Bansal gets addl charge of Water Resources

PM makes first reshuffle in Union Cabinet

The reshuffle dashed the sulking Congress heavyweight from Orissa and Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers Srikant Jena’s hopes to get an elevation as a cabinet minister. The vacancy in the Ministry of Water Resources was created as Meira Kumar resigned from the Union Cabinet after the party chose her as the candidate for the Lok Sabha Speaker’s election.

A press-communiqué from the Rashtrapati Bhavan said that President Pratibha Patil had given Bansal the additional portfolio in consultation with the prime minister.

The reshuffle also made Pratik Prakashbapu Patil as the new Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports, while incumbent Arun Yadav has been moved to the Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Ministry. Jena was with the Janata Dal and was a cabinet minister in the United Front Government. He later joined the Congress. After winning the just-concluded LS polls, he was expecting a berth in the Union Cabinet. But he was only accommodated as  an MoS.

Though Jena took oath as an MoS on May 28 last, he was not so happy and did not take charge as the junior minister in the Ministry of Chemical and Fertilisers, which is headed by M K Azhagiri of the DMK. The Orissa MP considered this as a “double demotion” from the cabinet rank as he was not even made the MoS with Independent Charge.

His hope rose after Kumar’s resignation created the vacancy in the Ministry of Water Resources.

He lobbied hard within the Congress to manage a promotion for him and even met the prime minister, who advised him to take charge as the MoS for Chemical and Fertilizers.

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said that he was also promised that his grievances might be redressed at an opportune time later. But, the reshuffle on Sunday clearly signalled that Jena might have to wait sometime more, if at all the Congress high command decides to give him a promotion.

Sources in the Congress said that though the prime minister and the party president were ready to consider his plea for a promotion, senior Orissa MPs and party veterans like Hemanand Biswal and Bhakta Charan Das had protested against any such plan. Biswal and Das did not find place for them in Manmohan Singh’s team.

“Their plea is that if old Congress stalwarts like them could remain out of the government, why should Jena, who migrated from the Janata Dal to thw Congress just a few years back, get an elevation,” said a senior leader of the party.

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