'Inept' Shivraj Patil was protected by Sonia: US cables
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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 the watch".
"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 attacks seriously.
"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".