Khurshid zooms into top five of Cabinet

Among several changes the cabinet reshuffle had brought, there could not be anything so significant than the altered dynamics of the all-powerful Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which has propelled a minister way below the pecking order to the elite panel.

As External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid becomes a member of the CCS, the government’s highest decision-making body chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh which also includes Defence Minister A K Antony, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, all of whom are way above him in terms of seniority.

The CCS decides important matters concerning strategic, security, home, nuclear and related issues.  As a result of occupying the external affairs and home ministries respectively, Khurshid and Shinde have become members of the panel which also has finance and defence ministers.

In reality though, Khurshid is occupying 22nd position in the recently released list of ministers on the basis of their seniority. Shinde finds himself in fifth position. The list puts Antony next to the prime minister, who is followed by Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar, Chidambaram and Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. The list was updated earlier this week.

Khurshid, promoted to the cabinet rank in July 2011, has overtaken several senior ministers above him such as M Veerappa Moily, Farooq Abdullah,  S Jaipal Reddy, Kamal Nath, Ajit Singh, Vayalar Ravi, Mallikarjun Kharge, Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma and P K Bansal.

Krishna was the second key member of the CCS to have left the panel following the exit of Pranab Mukherjee, who quit in July as finance minister to become the President of India. This led to Chidambaram being shifted to finance and Shinde taking over his place in the home ministry. Shinde was also made Leader of the Lok Sabha in place of Mukherjee. 

The CCS now consists of those from the minority and weaker sections of society, a significant departure from the past. The seniority list was posted in the PMO website recently after a brief absence following the reported complaint by Sharad Pawar that he was not given the No 2 position in the cabinet.

The list was back after the issue resolved itself with Antony taking the second position.

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