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   With Mr. V.P. Singh away in the Soviet Union... (July 26, 1990)

With Mr. V.P. Singh away in the Soviet Union, Mr. Devi Lal is the acting prime minster of India. Before anybody else does so, I will consider his first four days as prime minister.

He has begun rather well. The trouble in Kashmir and Punjab may be no nearer solution, but he really cannot be blammed for this. He was inherited this trouble from his predecessor, Mr. V.P. Singh. However, when all efforts of Mr. V.P. Singh to get Farooq Abdullah involved in the solution of the Kashmir problem had failed, he has succeeded in getting Mr. Abdullah back to India, if not Kashmir.

In Punjab, unlike all his precedessors, he has not changed the governor. But these are early days and he may still do so.

Generally, the law and order situation in the country has been reasonably good under Mr. Devi Lal. And in his own party, there has been no crisis, and fear of the government failling, as there used to be continuously when Mr. V.P. Singh was the prime minister. That the then deputy prime minister may have been responsible for all these crisis situations is neither here not there and is irrelevants to this particular analysis of the first four days of Mr. Devi Lal as prime minister.

If there is one area in which Mr. Devi Lal has failed, it is one the economic front. The foreign exchange situation has not improved at all during his term as prime minister, and, in fact, has further deteriorated because of the considerable expenditure on Mr. V.P. Singh's current foreign trip.

Mr. Devi Lal would be justfield in announcing that the previous prime minister has left the coffers empty. That he has not so far done so, speaks well for him.

The prices also have not come down, though knowing Mr. Devi Lal's concerns for the poor, especially the farmers, ther is no doubt he will soon come out with a plan to control the prices. The sooner he does this the better, already he has wasted four days. Because, if there are snap mid-term elections, today or tomorrow, as the BJP has been forecasting, his party is likely to lose on the issue of prices.

On foreign policy and external affairs, it is a little early to say what Mr. Devi Lal's government's thrust is going to be, though there are strong rumours that the diplomatic corps may be shaken up with several ambassadors recalled and replaced by experienced farmers.

A cabinet reshuffle is also on the cards with at least two ministers being dropped. Who they may be is not know, but sources close to Mr. Devi Lal say that they may be Mr. Arun Nehru and Mr. Arif Mohammed Khan.

To conclude: Mr. Devi Lal's performance in his first four days as prime minister had been reasonably impressive. The trouble is that he may be so impressed with his performance that he may decide to continue as prime minister.

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