Indian Decade

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna Resigns

Could a budding scandal have caused his sudden departure?

Earlier today, the 80-year-old External Affairs Minister SM Krishna sent his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.  One of the reasons for doing so was to give newer politicians and leaders a chance to lead – which is part of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA)’s overall plan to reinvigorate itself after recent scandals, along with other political and economic turmoil to boot.  Krishna’s resignation, however, comes at a time when India has high profile foreign policy matters on its agenda:  the visiting King of Spain is still on a state visit in India and  foreign ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim Association For Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) are to converge in New Delhi for a ministerial meeting from Sunday onwards.

The prime minister did not take long to accept the resignation and the government simultaneously announced that the union cabinet reshuffle will take place on Sunday morning. The government was earlier planning to hold the swearing-in ceremony for the new ministers at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Sunday evening, but the upcoming diplomatic engagements forced a rescheduling as the country needs a new foreign minister before dignitaries arrive for the IOR-ARC meeting.

Additionally, Krishna was scheduled to embark on two important foreign visits in early November. First, on November 5th he was expected to travel to Laos for the Asia-Europe Meeting Summit. Later in the month, the FM was expected to attend the Asean-India Summit in Cambodia. It’s likely that Krishna’s successor will make these trips instead.

It is hard to find an example of an Indian foreign minister resigning abruptly when an important visiting foreign dignitary is still in the country and well over a dozen foreign ministers of other countries are expected to visit within days. Several weeks ago, he had engaged with a host of foreign leaders in New York on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly session. Only yesterday Krishna faced a major political setback when the Lokayukta (ombudsman) of his home state of Karnataka ordered a probe into Krishna’s alleged involvement in financial bungling in the Mysore-Bangalore expressway project. The Lokayukta order made his stay in the union cabinet untenable.