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More misses than hits

columns Updated: May 28, 2009 01:53 IST
Pankaj Vohra

The second list of ministers that came out of the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday appears to have disappointed more people than it has pleased.

While the inclusion and exclusion moves can be justified somehow, there seems to be no logic behind denying Uttar Pradesh — the country’s largest state — even one Cabinet berth.

Despite the Congress leadership’s decision to consolidate in the state and the state’s contribution of 21 MPs this time, recording a growth of more than 100 per cent, the state will not be represented in the Cabinet.

What’s more, Beni Prasad Verma, a sworn critic of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and a top Kurmi leader, was surprisingly ignored while Salman Khurshid, another natural choice for the Cabinet, has been given a minister of state (MoS) with independent charge slot.

If one combines UP’s 80 and Bihar’s 40 seats, one comes across a strange arithmetic of one Cabinet berth for 120 Lok Sabha seats.

Compare this with small states like Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab, which have been given two Cabinet positions each, and Maharashtra and Karnataka, which have got as many as five and three berths, respectively.

It seems that the threat from BSP’s Mayawati is real. For, the Cabinet has five Dalits this time. Sushil Kumar Shinde was a natural choice and so was Meira Kumar. But nothing else can explain the presence of Mallikarjuna Kharge, Mukul Wasnik and Kumari Selja.

Strangely, both the Muslim faces in the Cabinet are from Kashmir. If Salman Khurshid was to be kept out, Ahmed Patel could have been accommodated even if he was not willing.

Another surprise package is former Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was shown the door after 26/11. It is clear that Deshmukh will get a Rajya Sabha seat. But then, can Congress afford to have two Rajya Sabha nominees from Latur (Shivraj Patil is already a member) in Beed district of Maharashtra? It has never happened before.

Orissa is another state that has been ignored. Shrikant Jena, who was a Cabinet minister in the I.K. Gujral government, has been made an MoS — a clear demotion. Also Punjab, which sent eight MPs this time, has also been overlooked. Only M.S. Gill, who has not done much for the party in the state, has been given a Cabinet berth.

In Delhi, Krishna Tirath, who was deputy to Ajay Maken when he was the Speaker of the Delhi assembly in 2003, has surpassed her former boss. She has become an independent MoS while Maken will have to report to a Cabinet minister.

Madhya Pradesh too got a raw deal. Although Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia’s performance had been exemplary last time, he has not been given independent charge.