Is Chavan responsible for the Thomas goof up?
The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh has virtually blamed his junior colleague and former MoS in his office and now Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan for the PJ Thomas goof up. Singh who accepted responsibility for the decision to appoint Thomas as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner in the wake of the Apex Court judgment removing him from the position, has triggered a fresh controversy by shifting the onus on to Chavan. Chavan on his part has blamed the Kerala government.
The Prime Minister in response to a clarification in the Rajya Sabha admitted that the shortlist forwarded by the DoPT prepared under the supervision of his MoS did not contain information about the chargesheet against Thomas. The implication is that if such information had been recorded against his name in the short list, the appointment would not have been made in the first place. Many people are aware that it was Sushma Swaraj, the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha who brought this to the notice of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, the other two members of the selection committee. But she was overruled. But what many people are perhaps not aware of is that Swaraj recorded her dissent on the notesheet at the behest of the Prime Minister who insisted that she should record her views. If he had not insisted, it is possible that she would have not put her dissent on record. That is why she apparently took a soft view of letting the issue pass after the Prime Minister admitted his mistake and accepted responsibility for the goof up.
But in view of the Prime Minister throwing new light on how the shortlist was prepared, questions are bound to be asked as to why the DoPT and the concerned minister not observe due diligence or extra caution on the subject. In my opinion, the PM has made the position of the present Maharashtra Chief Minister very vulnerable. While on one hand there will be sections within the political class who will demand his resignation for his role, on the other some elements will try and link his action to some important persons in the party. Singh has already stated that the appointment was not due to coalition compulsions thereby indicating that the name obviously was forwarded through his own party.
The developments on the Thomas case and its fallout could have repercussions on the way relations between the Prime Minister and his party are going to evolve in the near future. The sense one gets at the moment is that things are not as good as they may seem to be or are being made to look like. The last word on the issue is yet to be heard.