Reshuffle over, but blues continue

Ministers portfolio kept in abeyance after allocation gaffe is discovered

Reshuffle over, but blues continue

A late night high drama that led to last-minute changes in the allocation of portfolio after Sunday’s biggest-ever Cabinet expansion is far from over.

The Prime Minister’s Office has put on hold the decision to appoint the first-timer Congress MP from the Jaipur Rural constituency, Lalchand Kataria, 44, as one of the two ministers of state for defence. 

Petroleum Minister S Jaipal Reddy downplayed his controversial shifting to the science and technology ministry by publicly saying that the prime minister had taken him into confidence before deciding his fate. He also described news reports of his moving out of petroleum ministry owing to corporate pressure as a “fertile imagination of the media”. 
It is learnt that the UPA government is rethinking of accommodating Kataria in another ministry after late realisation that politically it would not be suitable to have two ministers of state (MoS) from the same state of Rajasthan in one ministry. The other MoS, Jitender Singh, is also from Rajasthan. Singh was elevated from being MoS (home) to become MoS (independent) Youth Affairs and Sports. But in the late night rejig, he was assigned to hold the dual charge of MoS defence as well. 

The government made adjustments after putting out the name of Jitin Prasada as one of the two ministers of state. The official communication from President’s office showed that Prasada will move laterally from being MoS Road Transport and Highways to hold both ministerial berths—MoS defence and MoS (human resource development). 

“As advised by the prime minister of India, the President directed that the portfolio of Shri Jitin Prasada, who was shown as minister of state in the ministry of defence and in the ministry of human resource development, shall be changed to read as minister of state in the ministry of human resource development,” a Press Information Bureau communiqué issued on Monday clarified. 

Besides, Prasada holds on to his present assignment of MoS road transport and highways.

Defence ministry sources said that while Jitender Singh took charge on Monday as junior minister to Defence Minister A K Antony, the decision on Lalchand Kataria’s joining had been kept in abeyance.

When Deccan Herald called up Kataria on his official mobile phone to seek his reaction, his aide who did not identify himself confirmed that the new minister has not taken over the charge of MoS defence before abruptly disconnecting.

With Kataria coming on board, there are now seven ministers from Rajasthan, three of Cabinet rank and the remaining MoS.

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