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Will Congress retain the 'wily Thakur?'

May 18, 2009 22:04 IST
Heavy jostling and lobbying has begun for ministerial berths within the Congress party,  even as the 'wily Thakur' from Madhya Pradesh, Arjun Singh, was first off the mark.

Singh went public on Monday expressing his desire to continue as a minister in the next Dr Manmohan Singh government saying he had another 3 years of his Rajya Sabha term left and there was no question of retiring from active politics.

His "main hoon na" signal to the Congress leadership comes in the backdrop of  the Sonia-Manmohan duo's huge snub to Singh when he was not invited to the first meeting of the core committee held after the historic Congress victory in the elections.

Arjun Singh is a member of the Congress core committee and sources said this should have been enough signal to him to announce his retirement from active politics, as Sonia Gandhi does not want to be seen to be dropping an old Congress-man and a family loyalist.

But contrary to expectations, Arjun Singh called a press conference on Monday evening and said he was not yet ready for retirement. For the last five years, the Prime Minister had been trying hard to drop Arjun Singh as minister for Human Resource Development,  a key portfolio, but the PM could not get his way with Arjun Singh.

The last time he created a merry political ruckus was when he announced OBC reservations in institutions of higher education, forcing the government to back him and stand by him.

But this time, the situation is a little more serious with Rahul Gandhi also getting into the act and wanting Arjun out of the government. Rahul is said to be very uneasy with the Thakur, about whom the famous saying was that if you put a nail into his head it will come out as a screw, and would prefer a person of his choice in the HRD.

In the 14th Lok Sabha Rahul Gandhi himself was a member of the standing committee for HRD of which Janardhan Dwivedi was the Chairman. This was seen as the first step in Rahul's political education as he had shown a great deal of interest in the education arena.

Dwivedi, known to be a trusted lieutenant of Sonia Gandhi was chosen to help Rahul in finding his feet.

And now the names of both Janardhan Dwivedi and Rahul Gandhi are being mentioned as likely replacements for Arjun Singh depending on whether the Prime Minister is able to "persuade" the junior Gandhi to join the government or not.

But with Arjun Singh now standing up and wanting to be counted amongst those who need to be kept in the 'Oxygen-tank' of power politics, the ball is back in Sonia Gandhi's court on how she will handle the man who swears by the Gandhi family.

Renu Mittal in New Delhi