Prabhus Power Goes Off As Thackeray Pulls Plug

Updated: Aug 25 2002, 05:30am hrs
The resignation of the reforms friendly Union minister for power Suresh Prabhu was quite overdue. The Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray along with top Sena leaders have been waiting for Mr Prabhus head for his failure to take care of the saffron partys financial interests and for not actively contributing to the party organisational work.

In the words of the Congress secretary Jairam Ramesh, in Mr Prabhus resignation, the economics of Shiv Sena won over its politics. He became the victim of Senas extortion tactics.

This is actually the third time that Mr Prabhu has submitted his resignation since he became a minister in the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government. First was in July 2000, second time was in April 2002, which was finally dismissed as a rumour, and the third was on August 14, 2002.

On the previous occasions behind-the-scenes negotiations had led to Mr Prabhu conceding to the governments call and taking back his resignation. But sourcesboth in the political and bureaucratic quartersfeel that this time around he may not be so lucky.

A chartered accountant by profession, Mr Prabhu was earlier appointed Cabinet minister for industries in the 13-day Vajpayee government. Again in 1998, the NDA government came back to power, he was appointed Union environment and forest minister. In 1999, he was made the Union Cabinet minister for chemicals and fertilisers. In September 2000, he was made Indias power minister.

He was also the chairman of the Maharashtra State Finance Corporation and the Saraswat Bank before he joined politics. Mr Prabhu has vigorously pursued power sector reforms of the country.

While Mr Prabhu may be termed as the non corrupt minister in the annals of the Indian politics, he has proved to be useless for not providing his share to the party kitty.

Ironically, Mr Prabhu, who was roped in by Mr Thackeray personally to field as the Sena nominee in the 1996 general elections from the Rajapur parliamentary constituency, the erstwhile bastion of the socialist leader Madhu Dandavate, has been always treated as an outsider in the Sena fold throughout his parliamentary political career.

Mr Prabhu, who was nominated by Mr Thackeray for being a professional in a bid to widen its canvas in the national politics, has, however, failed to understand the Senas style of functioning.

While Mr Prabhu received bouquets from the economic and business community for his apolitical and pragmatic approach during his days as the union minister for industry during the 13-day tenure of the government in 1996, his elevation also raised expectations from the party and his boss. However, he failed to rise to those expectations and thus got isolated from Mr Thackeray and partyworkers day by day. The gap was so wide and visible that Mr Prabhu even failed to create a lobby of his supporters within the party and play a major decisive role in the distribution of tickets in various elections in the state.

Mr Prabhus renomination and election in the 1998 general elections and subsequent induction in the council of minister led by Mr Vajpayee led to heartburns among the Shivsainiks. His stay in Delhi and official tours across the country and abroad led to further widening gap between him and the workers in his parliamentary constituency. Although Mr Prabhu was making all out efforts to bring in transparency and efficiency in the functioning of the ministry of environment, ministry of chemicals and fertilisers before being appointed as the minister for power after the untimely death of the then minister of power R Kumarmangalam, at the same time his association with Mr Thackeray and other leaders was also weakening. While his go-getter attitude earned him direct blessings of Mr Vajpayee and tacit support from the National Democratic Alliance ministers, particularly from former minister Arun Jaitley and disinvestment minister Arun Shourie, Mr Prabu was looked as a major threat by Sena leaders like Manohar Joshi and Narayan Rane.

Mr Prabhus efforts to reach out through a non-government organisation and not as a Sena MP in his constituency and the Sena dominated Sindhudurg district in the coastal Konkan region came under severe attack as he was blamed for running a parallel organisation. Further, Mr Prabhus alleged proximity with Mr Thackerays arch rival and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar also added fuel to the fire.

Meanwhile, the search is on for Mr Prabhus replacement. Names doing the rounds include the recently inducted Union minister of state for finance Anant Geete. Shiv Senas Rajya Sabha MP, RN Dhoot, is another candidate for this position. Simultaneously, the name of Shiv Senas floor leader in the Lok Sabha, Anand Adsool, is also doing the rounds within the party as a replacement for Mr Geete in the finance ministry.

Among Mr Prabhus major achievements as power minister was the meeting of chief ministers of 17 states he called in March 2001, where a landmark decision was taken to eliminate power theft and try to attain commercial viability in distribution.

He was also talking to the leaders of various political parties, leaders of trade unions, and industries associations to build a consensus on power sector reforms. As power minister, he also pointed out that power is in the Concurrent List, as such distribution of power is the exclusive responsibility of the states.