PM plays it safe in ministry rejig

PM plays it safe in ministry rejig

PM plays it safe in ministry rejig

As expected, the “big four”—Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, Defence Minister A K Antony and Home Minister P Chidambaram—remain untouched.

The 78-member council of ministers includes 62 from the Congress and16 from its allies. However, the reshuffle has not gone well with two of the ministers, Srikant Jena and Gurudas Kamat. Kamat later resigned in a huff in protest against the portfolio allocated to him.

While elevating Jairam Ramesh of the Congress and a crusader of pollution-free environment  to Cabinet rank, Singh shifted him from the high-profile ministry to rural development. Jayanthi Natarajan, a new face in the ministry, gets the environment portfolio.

Among the major changes, Salman Khursheed took over the law ministry from Veerappa Moily, who was moved to corporate affairs.

Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamool Congress got the railway portfolio with Cabinet rank. Congress leader and seasoned Parliamentarian from Andhra Pradesh Kishore Chandra Deo, a new face in the Cabinet, was appointed the Minister for Panchayat Raj and Tribal Affairs.

Beni Prasad Verma from Uttar Pradesh was promoted to the Cabinet rank while retaining him in the steel ministry.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma got  additional charge of textiles. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal will be in charge of water resources, too.
The swearing-in ceremony was marred by two Congress ministers who, though elevated as ministers of state with independent charge, went into sulking. 

Sulking leaders

Srikant Jena from Orissa was visibly upset as he did not get the Cabinet rank while Mumbai’s Gurudas Kamat boycotted the ceremony and later resigned. Kamat is said to be unhappy with the water and sanitation ministry offered to him.

Although no DMK minister was sworn in, Singh kept the door open for the all-important UPA ally to return to its previously held ministries—telecom and textiles—as both these portfolios were allocated to others for the time being. In Tamil Nadu, DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi said the reshuffle was incomplete.

Later, Singh described the revamp as the last of the ministry, which has almost three more years to complete its tenure.

He also brought in other new faces in the ministry, including Assam MP Paban Singh Ghatowar, who was given charge of North-East, Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyay (Health and Family Welfare), Jitendra Singh—Alwar MP and a close aide of Rahul Gandhi—who was given home, Milind Deora (communication and IT) and Rajiv Shukla (parliamentary affairs). Chhattisgarh’s Charan Das Mahant makes his a debut as Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing.

The ministers who have been dropped from the Cabinet are M S Gill (statistics and programme implementation), B K Handique (North-East affairs), Kantilal Bhuria (tribal affairs), Murli Deora (corporate affairs) and Dayanidhi Maran (textiles).

While Maran resigned last week after being named in the 2G scam, Deora had offered his resignation citing old age, but reportedly sought, and got, a berth for his son Milind in the ministry. Bhuria was recently appointed MP Congress chief. Handique was dropped for non-performance.

The case of Srikant Jena, who was unhappy in 2009 when he was made junior minister, is a curious one. While he holds one post (statistics) with  independent charge, he is now an understudy to DMK leader M K Alagiri in the chemicals and fertilisers ministry.
HRD Minister Kapil Sibal continues to hold additional charge of telecom, given to him after DMK representative A Raja was forced to resign following allegations in the 2G spectrum allocation.