younger partymen like Narendra Modi or Sushma Swaraj. “It is just an adhoc arrangement, Sonia ji. The moment I return home from Gangtok, Advaniji will go back home after dinner. I have confidence in him, just like I have confidence in the cabinet you have selected for me,” the PM said.
Advani’s time will start the moment the PM’s aircraft takes off and taking the travelling time into account, his stint will be less than 12 hours. Political circles are abuzz with rumours that as a quid pro quo, Advani will cancel his rath yatra on corruption.
The BJP has criticised this unilateral decision by the PM, asking when the party has not decided on its prime ministerial candidate, how can a Congressman decide on Mr Advani. The former deputy PM, has chosen not to comment on the offer, except to say that this reminded him of the Emergency. No one however, asked him how.
Meanwhile, DMK chief M Karunanidhi has lodged a protest with Sonia Gandhi, saying if only Dr Singh had made one phone call to him, he would have landed in Delhi in three hours from Chennai.
“I am totally free these days. I could have come and helped out. Just like in Tamil film `Mudhalvan’ (Nayak in Hindi) where the journalist is made CM for a day. What are friends meant for?” Karunanidhi is reported to have said over phone.
Political analysts say giving the keys of the government to Karunanidhi would have been fraught with risk as he could have issued an ordinance to get daughter Kanimozhi out of Tihar jail. Worse, he could have convened an emergency cabinet and dismissed the Jayalalithaa government, on charges of not providing his famiy with a free mixie and grinder.