Congress leader Digvijaya Singh on Monday ruled out any "pressure" in the shifting of Union minister S Jaipal Reddy from petroleum ministry to science and technology.
"The cabinet reshuffle is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. There is no question of any pressure. Jaipal Reddy is a very seasoned politician. He has served in the petroleum ministry and now he will serve in science and technology ministry.
"With additional funds now going to the S and T ministry and an increased focus on the sector, there is great scope for work here, which he will carry out," Singh said.
Dismissing claims that he was unhappy with his new charge, Jaipal Reddy on Monday said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took him into confidence about the change in his portfolio.
"The Prime Minister took me into confidence about the change in my portfolio and that was enough for me. I have never in my life haggled or bargained for portfolios," he told reporters in New Delhi.
Party spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit also dismissed the talk of any pressure behind the change in Reddy's portfolio, saying "there are a lot of reasons why ministers are given a particular slot".
He advised BJP to look within reminding it of the controversy during the shifting of NDA ministers Jaswant Singh and Suresh Prabhu.
The shifting of Jaipal Reddy from petroleum ministry on Monday created a political storm with the decision coming under attack.
Seventy-year-old Reddy, who was made petroleum minister in January 2011, maintained he has no regrets over losing petroleum.
As BJP and civil society leaders attacked the Prime Minister's decision to take Reddy out of petroleum minister as having been dictated by corporate pressure, the Andhra Pradesh veteran kept away when his successor M Veerappa Moily took charge of the portfolio this morning.
They alleged that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has rewarded the corrupt ministers with "promotions" in the reshuffle.
BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said "tainted" ministers have been given a new lease of life by Singh and the government "is more tainted now than it was before the cabinet reshuffle".
BJP is particularly critical of the elevation of Salman Khurshid from law to the ministry of external affairs.
"It has been my effort to be a faithful partyman under a truthful (prime) minister and that shall be my focus and that has been my focus," said Jaipal Reddy.
Asked whether he was given a reason for his removal from the petroleum ministry, Jaipal Reddy said: "No minister is ever told about the reason and I think the PM should not give the reason for change in a portfolio."
He added that he had an "excellent" relationship with the Prime Minister and that he had always been shown affection by him.
"I don't take positions on portfolios and all my life I have taken ideological positions on issues... I've no regrets about portfolios," said Jaipal Reddy.
Asked why he did not personally hand over the charge to Moily, he said he was busy learning about his new ministry.
"I told the secretary that I will come at five (pm) as I wanted to understand about this department. I am a student of social science, not of natural science so I needed time. I am not an officer to hand over charge," he said.
"When I took over as petroleum minister, I did not let Murli Deora give charge to me. Moily came to see me...you are free to indulge in your imagination," he added.
The minister said that the science ministry was very important because it works in the areas of fundamental research.
"I believe in the philosophy and the technology of science. I ardently share (former Prime Minister Jawaharlal) Nehru's admiration for science and technology and offer my salutation to him for having laid the foundation of science and technology in the country".
The minister said that he aims to increase the number of scientific researchers from present 154,000 to 254,000 in the 12th Plan period.
Reddy himself assumed charge of science and technology in the evening before which Moily came to his residence and held consultations with him in an apparent bid to assuage his feelings.
"Many a times it happens (that) you avoid taking decisions. That is not a solution. Avoiding or delaying decision is not a solution. And this is where we need to very seriously work on," Moily said on taking over in remarks interpreted as oblique reference to Reddy's stint.
Decisions, he said, would be taken keeping national interest in mind and not to "benefit one or two individuals or companies."
He promised quick decisions and a conducive environment for investment to flow-in.
BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu attacked the decision to move Reddy out of petroleum saying people and media have said that this was done due to pressure of corporate groups. He demanded an answer from the government.
Anti corruption activist, Arvind Kejriwal alleged that an honest minister like Reddy lost his job for resisting Reliance Industries.