New Delhi: After 26/11, the US felt that
the removal of "spectacularly inept" Shivraj Patil as Home
Minister was inevitable although he had been "protected" by
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi despite being found "asleep on
the watch" during earlier terror strikes in various cities.
According to a US diplomatic cable made public by
Wikileaks, the then Ambassador David Mulford said Congress was
"desperately seeking to limit the damage" as it was in a "deep
political trouble" over its handling of the Mumbai attacks on
November 26, 2008.
"In this environment, removal of the Home Minister was
inevitable. He has over the last four years proved himself to
be spectacularly inept," the cable said.
Mulford pointed out that in almost every incident of
terrorist or communal violence -- Bangalore, Ahemdabad,
Jaipur, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Guwahati, Samjhauta Express,
Orissa, Karnataka, Jammu and Kashmir -- he has been "asleep on
"Each time there have been calls for his ouster but
Sonia Gandhi has protected him. The public`s reaction to the
Mumbai incidents has been such that even she could not save
him this time," the cable said.
The cable, posted in `The Guardian`, said the firing
of Patil and other changes were "all intended" to convey a
political message to the public that the UPA takes the Mumbai
"It may be too little too late, however, for the
Congress Party to reverse its fortunes before May 2009 (during
Lok Sabha polls)," Mulford said.
Mulford, however, was not sure whether heads of top
civil servants would roll but observed "the discipline and
culture of Indian bureaucracy is such that if these men stay
on they will continue to wield power and would not be treated
as damaged goods by the rest of the government".
He noted that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would have
to "balance the pressure for heads to roll with the fact that
getting rid of NSA (M K) Narayanan, Home Secretary (Madhukar)
Gupta and Intelligence Bureau chief (P C) Haldar would mean he
will be left with a completely new intelligence team that will
take time to settle in, not an attractive prospect to govern
within the last few months of his term".
The cable also talked about a possible "political
shakeout" in Maharashtra and pointed out that an "active
faction" in the state`s Congress that has long been plotting
to oust the then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.
It also took notice of the "scathing media ridicule"
of Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil when he played down the
Mumbai attacks that these sorts of incidents happen from time
to time in a big city such as Mumbai.