17 new faces in Central reshuffle

Khurshid for MEA, Moily gets Petroleum, Bansal Rly

17 new faces in Central reshuffle

The much-anticipated reshuffle of the Union Cabinet on Sunday saw the induction of 17 new faces, but the surprise was the elevation of Salman Khurshid, who has been the target of anti-corruption campaigners, as the new foreign minister.

The reshuffle of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Council of Ministers, designed to shrug off the tag of policy paralysis and infuse some dynamism in the government, carried an imprint of Congress heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi as his GenNext brigade got major slots in the government.

The rejig, the biggest ever of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) II, saw 22 new ministers being sworn in by President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan, and the prime minister’s job was made easier with troublesome ally Trinamool Congress having left the UPA and the DMK not exerting pressure to increase its share in the Cabinet.

It also saw crucial ministries going to Veerappa Moily (Petroleum), Pawan Bansal (Railways), Pallam Raju (Human Resources) and Dinsha Patel (Mines).

The big gainer in the exercise was Salman Khurshid, who has faced embarrassment over serious charges of funds misappropriation by an NGO managed by his family. Shifting from the law ministry to external affairs positions him among the top five of the UPA government. 

Among the other gainers were Dinsha Patel, Aswani Kumar, who got law and justice, Pallam Raju as HRD minister and Ajay Maken, the new minister for housing and urban poverty alleviation, all of whom were promoted to Cabinet rank.

Other surprise

Besides Khurshid’s elevation, the other surprise was the shifting of Jaipal Reddy from the petroleum ministry to science and technology. Many political analysts believe that the move was made under pressure from an industrial house which has a major interest in natural gas.

Though Rahul Gandhi has resisted pressure from within the party, and more importantly from the prime minister to join the government, he seems to have played the role of kingmaker to ensure his key loyalists—Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia (Power), Sachin Pilot (Corporate Affairs) and Jitendra Singh (Youth Affairs and Sports, and Defence)—were given portfolios with independent charge.

Other members of his other core group got important portfolios, too. Jitin Prasada has moved laterally to take charge as MoS human
resources development and RPN Singh as MoS home.

Hinting that Sunday’s reshuffle of his Cabinet to be the last before the 2014 general election, the prime minister told reporters after the brief ceremony was over: “It is a combination of youth, experience and relevance.”

He acknowledged that “the road ahead is full of challenges. But this is a team, which I hope will be able to meet those challenges.”

The State that got the biggest chunk of ministers is Andhra Pradesh, with six new ministers, including actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi, K Suryaprakash Reddy, Sarvey Satyanarayana, P Balram Naik and Killi Kruparani, bringing its share in the council of minister to 11.

West Bengal followed, bagging three berths, while Kerala, Punjab and Rajasthan got two each. However, some states such as Madhya Pradesh have been ignored, and Congress bigwig Digvijay Singh made no bones about his unhappiness.

The reshuffle did not involve non-Congress partners in the UPA, barring the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). With the Trinamool Congress out and the DMK unable to exert pressure, the only non-Congress minister to be sworn in was NCP’s Tariq Anwar who filled the slot vacated by Agatha Sangma, whose father, P A Sangma, had quit the party to contest the Presidential poll, much to the annoyance of the UPA.

Bigger role for Rahul in Congress rejig

Congress scion Rahul Gandhi, who did not join Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Council of Ministers, is set to play a “more prominent” role in the party, ahead of the 2014 general elections, DHNS reports.

“A reshuffle in the party is also going to happen very soon,” a senior party leader said.

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