Oscar among eight make it to ministry, portfolios recast

Kharge gets Railways; Congress goes into election mode

Oscar among eight make it to ministry, portfolios recast

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday inducted eight new faces into his Council of Ministers and reallocated portfolios. This may be the last reshuffle of the ministry by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government before the next year’s parliamentary elections.

The reshuffle saw Mallikarjun Kharge, who so far held the labour and employment portfolio, rising through the rank and being made the new railway minister. Oscar Fernandes got the road transport and highways portfolio as he returned to the Union ministry after four years, while newly inducted K S Rao and Girija Vyas were made ministers for textiles and urban poverty alleviation respectively.

Sis Ram Ola, too, returned to the Union Council of Ministers after four years. The 85-year-old Congress MP is now the oldest member of Union Cabinet, even older than the prime minister by five years. The Jat leader from Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan was given the labour and employment portfolio, which he earlier held for about six months in 2004. He was dropped from the Union Cabinet when the UPA began its second stint in power in 2009.

Manik Rao Gavit, a veteran Congress MP from Maharashtra, also returned as a minister of state and was placed in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. He was a minister of state for home affairs during the first term of the UPA government. Three new faces — Santosh Chowdhury, J D Seelam and E N S Nachiappan — were also appointed ministers of State.

President Pranab Mukherjee administered the oath of office and secrecy to the new ministers at a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan. Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Union ministers were among those present at the swearing-in ceremony.

A reshuffle was on the cards after the exit of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s six ministers in March followed by resignations of Pawan Bansal and Ashwani Kumar as railway minister and law minister in May.

While Bansal had to resign in the wake of a bribery scandal involving his nephew’s alleged role in appointment of members of the Railway Board, Kumar had to step down after the government drew flak from the Supreme Court for his alleged interference in the Central Bureau of Investigation’s probe into the coal block allocation scam.

C P Joshi, who held the road transport and highways portfolio, was given additional charge of railways after the resignation of Bansal.

He, however, resigned from the Union Cabinet on Sunday and was subsequently appointed general secretary of the reconstituted All India Congress Committee (AICC).

Ajay Maken resigned as the housing and urban development minister on Saturday and was appointed  chief spokesperson of the party after his induction as a general secretary in the AICC on Sunday.

With the AICC reconstitution on Sunday, the average age of the apex policy making body, Congress Working Committee, comes down to 52.

The reshuffle of the Union Cabinet on Monday, however, did not go in the same direction, with two of the four new cabinet ministers—Ola and Fernandes—being above 70, while Rao and Vyas are 69 and 67 respectively. 

The 32-member Union Cabinet now has two octogenarians, as many as 13 in their seventies and 12 above 60 years of age. Only four members of the Union Cabinet are in their fifties.

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