Saturday, March 2, 2024

Sulking Jena keeps all guessing

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NEW DELHI: Apparently upset over not being elevated to Cabinet rank, Srikant Jena on Wednesday kept everyone guessing as to whether he would assume charge as minister of state for statistics and programme implementation with Independent charge.

Jena remained at his home but incommunicado, with his staff saying he was scheduled to go to Odisha either this evening or tomorrow morning in connection with the rally of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi in the state.

Officials in the Statistics and Programme Implementation ministry said no function regarding assumption of office by the new minister was scheduled for today.

Hoping for elevation to Cabinet rank, Jena had yesterday suggested that coalition compulsion had blocked his promotion.

However, he made it clear that he will not quit the Council of Ministers and that he would talk to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, highlighting his seniority in politics and “views of people of Odisha” on lack of representation in the Cabinet.

Jena, who was a Cabinet minister in United Front government in 1996, feels a Cabinet berth would suit his profile and stature as he has been four-time MP.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Wednesday accepted the resignation of Gurudas Kamat a day after the Congress leader declined to accept his new portfolio of drinking water and sanitation — apparently unhappy over not being given a key ministry and cabinet berth.

The Prime Minister has accepted Kamat’s resignation and recommended to President Pratibha Patil that it may be accepted, sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Kamat did not attend the swearing-in ceremony for new ministers at the Rashtrapati Bhavan Tuesday evening, openly demonstrating his protest over his transfer in the reshuffle from minister of state for home affairs to the newly-created ministry of drinking water and sanitation as junior minister with independent charge.

The senior Congress leader from Maharashtra immediately flew home to Mumbai Tuesday evening and issued a statement from there after the swearing-in ceremony was over in New Delhi.

Kamat said he decided to quit the ministry for “totally personal” reasons and wanted to work actively for the Congress party.

He denied he was upset about the new ministry. “Neither have I been sacked nor threatened. It is my own personal request to be relieved.” He said he had already written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh asking them to relieve him of his ministerial responsibilities. (Agencies

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