S.M. Krishna resigned as External Affairs Minister on Friday, 48 hours before the reshuffle of the Union Council Ministers scheduled for Sunday. Mr. Krishna’s exit will make way for the second change in the top four portfolios — Finance, Home, Defence and External Affairs — in three months: on July 31, P. Chidambaram exchanged his Home portfolio for Finance and Sushilkumar Shinde moved up from Power to Home shortly after Pranab Mukherjee was elected President, exchanging his office in North Block for Rashtrapati Bhawan.
All eyes are now on who will be the next External Affairs Minister: the names heading the list in circulation are those of Union Ministers Anand Sharma and Kapil Sibal.
As for Mr. Krishna, he is heading back to the party and to Karnataka, where Assembly elections are due next year. Shortly after he put in his papers, he told a TV channel: “I want youngsters to be given a chance...I am a loyal party worker and I work for the party without any conditions.”
Indeed, the one thing that seems certain is that at the end of the current exercise to give the government and the party a new look, both will look younger, Congress sources said, with those from party general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s generation getting weightier responsibilities.
While there was speculation that Mr. Krishna’s resignation on Friday was linked to a Special Lokayukta court in Karnataka ordering police on Thursday to investigate his involvement — as well as that of the former Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D. Deve Gowda — in the alleged Mysore-Bangalore Express Highway scam, the Congress sources said the party leadership decided to move him out of government before that. Of course, the timing of Mr. Krishna's resignation is unfortunate, coming as it does during the visit of Spanish king Juan Carlos I.
Mr. Krishna’s departure also came on a day when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi spent an hour finalising the details of the proposed changes in the government.
Greater role for Rahul
The Congress sources said the reshuffle would be followed by a shake-up in the party organisation, with Mr. Gandhi being elevated as the effective number two. He is currently not involved in core decision-making, but after the changes, he would be involved in all party matters in a fundamental way.