Reshuffle with polls in UP, Kerala in mind

Reshuffle with polls in UP, Kerala in mind

Uttar Pradesh, which goes to elections in 2012, now has two cabinet rank Ministers Salman Khurshid and Shriprakash Jaiswal, one MoS Independent for Steel in Beni Prasad Verma and three junior ministers Jitin Prasad, Pradip Jain Aditya and RPN Singh.

Besides, Congress MP P L Punia is already holding a cabinet rank as the Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes. The number of reprentatives from Uttar Pradesh in the cabinet has increased from five to six after today's reshuffle in UPA II while there were only three ministers two cabinet and one MoS from the state in UPA 1.

Khurshid's elevation is crucial keeping in mind that he is the best-known known Muslim face of the party in the state, where Congress was back with a bang in last Lok Sabha elections with minority support and winning 22 seats. Khurshid had also served as PCC chief in the state in the past.

Jaiswal, who too has been elevated to cabinet rank, belongs to Vaishya community, which has a sizeable population in UP, where BJP is on the wane. Beni Prasad Verma, who was once in Samajwadi Party, belongs to powerful Kurmi community from the OBC which has significant presence in quite a number of constituencies in UP.

Care has been taken to represent the significant communities of Kerala as well, from where a new face K C Venugopal has been inducted in the union council of ministers. The leader belongs to the powerful Nair community. Venugopal, who has been made a junior minister, is considered to be a replacement for Shashi Tharoor, the ex- minister of state for External Affairs, who had to go following Kochi IPL ownership controversy last year.  Tharoor also hailed from the same community.

Overseas Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, also hailing from Kerala, has got additional charge of the key Civil Aviation portfolio earlier held by NCP's Praful Patel as MoS (Independent charge). K V Thomas, also from Kerala, has been elevated to MoS (Independent charge)and given the key ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, at a time when the government as well Congress appear keen to rein in foodgrain prices as spiralling prices could hit the party in election-bound states.

Thomas belongs to the Catholic fishermen community which has sizeable population in coastal Kerala. E Ahamed, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML)leader, who was earlier Minister of State (Railways) has been shifted to the Ministry of External Affairs in the same capacity.