Cabinet reshuffle: Is Jayant Sinha a victim of his father 'Yashwant Sinha's curse'?

Jayant Sinha holds the honourable distinction of making the headlines as a Minister of State, following a Council of minister's reshuffle that saw the induction of 19 new ministers, and a change in the portfolios of nine Cabinet Ministers and 13 Ministers of State, including some holding Independent charges.

In fact, no other Minister of State in the history of Indian democracy got even a fraction of the publicity he received, and the intense public debate that his transfer generated.

The debate, in fact, continues to make the headlines even three days after the Cabinet expansion-cum-reshuffle, and the reason behind Sinha's transfer – from junior Minister of Finance to Minister of State for Civil Aviation – is being widely speculated.

Yashwant Sinha and (R) Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha.

Yashwant Sinha and (R) Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha.

In a chat with Firstpost, a senior Union minister, who is well clued in to the developments, strongly refuted media speculations on the subject. He rubbished all such media reports that suggested that Sinha was shifted from Finance to Civil Aviation because he was speaking out of turn; or because he held a 'dinner' after the bankruptcy bill was cleared, where top ministry and banking officials were present, as well as some industry and investment leaders; or because there was a conflict of interest in the position held by Jayant Sinha and the position held by his wife Punita Kumar Sinha – the founder and managing partner of an investment advisory firm, Pacific Paradigm Advisors, and independent director on several corporate boards, including Infosys, where she was appointed in January this year.

The Minister said that Punita was an alumni of IIT Delhi (B.Tech), had a Masters in Finance and a Ph.D from Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and had very strong professional credentials. She had held top management positions in some of the top international management and investment firms and had been the founder and managing partner at Pacific Paradigm Advisors, even when the Modi government assumed office in 2014, and Jayant Sinha was made the Minister of State in the Finance ministry.

He also added that her appointment with Infosys, as Independent Director, early this year was in tune with her professional capacity and credentials, and had nothing to do with her husband's position in the government. As such there was "no conflict of interest," he said.

There have been a number of reports in the media suggesting that Punita's ambitious positioning and her husband's support to her led to Sinha's departure from the finance ministry.

It is also said that another aspect that went against Sinha was that it seemed like he and his other family members were acting like a 'family syndicate' – where his father held certain interests of his own, his wife her interests and his brother had certain interests, which was not taken kindly by PM Modi.

A top source with a good understanding of the working of the finance ministry said that Arun Jaitley and Jayant Sinha shared very good personal and professional relations for the last two years. Sinha had proved himself to be a good deputy to Jaitley, and the latter was very pleased with the former's work and conduct.

Even on Wednesday, Jaitley gave him a very warm send off from finance to civil aviation, and walked up to the gate to see him off.

Sinha became an MP because his father, former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, adhered to the party norm for persons aged 75 plus, and decided not to contest elections and to push for his son's candidature from the Hazaribagh parliamentary constituency instead. Jayant Sinha's own personal professional credentials – IIT, Harvard Business School, partner at Mckinsey & company and so on – are highly impressive.

For long, it was speculated whether his father's public criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's policies had a bearing on Jayant Sinha's future.

More recently, Yashwant Sinha had blasted the Modi government on India's pitch for the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) and for its Pakistan policy. Another minister quipped that the slide in Jayant's fortune was because of the "curse of Yashwant Sinha".

Contrast the kind of media attention Jayant Sinha is getting with that of Minister of State Ramesh Jigajinagi, the newly inducted Minister of State for Drinking Water & Sanitation. Jigajinagi is a three-time MLA, and a five-time MP from Karnataka. He belongs to the Dalit community and was a minister in the Ramakrishna Hegde and S R Bommai governments between 1983-89.

He has been the home minister. H D Deve Gowda was one of his Cabinet colleagues. Siddaramaiah was also his ministerial colleague. Between 1994 and 1998, he was the Social Welfare and Revenue minister in the H D Deve Gowda and JH Patel governments. Another famous Cabinet colleague of his was SR Bommai.

When he was the Karnataka Revenue minister, DV Sadananda Gowda was a first time MLA and Ananth Kumar was a first time MP. BS Yeddyurappa was a first time leader of the opposition in the Karnataka Assembly. Another cabinet colleague of his, RL Jalappa, became a Union Cabinet minister in 1996.

And  look at how things panned out, his cabinet colleagues in the state went on to become chief ministers – Gowda, Bomai, JH Patel and Siddaramaiah. While Deve Gowda became the Prime Minister.

Yet, no one is talking about the humble 64-year-old Ramesh Jigajinagi, who has now accepted the post of a junior minister, that too in a less significant ministry at the Centre.

Jayant Sinha should surely be happy with the publicity that he is getting.

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Updated Date: Jul 09, 2016 07:41:53 IST

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