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Arun Jaitley hints at giving up Defence min. post on Sunday


New Delhi (Nov. 7, 2014): Finance Minister Arun Jaitley indicated that he may not hold additional charge of the Defence Ministry from Sunday. "When I took over charge of that Ministry, I had said it is a temporary charge, it is an additional charge. People were surprised that it is the first statement that I made," he said at the launch of a book "2014: The Election That Changed India" written by eminent journalist Rajdeep Sardesai.

Replying to another query if he was happy leaving the South Block, Jaitley said "well this was always an additional charge with me and this is what I had always stated when I took charge". He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi can consult "anyone" but will not guided or dictated by "anybody" on the issue of cabinet reshuffle.

"I think a large part of what is mentioned there (in the book) is not accurate. Prime Minister can consult anyone but at the end of the day, it is his word that prevails," Jaitley said.

He was replying to a question about Rajdeep writing in his book that the original list of cabinet members in May was prepared by Modi's key point person - Jaitley and now BJP President Amit Shah - and then "vetted" by RSS. Jaitley said a Prime Minister with the "clarity of mind of a man like Modi is certainly not going to be guided or dictated by anybody else in the matter of cabinet reshuffle". For instance, there is addition to council of ministers in the offing in two days from now, and certainly it is he (Modi) who has the last word and he who makes his decision, the Finance Minister said. 

Jaitley defended the then Gujarat government headed by Modi over the 2002 riots.
"How is Gujarat government responsible for the initial Godhra violence? Godhra violence was an incident at a railway station where some misguided people went and burnt a train bogey and therefore that is what sparked off a riot across the state," he said replying to question and stressed the state had utilised its full machinery.

"You had cases to that affect being investigated. You had various kind of inquiry. You had an unfriendly government in power at the Centre for at least 10 years, which did everything to find and fix responsibility on Modi. It was not able to do so," Jaitley said.

Asked about Sardesai's thinking that it was VHP chief Praveen Togadia who was more in power then than Modi who had taken over only a few months before the riots, Jaitley said "he (Modi) was certainly new to governance". The Finance Minister said the violence was so widespread that the state machinery was "completely insufficient". "Now if there is one in which police has fired more on the rioters and people who were rioting more than any other riot is this country , more than 1984, it was in 2002," he said.

Debating over the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Congress leader P Chidambaram said had the UPA 2 got the economy right by 2013, early 2014, the results would have been very different but still conceded that BJP would have been the number one party