C.P. Joshi’s exit from the Union Cabinet was always on the cards for the twin reasons of resolving the power struggle in the victorious Karnataka unit of the Congress and the forthcoming Assembly election in Rajasthan.
Dr. Joshi resigned as Minister for Road Transport and Highways, and Railways, which he held as additional charge for the second time, in the wake of Pawan Kumar Bansal’s resignation following the cash-for-posts scam.
It was understood soon after the Karnataka election that the Congress got Siddaramaiah the Chief Minister’s post by assuring Union Minister for Labour and Employment Mallikarjun Kharge that he would be made the Railway Minister. The impending reshuffle will be a better proof of whether the claims of Mr. Kharge’s supporters about the trade-off are true or not.
The fact is that Dr. Joshi never put his heart into the job during his second stint at the Rail Bhawan. For almost five weeks, little or no work was done, with Dr. Joshi being wary of his position in light of his previous experience when he had to make way for Mr. Bansal.
He maintained a low profile and hardly attended office and in the last few days acted out of political expediency, bestowing a few favours to his constituency in the hope that these would keep him in good stead in future elections.
Presumably, the other reason for his reluctance to discharge his duties as Railway Minister was his keenness to get back to Rajasthan where he has high stakes. He is among the top contenders for the post of Chief Minister, challenging the might of incumbent Ashok Gehlot. Dr. Joshi feared that getting tied down by the Railway Ministry work might deny him the opportunity to actively pursue his political ambitions in the State, where he will be required to stave off the challenge of budding younger elements. In the last Assembly election, Dr. Joshi lost by just one vote, which ended his hopes of bagging the top job.
Known for his proximity to Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, the Minister has been drafted into the organisation as general secretary and the person in charge of Bihar and West Bengal. The party is desperate to recover lost grounds in both the States, having to contend with estranged ally Trinamool Congress and in a dilemma over whether to have any truck with the RJD-LJP alliance or woo Janata Dal (United).