Even as two key UPA constituents Trinamool Congress and DMK were kept out of Wednesday’s cabinet reshuffle, the changes reflected the Congress’s focus on the Uttar Pradesh elections of 2012.
The Trinamool and the DMK will have to wait till the assembly elections in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, likely to be held in May this year, for enhancing their representation in the council of ministers.
On his part, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised another cabinet rejig around the same time. “This is a minor reshuffle and after the budget session of Parliament, we will do a more expansive exercise,” he said after the reshuffle.
At present, the Trinamool Congress, with 19 Lok Sabha MPs, has six ministers in the government and is a formidable opposition force in West Bengal. Trinamool chief and railways minister Mamata Banerjee is demanding one more berth for her party.
On the other hand, the DMK, which is in power in Tamil Nadu and has 18 Lok Sabha MPs, had seven ministers till A Raja resigned as telecom minister in November last year over the 2G-spectrum scam. Though human resources development minister Kapil Sibal of the Congress is handling the ministry since then, the DMK has staked claim to the office.
The reshuffle highlighted Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s Uttar Pradesh focus. The party elevated two of its ministers from the state – Salman Khursheed and Sriprakash Jaiswal – to cabinet rank.
While Beni Prasad Verma, an important OBC leader, has been made minister of state with independent charge, the party has three more representatives from Uttar Pradesh – Jitin Prasad, RPN Singh and Pradeep Jain – in the council of ministers.
Rahul Gandhi unfolded the party’s strategy for the UP assembly elections at a meeting of Congress MLAs and MPs in Lucknow on Tuesday.
Seeking a revival in Kerala and Punjab, the party has given a fresh berth to each state.
While Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab and former union minister Ashwani Kumar gets a recall, KC Venugopal, a Lok Sabha member from Alappuzha, is the new entrant from Kerala.
Overseas Indian affairs minister Vayalar Ravi has been given the additional charge of civil aviation and the party also elevated KV Thomas to the minister of state with independent charge.